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Citation Software News, MAY 2001

Welcome to the May 2001 issue of Citation Software News, which is an email newsletter that is published periodically by Citation Software Inc.

This newsletter contains information about software, events, and technical developments that are important to print-on-demand technology, variable-data-publishing technology, and mailing-industry technology.


This issue of Citation Software News focuses on the following topics:
  • ReplyMailOnLine.com creates Business Reply envelopes, postcards, and labels
  • Adobe Acrobat 5.0 Has Many New Features and Capabilities
  • PPML Lays A Firm Foundation for the Future of Variable-Data Printing
  • JDF (Job Definition Format) is Announced At Seybold Boston 2001

ReplyMailOnLine.com creates Business Reply envelopes, postcards, and labels

On April 9, 2001 at the Seybold Conference in Boston, Citation Software Inc. introduced its new on-line mailpiece-design service, called ReplyMailOnLine.com. This service lets you use your Web browser to create the artwork for a Business Reply envelope, postcard or label and download it in PDF format. International Business Reply envelopes/postcards and Courtesy Reply envelopes/postcards can also be created at ReplyMailOnLine.com.

(ReplyMailOnLine.com is referred to as a "mailpiece-design" service because the U.S. Postal Service refers to envelopes, postcards, and labels as "mailpieces.")


How Does ReplyMailOnLine.com work?

A user accesses the ReplyMailOnLine.com service by pointing his Web browser at www.ReplyMailOnLine.com. After entering a few pieces of information (e.g., mailing address, dimensions of the mailpiece, Business Reply Permit Number), the user clicks a button - and in just a few seconds, ReplyMailOnLine.com automatically creates a PDF file containing a mailpiece that is customized according to the user's specifications. The mailpiece is laid out according to the U.S. Postal Service's rules, and it contains all the printed elements required by the U.S. Postal Service - including the bar codes.

The user downloads the PDF file to his computer, uses the Adobe Acrobat software, Adobe Acrobat Reader software (free from Adobe Systems Incorporated), or similar software to open it, and prints the mailpiece.


Why Is ReplyMailOnLine.com Needed?

Traditionally, creating Business Reply, Courtesy Reply, and International Business Reply mailpieces (known collectively as "Reply mailpieces") has been a labor-intensive and error-prone process. That's because the U.S.Postal Service has complicated rules that dictate how Reply mailpieces must be formatted. For example: there are rules that specify the minimum and maximum length and height of each type of Reply mailpiece, the ratio of the length to the height, the size and style of the fonts (typefaces) that are used for the various text elements, the placement of the text elements and graphic elements relative to each other, and many other things. For most people, it would take at least a couple of hours to create a Reply mailpiece with illustration software such as Adobe Illustrator or CorelDRAW. Furthermore, even with careful attention to detail, it is easy to make mistakes - and mistakes on a Reply Mailpiece can be costly. (In some situations, the Postal Service charges extra money to process improperly formatted Reply mailpieces. In other situations, the Postal Service might refuse to allow improperly formatted Reply mailpieces to be used; the consequences can be expensive if thousands of improperly formatted mailpieces have already been printed.)

Because the ReplyMailOnLine.com service is inexpensive, easy to use, and readily available (anyone with a Web browser and an Internet connection can use it), it will be a boon to direct-marketing companies, fund-raising groups, government agencies, printing companies, the U.S. Postal Service, small-business owners, and other individuals and organizations who need to create Reply mailpieces.


Availability

Currently, a working prototype of ReplyMailOnLine.com is available for use FREE OF CHARGE at www.ReplyMailOnLine.com. Citation Software Inc. expects that the full-fledged version of ReplyMailOnLine.com will be available to users sometime during the month of May 2001.


Pricing

ReplyMailOnLine.com users will be able to choose from two payment plans:
  1. Pay-As-You-Go Plan - Pay $2.00 US per mailpiece to create standard-sized Business Reply envelopes & postcards and standard-sized Courtesy Reply envelopes & postcards that have printer's marks (crop marks, etc.).

    The Pay-As-You-Go Plan is appropriate for users who (1) don't create a lot of mailpieces, and (2) don't require much flexibility in terms of formatting.

