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The Ghent Workgroup’s Tools for Print & Production Workflows

Mar 19, 2008 12:00 AM

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From the Chairman:

The Best Things in Life Are Free

By David L. Zwang, Chairman, Ghent Workgroup

The USA, Canada, and Latin America are increasingly taking advantage of the free Ghent PDF Workgroup specifications downloads that European printers, their suppliers, and their clients have been adopting at a rapid pace.

Ghent PDF Workgroup–or GWG–specifications and best practices are very easily integrated, free tools that make it infinitely easier to successfully create, process and exchange graphic arts files. Working closely with the international standards community, the GWG develops practical solutions to build on—and enhance—the work done by these standards groups.

And now we’re making it even easier for you to find, understand, and use these specifications, built by some of the world’s most hardcore PDF workflow users and experts.

The new website becomes the center of activity

The GWG has released PDF profiles (currently at version 4) to address a wide range of print production processes

These include PDF creation and preflight specifications and best practices for:

  • Magazine and newspaper production
  • Print advertising
  • Commercial printing
  • Silkscreen
  • Wide format printing
  • Packaging
  • Office document printing

In an effort to take our mission to the next level, we have completely redesigned our website to allow it to become the center of our internal and external communication and education. We have made it much easier to find the information you are looking for. This includes a better search function, and a navigation bar that allows you to find and download Application Settings, Output Suite test files, Job Tickets, educational white papers and more. In addition we have added a new discussion forum to allow the international user community to discuss issues, workflow experiences and GWG deliverables with other users and experts around the globe.

GWG Moves to the Americas

While the GWG has been holding quarterly meetings around Europe, the first annual US meeting will be held October 30-31, 2008 in Chicago, immediately following Graph Expo. We encourage involvement in the work of the sub committees, and welcome meeting observers on a first-come, first-served basis. To apply, contact

There’s much more to come, beginning with at least 3 new Output Suite tests and a new set of specifications that will automatically make PDFs created in Microsoft Office applications ready for production printing. It’s all being accomplished by the industry’s best minds, on their own time, because they love the work as so many of you do, and simply want to make it easier to get the job done.

As the saying goes: “The best things in life are free.” We at the GWG strongly believe in this statement, and it is an integral part of our DNA. Please review the exciting and educating information in this publication, and visit regularly, as we are constantly adding and changing things, so that you too can benefit from all of this work, as many others have already done.

Members of the GWG:

Graphic arts associations:
AIDO (Spain)
BVDM (Germany)
CIT (Spain)
CMBO (The Netherlands)
DDPFF (Denmark)
ERA (Germany)
Febelgra (Belgium)
IDPGroup (The Netherlands)
Idealliance (USA)
Medibel+ (Belgium)
NHO Grafisk (Norway)
Nederlands Uitgeversverbond (The Netherlands)
PDFX-ready (Switzerland)
SICOGIF (France)
TAGA Italia (Italy)
VFG (Austria)
VIGC (Belgium)
VSD (Switzerland)

Artwork Systems
Dalim Software
Global Graphics
Gradual Software
GMG Color
Screen Europe

Industry members:
Associated Newspapers
Hearst Publications
Sanoma Magazines Belgium

GWG becomes a major force in the industry

Best practices and specifications gain worldwide acceptance

GWG specifications, test suites, and best practices are today considered the ultimate barometer of efficient and reliable production and exchange of digital documents for use throughout worldwide publishing workflows. In fact, standard-setting and best practice organizations such as the IPA, FTA, IDEAlliance, PPA, Taga Italia, VSD, and many others are themselves members of the GWG. By participating in GWG activities, the GWG and these organizations can be further assured of optimum integration and worldwide acceptance with agreed-upon best practices.

Says Chairman David Zwang, “The main reason for the success of the GWG is that the development of each of the specifications and best practices all continue to be consensus-driven and address the key problems being felt in the field. This is possible because the working members in each of the focused subcommittees include many of the top industry experts from around the globe.”

The GWG—From a handful of user associations to over 40 member groups

Five years ago, a group of Graphic Arts User Associations from various Benelux countries decided that it would be in their combined interest to develop a single, consensus driven set of PDF preflight profiles, instead of each having individual country or association centric versions. They recognized that the realities of globalization were affecting all of their members and needed to be addressed in the production processes. This was the beginning of the Ghent PDF Workgroup.

