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Circular Software

From here to Affinity?

Ken Jones runs Circular Software. He was Technical Production Manager and Publishing Software Trainer for Penguin and Dorling Kindersley for several years and now offers software, training and advice to publishers such as Parragon, Nosy Crow, Walker Books and Quarto on how to get the best from their print workflow.

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Circular Software

Ken Jones runs Circular Software. He was Technical Production Manager for Penguin and Dorling Kindersley for several years and has since advised publishers such as Parragon, Nosy Crow, Walker Books and Quarto on how to get the best from their print workflow.

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book buzz

Abbie Headon is BookMachine’s Commissioning Editor and runs Abbie Headon Publishing Services. She champions fresh approaches to solving the industry’s challenges and can be found mingling at most publishing events.

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Heather O'Connell

Heather O’Connell has more than 20 years experience in the publishing industry and worked her way up from controller to senior management positions at Penguin and Harper Collins. She now runs Bluebird Consulting and also teaches Production both in-house and via the Publishing MA at UCL.

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Production Editor, Academic

Out of House Publishing Solutions is a fast-growing publishing services company based in Gloucestershire. We offer a comprehensive project management service for every kind of publishing project.

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You’re not alone. You can learn how to effectively distribute fonts with a font server.

Font issues can crop up in any workflow. Font problems can have real hard costs for creative agencies, publishers, media companies, manufacturers and more.

We at Extensis work with thousands of creative teams across the globe, and have seen it all. Among the host of issues that fonts can cause, the most common issue is keeping fonts in sync across everyone’s desktop. Combine that with font licensing and corruption issues, and any creative workflow can come grinding to a halt because of a font.

When used properly, a font server can help any team stay on task and productive.

In a recent webcast, I covered the following font management topics:

  • How Universal Type Server meets your team’s font management needs
  • How to install and configure Universal Type Server
  • How to manage users and fonts
  • How to track your team’s font licensing
  • Best strategies for font organization

I invite you to check out a recording of this webcast.

Don’t hesitate to tweet or email me with questions!

As a writer, speaker and general software nerd, Jim Kidwell evangelizes the effective integration of fonts and digital asset management in creative workflows. Focusing on how effective management can affect all levels of an organization – from the legal, creative and branding standpoints – Jim has shared his unique perspective with audiences at SXSW, Future of Web Design, WebVisions and more.

We all know PDFs. Here we are over a decade and a half into the 21st century and chances are you have probably already read one or more this week and are probably carrying a few around in your pocket right now. Not bad for a file format that originated in 1993!

The longevity of the PDF is down to the fact it still serves a useful purpose. The simple way that PDFs can be created and distributed really does live up to its full name of ‘Portable Document Format’.

PDFs retain the appearance of any designed page. Accurately positioned text, fonts, illustrations and images are embedded inside them so can be reproduced on-screen or in print wherever they go, even when offline. And all at a file size easy to download, email or share – even on the most sluggish connections.

In short, your mum and maybe even your granddad can handle a PDF.

Where the PDF came from

Adobe founders John Warnock and Charles Geschke with Steve Jobs of Apple.
Adobe founders John Warnock and Charles Geschke with Steve Jobs of Apple.

Today Adobe lists 112 different products but back in the early 80s it started building its empire on the PostScript (PS). This was a clever way to package complex print instructions into a single file. But this file could never be visualised until it was printed. Extra tools were needed to let people create, view and edit them and the EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) followed soon after.

EPS was good. But it couldn’t handle much beyond the basics. The PDF was introduced as the replacement and was cleverly built in such a way that it could be developed and expanded upon over the years. Adobe Acrobat is their paid-for tool for creating, checking and manipulating PDFs. It now comes in Standard or Pro versions.

Where the PDF ended up

Each time Adobe brought in new features in Acrobat the version of PDF increased to keep up. PDF1.0 started with Acrobat 1.0 but rather confusingly as the version of Acrobat updated in whole number to 2.0, 3.0 etc. the PDF only updated in points so PDF1.1, PDF1.2 and so on. So in 2001 when Acrobat 5 brought in  transparency the PDF version that first supported transparency was PDF1.4. Simple huh?!

PDF1.7 was the 8th and final version before Adobe generously made PDF an open standard with ISO 32000-1.

A modern-day PDF is more like a folder which, as well as holding page content, can also contain multiple layers, security, interactive forms, embedded audio, video, 3D graphics, annotations and more.

InDesign offers lots of options for creating interactive PDFs.
InDesign offers lots of options for creating interactive PDFs.

Adobe’s vision for the PDF was for use in a ‘paperless office’ concept and I’m told to this day the largest user of PDF is actually the US tax office. The fact that we in the publishing industry latched on to the PDF and now send all files to print as ‘print ready PDF’ was not the reason for its conception.

