Why Won't Your Printer Accept MS Publisher or MS Word
Actually, some--very few--printers
will accept these files. Most will not because of the amount
of work they must do to prepare the files for printing to
film or plates. Microsoft applications such as Word and
Publisher do not produce PostScript code. They produce ".prn"
("print") files. The printing industry is based
on a PostScript workflow, so a printer that accepts a MS
Word or MS Publisher file must either transfer the text
and images into a program like Quark that produces PostScript
code or import the file into Acrobat for distilling into
PDF format. This PDF document will then include the font
and graphic information in what is essentially a subset
of PostScript code. You could avoid this extra work on the
printer's part--and opportunity for error--by starting with
a Quark or PageMaker document.
In addition, Microsoft applications
deal within a gray-scale and RGB color gamut exclusively.
Even though the PostScript RIP that drives the platesetter
or imagesetter can translate the color from RGB to CMYK
(RGB is only used for documents created with light, such
as images on a computer monitor, not for offset printing),
Microsoft applications cannot process spot colors. To process
spot colors, you would not only need to distill the document
in Acrobat, you would also need to use a plug-in program
called PitStop to edit the PDF and apply spot colors to
elements in the file. Again, you could avoid this entirely
by starting with a Quark or PageMaker file.
Finally, MS Word and MS Publisher files
may not support the level of resolution your images need
for quality printing. At 100 percent size, a 150-line halftone
would need a resolution of approximately 266 to 300 dpi
for high-quality reproduction on press. This is the realm
of Quark or PageMaker halftones.
So, yes, a small minority of printers
will accept Microsoft files, but they will need to do extensive
work to make them usable for high-quality printing. Therefore,
consider starting with the applications specifically created
for print publications work. Your printer will love you
When Should You Consider Digital Printing?
Let's say you have a 4-color
brochure to print, with heavy ink coverage, photographs,
and bleeds, but you only need 800 copies. Ouch. Short of
paying an exorbitant price, essentially for makeready, what
can you do? Consider digital printing.
Currently digital printing consists
of ink-jet, color laser, and actual ink-on-paper technologies.
Ink-jet and color laser have improved dramatically in the
last several years. The images are vibrant and far less
"waxy"-looking. Still, they are not at the level
of ink-on-paper for showcase-level printing work.
Heidelberg offers a press called the
Heidelberg Quickmaster DI (direct-imaging) press which is
quite good for brochures and other small-format work (including
small 4-color posters) within this short press-run range.
Plates are imaged right on the press. To find such a press
at a printer near you, contact Heidelberg (you might start
with their web site). This press produces luxurious, heavy
coverage and excellent photographic images.
For less critical work, consider ink-jet
and color laser alternatives, such as Docucolor. Such toner
and ink-jet-based equipment is also ideal for projects that
require multiple text changes within the press run. For
example, should you need to personalize your print product
for several groups or even on a piece-by-piece level, these
digital presses are invaluable.
Unlike offset printing, however,
in which you pay less per copy the more copies you print,
with digital printing you usually pay a consistent unit
cost (per-click). Talk with your printer to determine the
ideal press run for the technology in question. Usually
the break-even point will be in the shorter-run range, around
500 to 1,500 copies, but your printer will know for sure,
based on his equipment.
[Steven Waxman is a printing consultant. He teaches corporations how to save money buying printing, brokers printing services, and teaches prepress techniques. Steven has been in the printing industry for thirty-three years working as a writer, editor, print buyer, photographer, graphic designer, art director, and production manager.]