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Open Source Arrives at 'The XML IPEX'
Penguin slide included in Dalim presentation
William Pollard (will789)     Print Article 
Published 2006-04-19 08:58 (KST)   
The Job Definition Format was so widely supported at IPEX in Birmingham that XML is also now well known within the printing industry. The Job Definition Format(JDF) is a specification for all the production processes around print. It is written in XML, an extensible markup language, that describes data in an open format. Previous print shows have been described as 'the JDF IPEX' or 'the JDF Drupa' although this often meant another attempt to persuade enough people to share the same standards and develop some momentum. In 2006 there is no doubt that JDF is a standard for workflow and for Management Information Systems. XML was also mentioned frequently and is relevant to the creation of an integrated system. This has created an opening for a discussion around open source and Dalim were the first company I know of to include the Penguin graphic as part of a press conference presentation.

IPEX Daily
©2006 IPEX
The JDF has been developed by CIP4, an abbreviation for "The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress Organization". A key word here is "co-operation". The members compete on other occasions but work together to develop standards. At IPEX, the JDF Pavilion showed a number of interoperability Trials where demonstration groups showed off automation potential such as linking imposition and litho plates or sending production information back to accounting.

CIP4 started in 2000. Before this, CIP3 was founded in 1995 but faced some difficulty in agreeing on a common standard. A smaller group of MAN Roland, Heidelberg, Agfa and Adobe was formed to work out a new base from which to start again. Adobe had included a Portable Job Ticket Format (PJTF) as part of the original specification for the Portable Document Format (PDF). PDF has become a standard for documents and for pre-press but the PJTF was rarely used. The CIP4 website now notes that "embedding metadata into production files ..... isn't going to work for many reasons: the least being that front-end systems cannot handle the size and volume."

So the CIP4 approach was to merge the ideas from the PJTF with the Print Production Format (PPF) developed by CIP3. This history is worth explaining just to show that there is a strong background for the current JDF spec.

CIP3 at Imprinta 1997
©2006 CIP4
At IPEX, the JDF Trailmap made some strong claims on the changes JDF could make possible for the printing industry. "The Internet has greatly enhanced the potential for mass communication, desktop publishing has evolved into network publishing, and print jobs have become more complex while run lengths continue to decrease.... Modern print production relies on a loosely networked conglomeration of diverse machinery, all functioning as information'islands'. incapable of working as a coherent unit....JDF facilitates a seamless, end-to-end workflow based on open systems integration, linking information and production as an integral part of the distributed workflow."

A key word here is "open", also associated with XML. The Trailmap explains that "JDF joins the growing number of standards based on XML, a descriptive computer language that can be used to describe information including its structure, interrelationships, and to some extent it's intended use. For this reason, modern programming languages and database applications support XML, ensuring maximum portability between different platforms and software programs enabling print, web, and other forms of publication."

XML is defined by the World Wide Web Consortium as having goals that include the following-
-XML shall be straightforwardly usable over the Internet.
-XML shall support a wide variety of applications.
-It shall be easy to write programs which process XML documents.

XML is supported by international user groups including XML UK. The UK site may be easier to follow for people new to XML. The international site assumes some previous knowledge and requires an SVG viewer.

XML is also supported by Oasis with a wide membership concerned with e-business standards. Oasis host a site for XML.org that "advances the use of open standards by providing technical and educational information, collaborative workspaces, and discussion areas."

Dalim were the first major premedia software vendor to offer Linux versions. Their website explains that the choice improves reliability. The code gets debugged rapidly as viewed by thousands all over the world. "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow".

At IPEX the Dalim intention was to "keep it simple". "We have always strived to make the user experience as uncomplicated and straightforward as possible." said CEO Carol Werle. "Print buyers need an easy way to deliver print-ready files to their providers, and easy, real-time access to job status.

Open Source
©2006 Dalim
Gee Ranasinha
©2006 St. John P
At a press conference Gee Ranasinha, director of marketing, showed a Dalim workflow from InDesign over the web to a laser printer in Germany. This was verified by webcam, including a late alteration in the copy. It is an indication of the advance since the early days of Postscript that this output to a laser printer was accepted by the audience as backing up the marketing claims for workflows involving computer to plate or a digital press.

Ranasinha also spoke about Linux as part of an open approach and showed a slide with the famous open source penguin. "There has to be an effective, and open, technology backbone to support the customer experience. We also consider it important to allow third party vendor solutions - that bring their own specific areas of expertise - to easily plug-and-play with our solutions. We have worked hard to demonstrate how deeply - yet how simply - our solutions integrate with others."

Later he added more information on open source in response to a question.

"Open source operating systems (in this case Linux) are already well-established in premedia and print companies. As well as Dalim, you have names like Helios, Xinet - and even Adobe! More than 50% of all Dalim Software users run their systems on Linux operating systems, and that includes some of the largest premedia and print companies around."

Adobe do not offer PDF as open source, but the specification is available and there are alternative suppliers. Adobe can change the format when they issue a new version of Acrobat, now PDF 1.6 for Acrobat 7. However there is now an international standard for pre-press, the PDF-X standards, based of features of PDF that are widely available. There is also an international archiving standard, PDF-A, that can be also be used for documents in organisations. The announcement of the Adobe PDF Print Engine was a major event at IPEX as it indicates new promotion for the JDF features in Acrobat 7. However RIPs from Global Graphics have already offered the capability to process a PDF file without first exporting to Postscript.The Harlequin Genesis Release version 7.1 supports PDF 1.6 and the 2003 versions of the PDF/X standards. During IPEX, Martin Bailey was concerned to emphasise that JDF is now suitable for small pre-press sites. He wants to counter the impression that only large companies can implement a JDF workflow. A White Paper with similar content has been posted on the CIP4 website. Founder Electronics also support JDF and PDF in their Elecroc Digital Front End and the EagleRIP has a native PDF interpreter. Founder is based in China and is owned by Beijing University. They announced a deal with Hewlett Packard (HP) through which Founder will distribute digital presses in China and HP will offer Elecroc with the presses they sell elsewhere. Zhang Zhaodong also stated that Founder intend to double their research within the next four years to become the largest developer for the graphic arts.