You can’t print a sound effect

Of all the wonderful things that the later PDF versions expanded to include, many are just not applicable to print and publishing. For example:

  • Security has its place but not when it stops your print supplier opening your files.
  • Layers might be a nice idea but not when they might disappear or you print the wrong ones.
  • Audio and video don’t translate well to inked dots!

And here is the reason that PDF/X is so important…

 PDF/X is a subset and a required list

The X stands for ‘Exchange’ or more completely ‘Blind Exchange’ which is when a system can interpret what it is supplied ‘blindly’ – without the need for human interaction.

Supplying your ad this afternoon for tomorrow’s newspaper as a PDF/X means that it will print without a doubt.

PDF/X is an agreed list of what a PDF must contain and also what it must not contain in order to print.
For example the commonly used PDF/X-1a states:

  • Your PDF MUST contain all fonts.
  • All graphics MUST NOT be RGB.
  • Your PDF MUST contain a colour profile (info on how colours should appear)
  • Your PDF MUST NOT contain transparency.

Plus lots of other rules which are required for successful printing.

Different types of PDF/X

PDF/X started in 2001 and comes in different flavours. The latest version is PDF/X-5 of which, slightly confusingly, there are various types. An early incarnation was PDF/X-1a and that remains suitable more most print jobs but if you really want to know more about the differences check the excellent prepressure.com site for a good list.

InDesign now offers various PDF/X standards to choose from but not PDF/X-5.
InDesign now offers various PDF/X standards to choose from but not PDF/X-5.

Why a PDF/X is your starting point

Using PDF/X correctly avoids 100% of printing errors. Guaranteed.

But the fact that your PDF will print does not automatically mean that it will give you the results you want.

A simple example is image resolution. Printing a low res image is not an error. Recommended resolution will vary with print methods so what may be deemed a low res image in an illustrated book, may be perfectly normal for a newspaper.

There are no rules about image resolution in PDF/X. Think of  using PDF/X as a solid base that you can add other requirements on top of.

How to know whether a PDF is a PDF/X

The good news is you don’t need to know everything PDF/X contains. But if you create or deal with files going to print you should know what PDF/X is and know how to check if a file is a valid PDF/X.

Output using a well made PDF Preset in InDesign will make your PDFs into a perfect PDF/X every time.

Preflighting software such as Adobe Acrobat Pro can also be used to check PDFs against the PDF/X standards and by building PDF/X compliance into the PDF Preflight profiles you use you can achieve a smooth workflow that lets you know all the files you send to print will actually print as expected!

Ken Jones is a publishing software expert with over ten years experience as Technical Production Manager, software trainer and developer at DK and Penguin Group UK. Ken’s company ‘Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishing customers including Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Thames & Hudson and Nosy Crow. Contact Ken via twitter @circularken or www.circularsoftware.com

On Wednesday night EMC Design kicked off their 25th birthday celebrations in style by partnering with BookMachine to host our event ‘Why design matters: collaborating with your design team’. Our speakers for the night were David Pearson (cover designer behind some of Penguin’s most beautifully designed covers), Dan Franklin (digital publisher at Penguin Random House UK) and Ken Jones (founder of Circular Software).

Here’s a round up of this sell-out night through tweets and pics:

Head over to our Facebook page for more photos of the event.

Accessible publishing

Guy van der Kolk first got hooked on publishing while attending an international school in Ivory Coast, where he used Pagemaker, Photoshop and an Apple Quicktake 100 camera to help create the yearbook. After many hours of hard work, while holding the final printed product, he knew this was an industry he wanted to be a part of.  Guy is now Senior Solutions Consultant for Typefi, he has spent the last 15 years training thousands of people to get the most out of their software.

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Circular Software

This is post by Ken Jones – member of the BookMachine Editorial BoardKen specialises in writing workflow applications and offering training and consultancy for publishers on print and digital workflows. Ken’s company Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishers. Contact Ken on twitter @CircularKen on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/kenjones or through the website circularsoftware.com 

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Circular Software

Ken Jones was Technical Production Manager for Penguin and Dorling Kindersley for several years and has since advised publishers such as Parragon, Nosy Crow, Walker Books and Quarto on how to get the best from their print workflow.

Continue reading

Contract proofing

Jamie Robinson has been at f1 colour for 24 years, rising through the ranks to Managing Director. Over that time his passion for colour and accuracy has shown no sign of abating, often providing crash courses for production staff at publishers who want to learn more about the ‘dark arts’ of colour and profiling images for print.

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For many of the book publishers I work with the use of freelancers is an integral part of their workflow. Some companies offer their internal design and editorial staff the opportunity of working from home and use remote working on projects with colleagues based in other locations.