  2. Subscription Plan - Pay $25.00 US per year to create an unlimited number of mailpieces. The Subscription Plan makes available some extra features that aren't part of the Pay-As-You-Go Plan. Here are some of these extra features:

    • In addition to Business Reply mailpieces and Courtesy Reply mailpieces, Subscription Plan user can create International Business Reply mailpieces.
    • In addition to choosing from a list of standard-sized mailpieces, a Subscription Plan user can specify custom dimensions for a mailpiece.
    • For Business Reply mailpieces, a Subscription Plan user can create labels as well as envelopes & postcards.
    • A Subscription Plan user can choose from two different font styles.
    • A Subscription Plan user has the option of instructing ReplyMailOnLine.com to put blank lines or labeled lines for a return address in the upper-left corner of a Business Reply mailpiece or Courtesy Reply mailpiece.
    • A Subscription Plan user can specify whether he wants printers' marks on the mailpiece, or whether he just wants the mailpiece itself. ("Printer's marks" are crop marks and mailpiece specifications.)

    The Subscription Plan is appropriate for users who (1) create a lot of mailpieces and/or (2) need to have options in terms of formatting.

Note to Reply Mail Designer Users:

If you own Citation Software Inc.'s PC-based "Reply Mail Designer" software, you'll be entitled to use the ReplyMailOnLine.com service free of charge for a period of three years from the date of purchase if you purchased Reply Mail Designer since January 1, 2000.


Adobe Acrobat 5.0 Has Many New Features and Capabilities

Adobe Systems Incorporated is now shipping USA Version 5.0 of its Adobe Acrobat software. New features and enhancements in Acrobat 5.0 significantly extend productivity and electronic-document sharing.

Here are some highlights.

Enhanced support for conversion to and from various file formats
  • RTF - Acrobat 5.0 allows you to save a PDF file as a Rich Text Format (RTF) file; (The RTF format is supported by Microsoft Office applications and by many other applications as well.)
  • Extract images - Acrobat 5.0 lets you extract images from PDF files and save them as TIFF, JPEG, or PNG files. You can then incorporate the images into word-processing documents, presentation documents, page-layout documents, and HTML documents. You can "fine-tune" your exported image files while you are performing the export operation. For example, you can specify compression settings.
  • Save as images - With Acrobat 5.0, you can quickly convert a PDF file into TIFF, JPEG, or PNG images. Acrobat 5.0 converts each page of the PDF file into a separate image file.
  • Open as Adobe PDF - You can use Acrobat 5.0's "Open as Adobe PDF" command to convert BMP, Compuserve GIF, HTML, JPEG, PCX, PNG, TIFF, and text files into new PDF files or add them to existing PDF files. You can specify the color and grayscale JPEG compression settings as part of this process.

New security features
  • 128-bit encryption - Acrobat 5.0 supports 128-bit encryption, allowing you to control access to documents by assigning passwords using the highest level of protection possible. You can also set encryption to the 40-bit level, which allows a secure PDF file to be opened with earlier versions of Acrobat.
  • Flexible digital-signature architecture - The design of Acrobat 5.0 allows third-party digital signature and PKI vendors such as Entrust?, VeriSign and CIC? to "plug into" Acrobat and enable eSignatures on a PDF file. In addition, Acrobat provides an out-of-the box Public-Private Key solution for workgroups in which a third-party Certificate Authority is not required.
  • Support for public-key exchange - Unlike earlier versions of Acrobat, Acrobat 5.0 gives you the ability to request and exchange your certificates easily with colleagues from within Acrobat via email. You can use your colleagues' public keys (certificates) as encryption keys. This scheme ensures that you can secure a PDF file so that only certain people can open it.
  • Extensive control over security settings - The enhanced Acrobat 5.0 security settings let you determine exactly which actions viewers of a PDF file can take. For example, you could use these security settings to allow others to add comments to a document but prevent them from changing the document.

Enhanced Browser Functionality

Most Acrobat 5.0 features and tools can be used within Internet Explorer. This is a big improvement over Acrobat 4.0, which is usable within a Web browser but does not let you use all Acrobat features within the Web browser. If your organization uses the PDF format for workgroup document-review collaboration, you'll be able to move to a Web-based review cycle with Acrobat 5.0. Multiple users can view and add comments to the same PDF file from within their Web browsers.


