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Conversion Breakthrough

Mar 1, 2008 12:00 AM


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If you have been in the print industry for any length of time, you know that there are certain file types printers dread receiving from customers. Right at the top of the list is content created in Microsoft Publisher. You see, almost every prepress department out there is Mac-based, and Microsoft has never released a Mac version of Microsoft Publisher.

For those of us in printing, this is a bittersweet thing. We're torn between the positions: “Why have they never deemed it necessary to make a Mac version for us poor saps who have to deal with the Publisher files people send in?” and “Thank God they haven't made a Mac version of that program!” Microsoft Publisher is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an industry-standard application.

Unfortunately, with the shift toward a PDF workflow, more and more customers are using office software like Microsoft Word or Publisher to create their “print-ready” documents. This is bad news for printers, as we'd rather deal with professional programs, such as QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign, that deliver predictable, reliable results.

At A S Hospitality, we also get our fair share of Microsoft Publisher documents — thankfully, not as many as some — and, like many prepress departments, we have resorted to keeping the token PC computer on hand to open these problematic files.

The last thing a print customer wants to hear is that their print supplier can't open a file. They might not understand why the 72-dpi picture they pulled off the Internet is not of sufficient resolution to grace the glossy cover of their publication — nor do they care. They expect the supplier to take whatever they produce and turn around a masterpiece in record time.

PUB2ID to the rescue

Fortunately, the print industry might now have a simple and inexpensive way to resolve the “Publisher-to-print dilemma.” Markzware (Santa Ana, CA) is a developer that's been making prepress software for more than 15 years — everything from preflighting applications like FlightCheck Professional to conversion tools and plug-ins.

When I received the invitation to beta test Markzware's latest conversion tool, PUB2ID, I was eager to put it through its paces and see if it lived up to the developer's promise: to take Microsoft Publisher files and convert them to a native Adobe InDesign format.

To test the application, I selected some Microsoft Publisher 3.0 documents to try. They comprised four-color files with a fair mix of graphics (approximately 71 images in all), copy and line art.

Like Markzware's other conversion tools (Q2ID and ID2Q), PUB2ID is simple to use. Experienced graphic artists and prepress technicians will find it familiar if they've ever opened a QuarkXPress 4.x file in Adobe InDesign. See www.markzware.com/pub2id.

Take care of the little things

PUB2ID was almost perfectly successful in transforming these complex documents into native Adobe InDesign format. I say, “almost,” because there were some minor revisions and fixes I had to make to the files post-conversion. Copy, for example, was a bit of an issue, simply because of the way each platform (PC and Mac) manages fonts. But after opening them in InDesign, I was able to simply substitute the Mac versions of the corresponding PC fonts.

With another document, I ran into a problem with images, but this was not a result of the PUB2ID application's inadequacy. Rather, the original document contained eight images in total, four of which had duplicate naming conventions to the other four. Thus, when I opened the file in InDesign, only four of the images made the crossover.

As in any conversion process, it is best to have a PDF or a hardcopy proof to refer to, to ensure the post-conversion file meets those expectations. The proof will alert you to any pesky PC-to-Mac platform abnormalities that might pop up despite PUB2ID's best efforts.

While small adjustments might be required after the file is converted, PUB2ID enables designers and technicians to otherwise forego recreating a document from scratch. That's a tremendous time savings for a rather modest investment — from $199.

Gavin Anderson is the senior creative graphic designer for A S Hospitality, supplying print and communication services to the hospitality industry. Contact him via www.ashospitality.com.