Zhang Zhaodong
©2006 Founder
HP announced improved support for open source though this was not directly linked to IPEX.

쏷here셲 a growing demand for integrated open source and commercial solutions on multiple operating systems, and customers want one trusted source of accountability, said Christine Martino, vice president, Open Source and Linux Organization, HP. 쏷he HP Open Source Integrated Portfolio provides that confidence to companies making open source a part of their overall strategy to be more adaptive in the marketplace.

During a break from IPEX I experimented with the open source desk top publishing software Scribus. Originally this was only available on Linux but there are now versions for both Macintosh and Windows. It lacks the modern features of Quark or InDesign but compares with most of what was possible with earlier versions of Quark. I found it installed easily and that it produced a PDF-X as easily as saving a file. I sent an email to Gee Ranasinha asking if open source was ready for the pre-press desktop and he sent this reply-

"Outside of operating systems, I still need to be convinced on open source. GIMP still hasn't made the jump to CMYK. Scribus is certainly promising, but I can't see designers and illustrators using it over the usual suspects. My issue with Scribus is that it's trying to be a desktop page application, while Quark and inDesign are trying to be what I would call "content distribution applications" where you're creating content (web pages, printed pages, etc.) manually; or increasingly by having metadata pulled into the apps.
Also, Scribus is (I think) still using the free version of GhostScript for PDF creation, which I certainly wouldn't want to bet the farm on if the page is destined for commercial print.

The XML stuff in IDCS2 and QXP7 are impressive. Every single part of a Quark v7 document is now described as XML, which schema Quark partner developers have full access to. You could imagine systems converting to and from a native QXP file, for example, dynamically pulling in content from embedded URL placeholders. I think it'll be a while before we'll see that sort of stuff in open source apps!

I'm not against open-source applications (and certainly very 'pro' open source operating systems!). OpenOffice, for example, has come on leaps and bounds. The open source product LittleCMS is a really cool colour management engine. However, the issue with our industry is that the content creator usually has very little control in how their artwork will be 'processed' before getting to ink (or toner) on paper. In the stages in between, the file may go through a multitude of (commercial) systems that may or may not process that file correctly. If it all goes wrong, it's easier to blame an open-source application than something from Quark or Adobe."

This is a sound view for someone working in the industry, but I think there are individuals and organisations who will be interested in open source pre-press. The industry may have to learn how to cope, just as they now welcome Microsoft Publisher.

Scribus is indeed using Ghostscript instead of Postscript. This may need to be tested with a print service provider. It is intended just as a desktop page application. However some people may prefer to use something else for web pages rather than Quark or InDesign. The message about Job Jackets in Quark or JDF in Creative Suite seems to be around the need to restrict options in a production environment. On some occasions a page application is all that is needed.

Like Quark 7, Scribus files are based on XML. Also Scribus can import an Open Document from Open Office. This may become a feature that is more widely welcomed over time. Scribus is still not used by many people. There is now a support service for commercial printers who can advertise that they can print Scribus files. However the versions for Mac and Windows are fairly recent.

At CeBIT there is a Linux magazine stand that offers space for projects such as Scribus. There may be enough momentum building for an 'open source CeBIT' in 2007 ahead of an 'open source Drupa' in 2008.

At IPEX, Drupa introduced the Drupa Innovation Parc. This has developed from a new feature at Drupa 2004 showcasing new software developments. Most of the companies are new though at Drupa they included Adobe innovations in video. Showing for the first time in Birmingham, base-t presented FILEBOX, a modular workflow-system for webbased job-management in the print and media business. Some key features of FILEBOX are handling of all known data-transfer standards , integrating existent infrastructure, Jobtickets and status notifications. The solution is available for ASP or local server.

FILEBOX uses a combination of Linux, MySQL and Apache. The content management system is based on Typo3, developed by a network of companies and individuals. The Typo3 website is vague about where the developer community is based. "The main load of users seems to be from Germany for some reason not totally discovered yet. Somebody has said that it must be because Germans have this sense for quality... :-)

Anyways we are ultimately neither based in Germany, nor Denmark but internationally. The official TYPO3 language (apart from TypoScript...) is English."

Peter Camps
©2006 Gradual
The main sponsor for the Innovation Parc is currently Gradual Software, a reassuring company who suggest that change can be introduced while remaining calm. Reflecting on Gradual's future, Peter Camps observed "Print is facing more competition than ever before. True process-based productivity gains cannot be achieved solely by monolithic and proprietary systems that function in isolation from the broader workflow. The industry needs pathways to connect whole islands of automation and unify disparate systems." Future developments will embrace XML-based standards, extending the benefits of process automation to a much broader audience.

After Ipex 2006, the "drupa innovation parc powered by Gradual Software" can also be seen at All in Print China, to be staged in Shanghai from 14 to 17 June 2006, and IGAS 2007 which opens in Tokyo from 21 to 27 September 2007.

Open source will be in the background somewhere.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter William Pollard

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