Enhancements to forms-related features
  • Publish dynamic forms on line - Acrobat 5.0 lets you create PDF forms on the Web or on a server with fields that can change depending upon the data that is entered. For example, if a person filling out a health-insurance form indicates he has children, the form could generate "on-the-fly" fields for collecting information about his dependents.
  • Support for XML - Data from PDF forms can be submitted in Extensible Markup Language (XML) format.
  • Spell-checker - Acrobat 5.0 can spell-check individual form fields and comments.

Accessibility Features

  • High contrast - Acrobat 5.0 fully supports high-contrast settings.
  • Screen readers - Acrobat 5.0 lets you create documents that are compatible with third-party, Windows-based screen readers, such as Henter-Joyce's JAWS and Window-Eyes from GW Micro, Inc. (Screen readers synthesize text into speech.)

Color-Related Features
  • Tight integration with other Adobe programs - Acrobat 5.0 helps graphics professionals build consistent, reliable document workflows. For example, Acrobat 5.0, Adobe Photoshop? 6.0, and Adobe Illustrator? 9.0 support the Adobe Color Engine, Adobe's core color-management technology. Sharing the same color-management system provides a consistent user experience and reliable color when converting files between programs.
  • Transparency - Acrobat 5.0 and the updated PDF version 1.4 support transparent objects, enabling you to view and print PDF files with transparencies created in Illustrator 9.0 or Photoshop 6.0.

Features for Automation/Batch Processing

Acrobat 5.0 lets you apply virtually any Acrobat function to a large collection of PDF files. It give you the ability to easily create sequences of predefined actions and to write your own actions using JavaScript.

When running a batch operation, you can specify how the resulting files should be named; choose to overwrite the existing files that are being altered in the batch operation; and save the processed files in PDF, PostScript, EPS, TIFF, JPEG, PNG, or RTF formats.


Document Analysis & Repair (PDF Consultant)

Acrobat 5.0's new "PDF Consultant" tool provides easy access to Adobe and third-party plug-ins designed to inspect, analyze, and repair PDF documents. PDF Consultant operations can be used with the Batch Processing command and automatically applied to PDF files. You can write your own PDF Consultant operations using JavaScript, as well.


Pricing

The estimated street price is $249.00 US for all platforms. Registered users of previous Acrobat versions can upgrade to Acrobat 5.0 for $99.00 US.


How to Get Adobe Acrobat 5.0

You can purchase the Adobe Acrobat 5.0 package or upgrade from many sources, including:
Prices vary among vendors, so shop around for the best price.


PPML Lays A Firm Foundation for the Future of Variable-Data Printing

"PPML."

Maybe you've heard of it, but you can't exactly remember what it stands for.

"Whatever!" you're probably thinking. "Who needs another abbreviation?"

But wait. If you make your living in the field of printing and publishing , you can't afford NOT to know about PPML. So, here's the scoop.


What is PPML?

PPML stands for "Personalized Print Markup Language." Here is a basic definition:
PPML is a new, XML-based software standard for variable-data printing.
Below, we'll flesh out this definition as we talk more about exactly what PPML is and what it does. But first, let's talk about where PPML came from, and why.


Who Developed PPML?

The PPML standard was developed by The Digital Printing Initiative (PODi). PODi, formerly known as the Print On Demand Initiative, is a not-for-profit multi-vendor initiative that's working to develop the market for digital printing.

Quite a few high-profile companies belong to PODi. Here is a list of some of them:
  • Adobe Systems Incorporated
  • Barco
  • Canon
  • CreoScitex
  • Electronics for Imaging (EFI)
  • Epson
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • IBM
  • Indigo
  • Lexmark
  • NexPress
  • Nimblefish
  • Noosh
  • Oce
  • Pageflex
  • Scitex
  • Xeikon
  • Xerox.

Why Did PODi Think There Was a Need for PPML?