It might not be for everyone, but working from home (or the café or in fact anywhere that isn’t the office) can increase concentration, creativity and productivity.

Of course, there are also times when coming together as a team is important. Modern connectivity means instant written, spoken and even face to face communication are all becoming commonplace but for publishers the everyday challenges of reading through or viewing a designed page, keeping track of progress and exchanging comments can still be mundane, lengthy and potentially risky.

In recent years several software companies, including my own, have brought out solutions to connect creative people who are working together but remotely. In this article I have a look at some of the different solutions available.

Sharing files

Let’s be clear. Email is OK for general communications but it should never be used when sharing the large files we deal with in illustrated book publishing. I’d also strongly recommend avoiding it for collaborating or sharing proofs and comments.

Wetransfer offer a neat and free solution to send big files to one or more others. It is simple and reliable, better than FTP, and more features come with the paid version.

However, if working within a team then centralising your file sharing is much smarter than passing copies of files between each other. Google Drive, Box, Hightail and others offer ways to share centralised access to your files.

Dropbox offer this too and, in my opinion, have the best solutions for managing files within a creative team. I really like Dropbox desktop integration and synchronisation. Files sit in a regular folder on your PC or Mac, you can work offline and files are then synced when online. It’s worth knowing about their ‘selective sync‘ feature: this lets you choose which folders you wish to access locally in order to free up space whilst knowing all other files are safe, available to others and easily retrievable.

There are ways to restrict access to certain areas and to prevent overwriting. Whilst I would not recommend relying upon Dropbox as your only backup solution, their paid version automatically saves every version of every file, and you can revert to a previous version if you need to.

Dropbox selective sync lets you choose which shared files are on your computer


Whilst the creative process is happening then working together on the same publication and even on the same page becomes important.

As well as holding your files centrally Hightail and Dropbox also offer the ability to share PDF and image files for commenting and will notify users when comments are added.

Hightail and Dropbox offer ability to add comments to images

Futureproofs is a cloud-based system designed by an experienced editor that focuses on the jobs that editors, proofreaders, authors and designers actually do. Its quick, precise annotation tools combine traditional standards-based markup with modern gesture recognition. Their built-in collaboration tools help your whole team stay on top of queries and decisions, and real-time data give deep insight into project management. Deadlines, live notifications and tracking are all held online for easy access.

Futureproofs lets you mark up the page just by drawing on it

MasterPlan is a planning, tracking and commenting system for your entire publishing team. Multiple projects can be planned out and their progress viewed in the browser. Changes made in InDesign are instantly pushed to an online overview. Clicking on a thumbnail opens spreads in a retina quality preview where annotations can be drawn and comments added. Back in InDesign these comments are pulled down onto the InDesign page.

MasterPlan integrates with InDesign to share an overview of entire illustrated publications


Rather than using unwieldly email threads, those working in publishing teams can benefit from using messaging and chat. Slack, HipChat and Skype chat are all ways to communicate quickly and to keep everyone in touch about day to day minutiae. Also, Masterplan connects with Slack to let colleagues know whenever InDesign pages are changed or comments are added.

Messaging apps build up a well presented project specific shared history that can be easily filtered and searched. You can direct questions at certain people and mark important info for later reference using @ and # tags when necessary and all in a more immediate way that is ideal for team communication.

It is helpful to have a way to be able to dip out and back in to threads of product info without having to hunt through a mixture of other emails.

Slack gets team communications neatly under control

Sometimes a quick live screen share can really help with describing or resolving a particular point. Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom all offer free ways to do this.

For big projects that start to require some project management it is worth looking at larger tools like BaseCamp and Trello which can become a central single location for messages, to-dos and timelines.

Commenting and approval

Towards the end of the design and editorial stages there are several options for sharing proofs, adding comments and receiving approval. Also, people outside of the design teams may well need to sign off on a project too.

Although Futureproofs and MasterPlan offer commenting and approval tailored to fit into the workflow of book publishers, if you would prefer a more simple online proof approval on a file by file basis then other tools such as ProofHQ, GoProof and PageProof are all available.

Of these PageProof stands out as a well thought-out option which also handles setting up of approval chains. These mean the next person who needs to approve a piece gets notified at the right time. It integrates with Adobe InDesign, InCopy, Photoshop, and Illustrator and even allows commenting on video and audio files. PageProof is also fully encrypted so this might be an option if ‘for your eyes only’ security is important.

For those looking for a custom branded file sharing and commenting and Digital Asset Management system then FileCamp may fit the bill.

Outputting for production

GreenLight is a simple system that ensures that your house style and production rules are applied to all InDesign files in your workflow. Instantly updated checklists of rules and presets are shared with all remote workers and if a problem is found then the area of InDesign page is highlighted and online help pages show how to amend them. When files are ready, GreenLight can also be used to output approved final PDFs and prepare final files.

