The purpose of preflight or quality control is to find out whether a PDF document is suitable for print or archival (or any other purpose). To do so you preflight the PDF document with a specific preflight profile and examine the results.
pdfToolbox and pdfaPilot offer a range of different options to view these results as preflight reports; different types of reports are typically used for different purposes.
Classic PDF reports
Three forms of PDF reports format preflight results in a fixed layout; each uses different technology to let you see which objects caused particular errors or warnings. These reports are regular PDF documents and can be opened in any PDF viewer (such as Adobe Acrobat or Apple Preview). This makes them ideal to be emailed to clients in order to explain what errors they have to correct.
Each of these reports optionally begins with an overview page; this page summarizes information about the preflighted document, the environment in which it was preflighted and provides a list of errors and warnings.
Figure 1: The summary page of a preflight report
This type of report uses comments (also called annotations) to highlight the objects causing a particular error. After the summary page, additional pages are added that are a copy of the document that was preflighted. These pages have yellow comments op top of objects causing warnings and red comments for objects causing errors.
Figure 2: A comment preflight report
Each comment shows both the name and description of the preflight error or warning that triggered it; as such it makes it easy for clients to see what object was wrong and why it was wrong.
Transparency mask report
The transparency mask report uses a combination of transparent objects and layers to highlight problem objects in a PDF document. This means that the report will only work in PDF viewers that support layers – such as Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader – and not in viewers that lack this support – such as Apple Preview.
Figure 3: Transparency mask preflight report
The layer report puts objects with a particular problem on a layer; this allows toggling layers on and off to see all objects causing a particular problem. Because the report also adds background layers, you can easily see the problem objects on differently colored backgrounds (which is great to see white objects for example).
The report will only work in PDF viewers that support layers – such as Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader – and not in viewers that lack this support – such as Apple Preview.
Figure 4: A layer preflight report showing transparent objects on a differently colored background
Customizable PDF reports
All of the classic PDF reports are static, in the sense that you cannot change the layout, colors or text of the preflight reports. In some environments that is fine, but often it would be nicer to be able to change some aspects of a preflight report – especially so if the report is being used for external communication.
Figure 5: The default custom PDF report included in pdfToolbox
Figure 6: A custom PDF report based on a modified template
PDF reports are great to provide feedback to internal or external clients; when an automated process is involved PDF is typically not perfect. For precisely that reason pdfToolbox and pdfaPilot have the possibility to generate an XML report as the result of preflight.
The XML file contains all of the information contained in the PDF reports (and much, much more) and it is of course ideal to be parsed by automated processes or scripts down the line. Want to show preflight results embedded in a website? Write some PHP code to parse the preflight report and you have everything you need. Have an automated workflow using FileTrain or Switch? Feed it the XML preflight report and you can base further file decisions on the information in the report.
Don’t think that you’re limited to just one type of report. In all of the automated versions of pdfToolbox or pdfaPilot you can preflight once and receive multiple types of reports as a result. This makes it painless to setup a workflow where a PDF report is sent to a client and an XML report is used to feed in a database or other job tracking system.
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