To understand why PODi thought that PPML was needed, you first need to understand that variable-data print jobs are likely to print more slowly than non-variable-data print jobs. Depending on the types of documents that you are printing, this can be a mild problem, a moderate problem, or a very severe problem. In some situations, variable-data print jobs print so slowly that it might not even be profitable for a printing company to take on such jobs.

This degradation in print speed is one of the major challenges faced by printing companies that want to participate in the variable-data-printing marketplace. While they were developing the PPML specification, the PODi members devoted much attention to this issue.


Why Do Variable-Data Jobs Print Slowly?

As we've said, a variable-data print job will probably take longer to print than a similar, non-variable-data print job. This happens because - with the variable-data-print job - the code for each and every text element and the code for each and every graphic element on each and every page must be sent to the printer/RIP each time that a customized version of that page is printed, and the printer/RIP must rasterize all of this code each time it is sent. ("Rasterization" is the process of converting code that describes text and graphics into the format that is required by the "print engine," which is the machinery that actually puts the marks on the page.)

This is not the case with non-variable-data print jobs. With a non-variable-data print job, the code for the text elements and graphic elements on each page must be sent to the printer/RIP and rasterized by the printer/RIP only once; then the printer can print as many copies as required.

A simple example will illustrate this concept.
Let's say that you run an automobile dealership, and you are going to print 300 copies of a single-page marketing brochure that will be mailed to potential customers whose names and addresses are contained in a mailing list. The brochure has a picture of the latest model of your manufacturer's SUV; and it also has some text that gives the name, street address, phone number, Web-site address, and business hours for your dealership.

If you are truly printing "copies" (i.e., if all the brochures are identical), the code that describes the brochure's text and graphic elements will be sent to your printer/RIP by your computer only once. The printer/RIP will rasterize this code, and then it will print the 300 brochures. The computer doesn't need to download the code for the text and graphics 300 times, and the printer/RIP doesn't need to rasterize the code 300 times. Instead, the computer downloads the information once, and the printer/RIP rasterizes it once and keeps the raster image (the result of the rasterization process) in memory until the 300 pages have been printed.

Now let's say that you decide to customize the brochures in some way. For example, you might decide to tailor the picture of the car on the brochure to the anticipated preferences of the person to whom it will be mailed.

You decide that a person's age might be a good indicator of the type of car that he or she might be interested in. Fortunately for you, your mailing list contains each person's birth date as well as the person's name and address. So you decide to put a photo of an economy car on the brochure that will be mailed to people under the age of 25 (these folks are probably in college or are just starting out in their careers), you decide to put a photo of an SUV on the brochures that you will mail to people between the ages of 25 and 50 (many of these individuals probably have children and are likely to want a large, rugged vehicle), and you decide to put a photo of a luxury sedan on the brochures to be mailed to people over the age of 50 (these people are likely to be more affluent and are likely to place a higher value on comfort than the other two age groups).

Now - unless you are utilizing special variable-data-printing technology - when it's time to print the 300 customized brochures, your computer will need to download the code for 300 pages of text and graphics to your printer/RIP instead of downloading the code for just one page, and the printer/RIP will need to rasterize 300 pages of code instead of rasterizing one page of code. Why? Because printers/RIPs are generally "page-oriented." In other words, a page is the smallest printed element that a printer/RIP deals with. Because of this, if you are printing multiple pages that are not 100% identical, your printer/RIP needs to get the entire description of each page to be printed.

It's a Problem of Redundancy Problem!

If you think about the situation described above, it becomes obvious that what's needed is some way to eliminate redundancy. In this example, only three different photos are being used (the economy car, the SUV, and the luxury sedan). Nevertheless, your computer has to download code for 300 photos, and your printer/RIP has to process all of this code. Furthermore, your computer has to download the code for the text on the brochure 300 times, and your printer/RIP has to process this code 300 times - even though exactly the same text is being used on all of the brochures.

So now you can understand why print speed is a major challenge when dealing with variable-data printing.


Print Optimization

Various hardware and software vendors have developed proprietary technologies to address the problem described above and thus make variable-data print jobs print faster. These technologies are sometimes known as "print-optimization technologies." Some of the print-optimization technologies in use currently are:
  • Diamond Merge from ColorAge
  • Fiery Free Form from EFI
  • VariScript from Varis
  • VIPP from Xerox
  • VPS from Scitex.

