PDFX output

How to create PDFX files from iCalamus documents

This tutorial shows how to create PDF-X files with 300dpi resolution for flattened content.

This tutorial refers to Mac OS X Leopard!

Whenever you want to create a PDF from an iCalamus document, you will surely use the Print dialog from its File menu. There you find the PDF function popup menu, identical in all Mac OS X applications which use the Cocoa print output engine.

Usually you choose Save as PDF and you're done. But sometimes you need a PDF-X file, e.g. when a print services requests a more secure PDF file format. PDF-X is a standard which removes many newer enhancements from PDF files, making them usable in a wider range of even older PDF processors. One of the most popular features in newer PDF files is transparency, plus several native PDF blend modes.

(Read more about Blend Modes in the iCalamus manual.)

When you use blend modes in an iCalamus document and create a PDF-X file from this document, you will be surprised about the low resolution of the resulting PDF.

Important Hint:
Due to various bugs in Mac OS X, we recommend to usually create PDFs without transparency reduction (i.e. just normal output) using the command Save As PDF and ask the print shop to do the flattening. But if you need to do the reduction yourself for whatever reason, you should check the created PDF first in Preview and/or in Adobe Reader. Errors due to transparency reduction by Mac OS routines can be seen there very simple in most cases.

What happens to high-resolution images in PDF-X output?

When you use the PDF option Save As PDF-X from any Print dialog (not only in iCalamus!), the PDF output engine uses a generic Automator workflow to convert the document content into a PDF-X document. This Automator workflow is named Apply Quartz Filter to PDF Documents. It uses a Quartz filter called Create Generic PDFX-3 Document. But this filter has been predefined by Apple to flatten transparencies to only 72dpi, which is unusable in high-quality print production workflows!

Can we increase the resolution of flattened PDF content?

With Automator, you can create as many workflows as you like to, using and combining many available filters, variables and scripts. But the workflow which is used here, uses a non-editable Quartz filter (/System/Library/Create Generic PDFX-3 Document.qfilter). Instead, you can duplicate this original Quartz filter and change the parameters of its duplicate.

It's usual place is /Library/PDF Services/Save As PDF-X.workflow. Double-click it to open it in Automator.

Here you see the loaded Automator workflow. The upper left area of the window shows a library of available workflow actions etc. The lower left area shows a description of the currently selected action. A list of workflow actions can be created and edited in the right area of the window. In this case, the workflow only uses one action, Apply Quartz Filter to PDF Documents.

Open the Advanced options section and select the filter Create Generic PDFX-3 Document. Then click on the tiny triangle right to the filter name. Choose Duplicate Filter from the function menu.

Now you have duplicated the Quartz filter which cannot be edited. But you can edit its copy. Select the copied filter. Then double-click on its name and edit it, e.g. like suggested in this snapshot.

Open the filter parameters area. (You may have to resize the window to see all parameters. The handling of this is somewhat strange ...) Find the section Flatten Transparency and change its values from 72 to e.g. 300 dpi. (This should be enough in most cases even with high-quality print processes. But once you're done with this tutorial, you will know how to create another filters with even higher resolutions, if required.)

Important: Do not change the parameters in the Domains section of this copied filter. Automator might crash and loose your copied filter then.

Below the filter parameters area, you see three selectable text fields. Click on Options and check the option Show this action when the workflow runs.

You're done. Save the workflow under its already existing file name.

Summary: You have opened an existing Automator workflow which uses a Quartz filter. Then you have duplicated the relevant filter and changed parameters in its copy. Now you can use the added new Quartz filter in other applications.

Now that you have prepared everything to use a repaired PDFX-3 output, you will have to know one last thing for the time remaining – until Apple fixes another bug in its PDF output engine:

You cannot use this Quartz filter directly in the Print dialog (of iCalamus and all other apps) under Mac OS X Leopard!

Here is the trick: When you want to create a PDFX-3 file from your iCalamus document, do the following steps:

  1. Choose File > Print in iCalamus.
  2. In the Print dialog, click on Preview!
  3. Wait until Preview has launched and created the (high-res) preview of the iCalamus document.
  4. Now choose File > Save As in Preview.
  5. In the Save dialog, you will find the Quartz filters. Choose your previously created Quartz filter Create Generic PDFX-3 Document 300dpi, define the target folder and file name and click on Save.

  6. Done - finally.

(Als u fouten in de Nederlandse vertalingen en teksten vindt, wilt u ons dan – Hartelijk bedankt!)

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