GWG 2022 – same old, same old?

GWG logo

First things first: the Ghent Workgroup or GWG is a standardization organization you should know if you’re active in the print industry. Even if only because their site ( has lots of interesting free stuff to be had. But primarily because the GWG specifications are the foundation of many of the preflight guidelines used in our industry. GWG 2022 refers to a new specification that will hit the streets very soon.

GWG 2015 to 2022

The last specification released by the GWG dates from 2015. So, does it take seven years to create a new specification version? Not really, during this period the Ghent Workgroup came out with variants of the 2015 specification for Digital Print, Sign & Display (aka Large Format Print) and Packaging. They didn’t really take a vacation!

But now a new specification version needed to happen. Those new variants had to be properly consolidated and new ideas and technologies had to be integrated. You can’t do that unless you have a solid foundation.


If you’re a printer, publisher, or designer, all you’re ever going to see from the specification are application settings such as PDF output settings or preflight profiles. Companies such as callas software have to create those preflight profiles and in order to do so they have to use a (rather very technical) standard document. This document explains what a PDF file should look like and behave like to be compliant. While you might not ever see that foundation document, the way it is written changed fundamentally in GWG 2022. And that in turn should make for better application settings. It was a serious effort to make the transition, but it’s an effort the whole industry will benefit from.
So… what shiny new things does this new foundation enable for you?

Less preflight errors

The trend throughout our industry is to increase automated processing wherever possible. Unfortunately, preflight errors cause manual interventions, so less preflight errors means less interruptions, quicker processing, higher margins…
Hold on, does GWG 2022 introduce less preflight checking? No, not at all. It does however enable preflight vendors to use smarter preflight technology to cut down on false positives. What is a false positive? Well, imagine you have an element on a page that is invisible… perhaps it’s completely clipped away, perhaps it’s obscured by an image on the page… does it make sense to tell you there’s a problem with that page element if it’s never going to be printed anyway? It doesn’t, and GWG 2022 lets vendors use technology to ignore those page elements.

Packaging treats

One of the important developments in standardization for the label and packaging industry the last years was the release of the Processing Steps ISO Standard (known as ISO 19593-1). This standard makes it possible to identify elements in a design needed for specific processing steps. The easiest example is perhaps that it provides a good way to identify cut and fold lines in a complex design. The GWG 2022 specification includes support for the Processing Steps standard and identifies which processing steps should and should not be present for different packaging products.

What about PDF 2.0?

If you follow what is happening with PDF a bit, you might have heard there is a new PDF version that was created by the International Standards Organization (ISO). In plain English it’s usually referred to as PDF 2.0, and there is a new PDF/X version – PDF/X-6 – that was created to take advantage of it. Is the Ghent Workgroup using these new standards for their 2022 specifications?
No, they’re not. The 2022 specifications are still built on top of PDF/X-4, which doesn’t use the new PDF 2.0 format. Why? Because they wanted these 2022 specifications to be usable immediately. The new PDF 2.0 version and the accompanying PDF/X-6 standard are simply too “young” and not supported by enough workflows yet.

That sounds too good to be true, what are you not telling us?

Change is always difficult, right? This is clearly a transition that should be managed as well as any other transition… but the payoff from having more relevant preflight errors and less false positives is an important one.
The other point to mention is that smarter preflight technology can also mean longer preflight times, especially for complex documents. If you want to find out reliably that certain page elements are invisible for example, that takes time. The increase is not dramatically big though, and it is certainly outweighed by having less files flagged as problematic without a reason.

So, what now?

Now you sit back and relax. The Ghent Workgroup is about to release this important new specification, and once that is done, it needs to be picked up by the preflight software you’re using. In the case of callas pdfToolbox, callas is already working on preflight profiles to support GWG 2022 and there will be an update to pdfToolbox to bring them to a computer near you very soon.

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