PODi Decides That a Common Standard is Needed

Sometime around 1998, several of the major PODi member organizations came to understand that the market potential of digital-printing technology had not been realized - even though it has been possible to print high-quality, full-color, personalized documents since the advent of digital printing in 1993. One reason that the digital-printing market had not been exploited fully was the lack of an industry standard for printing color pages with high-quality, reusable content.

(Color pages with high-quality, reusable content - such as photos - pose a special challenge for variable-data-printing projects. That's because large amounts of data are required to represent these color elements, and - as you've seen - the need to transfer data to the printer/RIP multiple times slows down the printing process.)

Although the print-optimization technologies listed above had gone a long way toward meeting the challenge of making variable-data jobs print faster by reducing redundancy, the lack of a common standard made it difficult for interested developers of variable-data-printing applications and devices to anticipate a broad market. The PODi member organizations knew that the absence of a common print-optimization standard also made it confusing and risky for printing companies to venture into the variable-data-printing marketplace.

To address this problem, several major PODi member organizations voted in 1999 to develop a new standard print language for personalized printing. PPML is the language that came out of this development effort.


How Does PPML Work?

PPML makes variable-data jobs print faster by allowing a printer to store text elements and graphic elements and re-use them as needed. This eliminates the need to send the same code to the printer/RIP multiple times during the same print job.

PPML accomplishes this in two ways:
  1. By allowing printers to understand and manipulate the components (objects) that make up a page. This concept is referred to as "object-level granularity."
  2. By allowing application developers to write code that attaches names to objects and re-uses the objects as needed during the process of printing a variable-data job.
Remember, we said earlier that printers generally don't understand anything smaller than a page. This change from "page-level granularity" to "object-level granularity" is a major step forward.


PPML Workflow

In a PPML workflow, there is a PPML Producer and a PPML Consumer.
A PPML Producer is anything that produces PPML code. Typically, a PPML Producer is an application or a driver.

A PPML Consumer is a device, process, or system that reads and interprets PPML code. Typically, a PPML Consumer is a printer, RIP or Digital Front End (DFE).



Is PPML Being Used by a Lot of Companies?

PPML is an emerging standard. It is not in widespread use yet, but thanks to support from high-profile organizations such as
  • Adobe Systems Incorporated
  • Atlas Software BV
  • Barco
  • Canon
  • CreoScitex
  • Datalogics, Inc.
  • Electronics for Imaging (EFI)
  • Epson
  • Hewlett-Packard
  • IBM
  • Indigo
  • Lexmark
  • Meadows Information Systems
  • NexPress
  • Nimblefish
  • Noosh
  • Oce
  • Pageflex
  • Scitex
  • Xeikon, and
  • Xerox
PPML is gaining momentum fast.


Which Hardware and Software Vendors are Supporting PPML or Planning to Support PPML?

As of this writing (May 2001), there are several vendors that offer products which support PPML and several other vendors that are current working toward supporting PPML. Here is some information about some of these vendors and products:
PPML Producers

  • The VIPLine software from Barco Graphics supports PPML. VIPLine is an authoring product for variable-data documents,
  • The Macintosh version of Atlas Software BV's PrintShop Mail application generates PPML output. PrintShop Mail is a variable-data-printing application.
  • Datalogics, Inc.'s DL Formatter variable-data-publishing software generates a form of PPML called "VDX" (Variable Data Exchange).
  • Solimar Systems, Inc. is adding PPML support to their TUKANDA variable-data-printing solution.
  • Meadows Information Systems is planning to support PPML in an upcoming release of their DesignMerge variable-data-printing software. DesignMerge is a QuarkXPress XTension.
  • The Mpower and Persona variable-data-printing solutions from Pageflex both generate PPML output.
PPML Consumers

  • The Barco Graphics PrintStreamer product accepts PPML as input. Barco's PrintStreamer is a workflow component known as a "press server." PrintStreamer provides storage of rasterized pages and transfers data to the print engine at a very fast rate. This maximizes the performance of the print engine, allowing variable-data documents to be printed quickly. Barco's PrintStreamer is used with different press/printer architectures, including the Xeikon DCP/320-D and DCP/500-D, the IBM InfoColor 130, and several models of Xerox printers.
  • The Xeikon eMerge digital front end (DFE) supports PPML. The Xeikon eMerge DFE is integrated with the Xeikon CSP 320 D cut-sheet digital color press.
  • In February 2001 at the On Demand Conference in New York City, IBM conducted a technology demonstration showing the ability of the IBM Infoprint Color 130 Plus to support the PPML standard within the AFP (Advanced Function Presentation) workflow for printing variable-content color documents.
  • The EFI Fiery EX2000 variable-data server accepts PPML input.