GreenLight makes sure your house styles and production rules are followed

So, these days, there are real alternatives available to the fiddly and time consuming practice of sending around PDFs, long confusing email trails of feedback and scribbled on print outs.

When making your choice, think about the type and length of publications you produce, the number of people within your creative teams, the amount and order of final approvals required and who is to make the final files for production.

MasterPlan and GreenLight are my company’s tools. I’ve tried to be impartial and fair in my recommendations of these and others.

I hope you find this article useful, if you have any other favourites then please let me know in the comments below.

Circular SoftwareKen Jones is a publishing software expert with over ten years experience as Technical Production Manager, software trainer and developer Penguin Group UK. Now specialising in writing workflow applications and offering training and consultancy for publishers on print and digital workflows.

Ken’s company ‘Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishing customers including Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Thames & Hudson and Nosy Crow.

You can contact Ken via twitter @circularken or through the website http://www.circularsoftware.com

Although freely available on the web, images may be subject to copyright.

Indesign conference
The InDesign Conference 2016 took place last week in Washington D.C. A three day conference for over 450 InDesign users, experts, consultants, speakers and trainers. Our man Ken Jones was there and reports back.

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Circular Software

Image 1

Being Upfront

As every good production controller knows the cost of a print run is upfront. For illustrated books in particular, a major investment of time and hard cash is needed to get artworks and photography done, edited content completed and layouts finalised, proofed and signed off.

Only once the printing plates have been made and the presses are rolling do we start to get close to having a saleable product.

With modern digital printing techniques short runs become a little more cost effective, but even when considering this, a large and largely fixed set of costs have to be be swallowed before getting your book to this point.

But… this also means that once your book is on press, actually the incremental price of producing one more book is tiny in comparison. It comes down to the physical costs of a few sheets of paper, a small amount of ink and similarly small and incremental extra finishing and shipping costs.

Mixed up in gambling and gangs

Publishers are gamblers. They take a punt on creating a product that they hope is going to sell and are willing to put their money where their mouth is.

Back in the1970s the newly formed Dorling Kindersley (now known as DK, part of Penguin Random House) took the really smart move of hedging their bets and asking other, foreign language publishers, to join forces in a cooperative effort to extend their print runs and lower their unit costs.

This forty year old idea of ‘co-edition’ printing was such a good one that it remains in use by many publishers today. Printers use the term ‘ganging up’ to describe combining multiple jobs in a single print run.

Image 2

The publisher benefits by spreading the cost of production between co-edition partners and the reader benefits from professionally researched, illustrated and designed books in languages and niche subject areas that would not have existed otherwise.

Now for the science bit

In order to reduce production costs, the co-edition publisher typically provides their translations in a single colour. All their text, and also any images that are specific to their language, must be in one colour – Black.

Back in the seventies, when printing plates were made from photographic film instead of digital files, an extra film called a ‘separation’ was supplied to make this ‘Text Black’ plate.

The most basic way to create editions in multiple languages was to print a set of colour pages that can then be printed again with the translations. This method, called ‘overprinting’, requires two print runs – one for the full colour CMYK images and another using just a single colour press which is cheaper to setup and run.

A more efficient process was to use a larger five colour press which could be used to print the CMYK and the Text Black plate at the same time, with the press only stopping to swap the Text Black plates for each language. The Text Black is still being overprinted.

When Apple and Adobe brought us the desktop publishing revolution back in the 1980s the concept of an ‘overprint’ setting arrived in our page layout software. This meant a ‘Text Black’ colour could be used within the software to identify the translated text which could then be used to make the separate printing plates.

Image 3

Text Black is as cutting edge as the Fax machine

Fast forward another thirty years and we now use PDFs instead of film and we can now use layers, not Text Black, in our page layout software to isolate translations. The translation layer still typically only uses black which is set to overprint but with some careful setting up, images and translated text can be combined more easily and visual effects are possible that were not possible in the old days of Text Black such as mixing text with images whilst still keeping a single plate change for translations.

Image 4

These days printers actually combine the black translation file with the common images and print a cheaper four colour (CMYK) only job, whilst still only needing to change the black plate for different language editions.

I helped DK remove Text Black from their workflow over ten years ago but still find myself advising well known publishers to this day that there really is no technical reason to still be using Text Black in 2016 and in fact it is outdated, unnecessary, confusing and restrictive.

Ken Jones is a publishing software expert with over ten years experience as Technical Production Manager, software trainer and developer at DK and Penguin Group UK. Ken’s company ‘Circular Software’ provides software tools and services for a range of illustrated book publishing customers including Hachette, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Thames & Hudson and Nosy Crow. Contact Ken via twitter @circularken or www.circularsoftware.com


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