30

I have published several textbooks that were typeset using pdflatex. In each case, when I sent them to the commercial book printer, the technicians doing the preflighting invariably found some supposed deficiency in the file that wasn't caught by the Acrobat Pro preflight function that I use. Here are sample quotes from their messages:

"Inside front & back covers pdf file: Quartz can be problematic with copy dropping out. We recommend the cover files be created in Quark or InDesign. If we are to proceed with this as is, you will need to review your proof very carefully for copy that may drop out."

"The customer is using a program that we do not support called LaTeX. Unfortunately we won't be of any help to this customer because we don't know anything about it or how to communicate any ideas on how to fix it. The only suggestion we can give is to direct him to the Internet and try to find forums on the issues he is having with the files to see if there are suggested ways for him to fix them in LaTeX."

When I used Acrobat Pro (latest version, on Mac OS X El Capitan) to fix up some issues with transparency and sent the printer the resulting pdf output, I got this message back:

"The pdf file supplied was produced using apple's osx pdf creator, pdf quartz context. refining a file created this way can cause unexpected results; these anomalies may not appear in a soft proof. if the customer chooses to proceed with the file, it is recommended that the customer review a hard proof to check for errors caused by using quartz. sbi does not support these files and is not responsible for the results in using these files. customer can proceed as is based on information above or can supply a new file."

I following up with the question/comment: "So pdf files created by the latest version of Acrobat Pro for Macintosh are not supported by your digital press? Or is there some way to bypass the use of quartz in this environment?"

The response:

"Quartz files are the problem, they are similar to Word files, which are also not supported. They work fine for the Internet and Electronic posting, but they do not work well for print manufacturing. The only way around it would be to recreate the files in InDesign or another Publishing software."

Summary: A major commercial book printer with both web offset and digital printing doesn't know what LaTeX is and doesn't consider it "publishing software." Likewise, even pdflatex output that has been preflighted/postprocessed by Acrobat Pro is deemed unsuitable for print manufacturing.

My question: Is it generally true that pdflatex output is somehow problematic for commercial book printing and, if so, are there ways to avoid issues like those described above? And where does Quartz fit in?

  • 2
    Quartz is an Apple thing, as far as I know. You should, I think, be able to avoid its involvement. You could try producing postscript and passing that through Acrobat's Distiller programme. However, I don't know if that would help. They do not really seem to know what they are talking about because there is no such thing as a 'Quartz file' as far as I know. So it is not at all like a 'Word file'. I take it they mean that the PDF producer/creator is given as Quartz, but that doesn't tell you what problem they have, just what they believe to be the cause of it. – cfr Feb 6 '16 at 3:34
  • 1
    I wonder what they would say if you compiled your files on Linux, instead, where they would hardly be able to blame Quartz. The complaints are too vague to be helpful. They aren't giving you specifics. What about the file 'causes copy to drop out'? What do they mean? Do they mean letters missing? Or... ? It is true that PDF files produced by pdfLaTeX do not always print correctly, even when they are correct on screen. I don't think this problem is specific to pdfLaTeX. (It can't be Quartz in my case.) I avoid this by printing the files as images, but a publisher wouldn't want to do that. – cfr Feb 6 '16 at 3:37
  • 2
    If you are unlucky, then just opening a pdf using preview, changes the PDF. It should not happen, but worth checking. On the Mac, in a terminal, you should be able to run md5sum fil.pdf or similar, in order to get a signature to see if the file was changed, do it after each step and note the resulting her numbers. FYI I haven't tested to see if Mac OSX include the md5sum command or the equivalent sha1sum – daleif Feb 6 '16 at 11:07
  • 2
    There was a similar post on comp.text.tex. It seems that MacTeX uses Quartz. Have you tried post-processing the pdf file with ghostscript? I always do this with jmakepdfx (which is just a frontend to ghostscript) for my books and have never had any complaints from my printers (but I use Linux rather than a Mac). – Nicola Talbot Feb 7 '16 at 12:31
  • 3
    The PDFs produced by pdftex should conform to the PDF specification. Any good print shop will preflight all PDFs they get (e.g. with Acrobat) and should be able to handle them without any problems. If the shop makes a fuzz (like yours did "is using a program that we do not support called LaTeX"), search for another. And if you want to be sure and have Adobe Acrobat, convert the PDFs to PDF/X-something. – Reinstate Monica - M. Schröder Feb 9 '16 at 22:07
2

I have published two books of my own with commercial publishers, and we have typeset many more, all with LaTeX, and the only comments that came back were from the designers and platemakers who were surprised that all the files went through clean first time. They had never had this happen before with client-supplied files, and they wanted to know what software we were using.

But we use have only used Unix or GNU/Linux, never Windows or Mac, so whatever it was we were using (apart from LaTeX) obviously worked, and it wasn't Acrobat. And we have not done much four-colour process work, only CMYK spot colour and machine tints; the couple of illustrated books we have done all had the separation done elsewhere: we just left spaces.

All I can suggest is that you stay well clear of Adobe software: let other people mess things up, not you.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.