e X a l t e r . N e t — The Technical Pages                    

Why Some Things Can’t Be Taught
Why do I contend with graphics conversion?
At some point in my learning to live (and sometimes love) the business, art and science of personal computing, I got fascinated in the area of file formats—both text, graphic and related interchange formats—and their role in quality output, interapplication compatibility and cross-platform support. In other words, making what you wanted to use work, even if things had to move to a different application on a different operating system.
...My digital orientations and proclivities

In a TIFF about graphics?

Perhaps because of the default exposure granted the JPEG file format by its common use in Web browsers, a disturbingly significant number of people are now delivering graphic files for print as JPEGs. This grieves most seasoned print-industry professionals, as they are receiving so much less than they had grown accustomed to.

Original worked saved as RAW, TIFF or native PSD (if you're working in Photoshop®, for example) will store a file with much greater detail. Although most digital cameras save photos you take in various resolutions of JPEG, those that provide the option to save as RAW store all the information captured by the lens. A 3MB RAW file, for example, would generally save into a JPEG of lesser size, usually 1MB or less (and each resaved JPEG file would lose a little more detail with each save, given JPEG's lossy nature). Save that same RAW file as a TIFF, it actually balloons to about 9MB. Although such monstrous sizes are an encumbrance of magnitude for the Web, they are quite desirable in the print world.
...TIFFs like it RAW

Why some things can't be taught...

A classic example are graphic files I prepare for my wife's editorial work with agronomic publishing. The agrons (better known as agronomists) she does freelance editorial work for will submit graphic files that, 90% of the time, are less than optimal—either in terms of image quality (resolution) or by the file form in which they arrive (e.g., a poor scan of a data graphic embedded in a Word PC file).
     I understand why they can't all be beautifully executed graphs that result from data worked within Adobe Illustrator® (that's almost a vertical-market specialty); but why can't I at least receive the data and chart within MS Excel?®
     In any event, what I'm often left to deal with is a process that is more involved than necessary. Sometimes I can get by with copying the embedded image from Word or even PowerPoint® (you'd be amazed at how many people submit graphics for print in an application meant for screen presentation). In worse-case scenarios, I need to employ up to four applications to convert and improve each submitted file. Were this not America, some agrons could have landed before a firing squad for such atrocities. (See below for details.)

How many steps did that take?
In a none-too-rare instance, as many as four distinct steps...or should I say, separate applications, must be summoned to make a graphic file press-ready.
     My workflow to produce a decent resolution image file for import into QuarkXpress® can be as convoluted as the following: 1) Launch Virtual PC with Windows 2000® onboard, and open the file in Word XP; 2) Locate each of the requisite figures embedded within and, one at a time, print them to file (yielding a .prn file [which stands for printer file, not porn file, by the way] that can be distilled if I output it via a PostScript driver); 3) Using print or press-level (as needed) output settings, distill the Postscript-impregnated .prn file in Acrobat® Distiller to yield what's at least an adequate-resolution .PDF file; and, finally 4) Open a rasterized version of the PDF in Photoshop and adjust its color space and resolution (the latter via resizing and resampling as needed) until we have a technically adequate graphic file—and save as a flattened TIFF.
    Fortunately, not all files are this involved. But none are ever one-step, pass-through simple.
If that were routine, or the default...

THEN, perhaps, it could and should be taught...


Most folks in the print-publishing business appreciate — even rely on—a PostScript-based workflow. Yet, I know some who do not, and I can only guess that they don't because 1) they don't understand why PostScript is so valuable to high-end output, or 2) they think that because avoiding it costs less up front, it will cost less in the long run (not necessarily true), or perhaps 3) they believe that because complex, magnificently scalable PostScript output can take longer than a less complex page-description technology that their workflow will be faster if they avoid PostScipt altogether.
     As some wise sage told me long ago, "Nothing that is truly worthwhile doing will come with ease. But once you have so endeavored, you shall be forever grateful that you rose to the challenge."

...Take a closer look at the beauty of PostScript

Where would PDF be without PostScript?

Most publishing workflows in today's academic and corporate worlds involve, to lesser or greater extents, the proverbial PDF document. With the freely downloadable Acrobat Reader available in multiple languages for multiples operating systems throughout the planet, Acrobat and its PDF format may well be the universal "tongue."
    Guess what technology PDF is a subset of, indeed, has its own specialized interpreter for built within it?
    PostScript. That's right: PostScript.
...So what is this marvelous mystery known as PostScript?

Here and Elsewhere:
Actually, it CAN be taught
But life is too short
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Website version: 2.1
Document version: 1.0P
Created: 2006-01-21
Changed: 2006-01-29


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