How Should I Go About Setting Up a PPML-based Variable-Data-Printing System?

If you are thinking about using PPML technology in your workflow, your best bet is to go with a PPML Producer and PPML Consumer that were designed to work together or were at least tested together.

Why?

As with many high-tech standards, things in the PPML world aren't as "standardized" as we might like. All PPML Producer implementations are not identical, nor are all PPML Consumer implementations identical. In some cases, the differences can be attributed to the fact that PPML technology is not yet mature. In other cases, there are differences among PPML systems from various vendors because some vendors have chosen not to support certain parts of the PPML specification. For example, some PPML Producers and PPML Consumers support imposition while others do not.

Bottom line (we've said this once, but we'll say it again because it bears repeating): to minimize compatibility problems when creating a PPML-based variable-data-printing system, invest in system components that were designed to work together or at least were tested together.

Several software and hardware vendors have formed PPML-related alliances. Details about some of these vendors and their products are given below.
Electronics For Imaging (EFI) and Pageflex: Last year, Electronics For Imaging (EFI) introduced the use of PPML in several RIPs for color machines running at 12 to 60 pages per minute (ppm). In February, 2001 EFI and Pageflex, Inc. announced a software-development and licensing agreement. Under the agreement, the companies will incorporate Pageflex's PPML-based variable-data-printing technology into EFI products to be distributed through EFI channels.

Xeikon and Pageflex, Inc./Meadows Information Systems: The Xeikon CSP 320-D cut-sheet printer with the Emerge font end accepts PPML as input. Xeikon supports Mpower and Persona from Pageflex. Xeikon also supports DesignMerge from Meadows Information Systems. (DesignMerge will support PPML in an upcoming release.)

EFI and Atlas Software BV: Atlas Software BV's PrintShop Mail software is being offered by EFI as part of EFI's Fiery Velocity Design product. (As mentioned earlier, the Macintosh version of PrintShop Mail produces PPML.)

Heidelberg and Atlas Software BV: Atlas Software BV's PrintShop Mail software is being offered by Heidelberg for printing on Heidelberg's black & white Digimaster 9110 System. (Again, the Macintosh version of PrintShop Mail generates PPML.)

For more information about PPML, visit www.podi.org.

For more information about XML, visit www.citationsoftware.com/faqXML.htm.


JDF (Job Definition Format) is Announced At Seybold Boston 2001

On April 10, 2001 at the Seybold Conference in Boston, Adobe Systems Incorporated, Agfa, Heidelberg, and MAN Roland jointly announced the creation of the Job Definition Format (JDF) standard. JDF is a new electronic-job- ticket specification designed to facilitate process automation, collaborative workflow and asset management in the print and cross-media publishing markets.

JDF is an open, scalable, web-compatible job-ticket standard built on the success of proven standards such as the CIP3 PPF (Print Production Format).


Why is JDF Needed?

Today's document-production systems cannot exchange all relevant job-description information among the different subsystems that participate in the workflow process. JDF is designed to fill this gap. It is being launched as an open, object-oriented, XML framework for passing information or metadata about a job from one set of systems to another.


JDF Spec Will be Made Available:

The JDF specification will be published by the four companies and made widely available to all interested OEMs, third parties and end users via its Web site, www.job-definition-format.org.


About Citation Software Inc.

Citation Software Inc. is a privately held software-development/consulting firm based in Westborough, MA. Citation Software Inc. has worked with electronic-publishing technology for over a decade; specializing for the most part in on-demand-printing/publishing technology, variable-data-printing/publishing technology, and mailing-industry technology.
 




    
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