Since then, the nonprofit GWG has grown from a handful of regional user associations to include over 40 member groups, including many international user associations and premier vendors of graphic arts solutions and tools, individual industry members, consultants and educational institutions—and it is still growing.

How We Work and When we Release Specifications

The Ghent PDF Workgroup has an ‘as needed’ release schedule. In between those releases the actual work and testing is done by different subcommittees.

Each subcommittee has a chair who organizes member meetings and presents the results from the subcommittee to the workgroup during general meetings, which are held several times per year. Subcommittees include: Color Management, Compliancy Testing, Documentation, Job Ticketing, Marketing, Office Document Printing, Packaging, Process Control, Review and Specifications.

Working with standards

Many of the working participants of the GWG are also active members of the premier international standards groups. Once these solutions are developed, tested, and agreed upon, the membership of users and vendors work together to bring these solutions to the entire global user community.

While the GWG initially created PDF preflight profiles, the work of the group has grown to include many other areas of interest. These areas of interest and development all stem from the mission statement: “To establish and disseminate process specifications for best practices in graphic arts workflows.” To date, these specifications have been tested, and vendors who want to create their own implementations to support their solutions can easily do so, and then ensure compliance to the specifications by the GWG.

Tools for a range of workflows

While developing these specifications, the GWG found that many of the pre-press systems and tools in the marketplace were neither compliant nor up to date with GWG specifications or current versions of layout and design software. As a result, the GWG Output Suite was developed.

The Output Suite is a set of individual files that can be used to test the design and print production workflow processes from layout packages through proofing and platemaking.

Another area of work about which you will find more detail within these pages is the development of electronic job ticketing specifications. The first job ticket released by the GWG was for ad submission. Working in conjunction with CIP4 and AdsML, an XMP ad ticket was released and is currently being used with great success by many large agencies and publishers in Europe. Since then a Soft Proofing job ticket was released to help facilitate and ensure the process of ‘color accurate’ monitor proofing. Currently in development are multiple ad tickets and a variety of other process tickets.

BCT Implements Digital Workflow Using GWG Output Suite

19 tests of workflow behavior, and more to come

BCT International, with more than 80 locations in the U.S. and Canada, is one of the print industry’s success stories.

BCT (Business Cards Tomorrow), is the largest wholesaler of thermographed (raised) and flat offset commercial stationery products in North America. BCT provides next day service on many products.

Headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, BCT’s far reaching operations provide wholesale service and products to retail printers, mailing centers, office supply houses, form distributors, print brokers, ad agencies and other retailers.

BCT’s paper division, Pelican Paper Products, offers a wide variety of paper stocks, colors and recycled papers.

BCT’s Digital Makeover

BCT was founded over 30 years ago, and has consistently operated with an eye towards the future. BCT recently set a mandate to establish a fully automated, 100% digital workflow throughout its locations. Tasked to meet this daunting goal was David Kew, now a Color Solutions Analyst for Ikon Office Solutions and formerly Digital Field Advisor for BCT.

Making Sure the PDF Files Flow

Said Kew, “Our goal was to be a totally distribute and print mechanism. This means having the ability to send a digital file for print to wherever the requirement is. The critical component was to make sure all digital Adobe PDF files work as they should through the automated workflow.”

GWG Becomes Key to Kew

It started with testing. An active participant in many industry standards organizations, Kew found the Ghent PDF Workgroup (GWG) to be an important resource for testing all the major digital workflow solutions in the marketplace.

Under Kew’s direction, BCT utilized the GWG Output Suite—a set of individual files that can be used to test design and print production workflow processes beginning with layout and proceeding through proofing and platemaking. These tests have been used successfully by many vendors to test software and utilities, and to identify the correct settings to be used. More importantly, they have been used by ‘end users’ to identify workflow problems before they find out as a result of a job that won’t process correctly.

The BCT PDF Workflow Challenge

Kew decided to use the groundwork already laid by the GWG and began by giving a test page from the GWG Output Suite to all of his vendors (representing the majority of the industry’s major digital equipment suppliers). Kew’s intention was to have true output files that were printed live, and “not in a white room, in a lab, with scientists overseeing the tests.” BCT franchise owners were given the opportunity to see the resulting output, and see the quality levels provided by each system.

The results were diverse. Kew said, “The ones that succeeded actually reconfigured their RIPs to handle the files. We had vendors who were actually glad in the end that we conducted this test.

“Many weren’t aware of the GWG Test Suite (, which is free, and now see it as a great resource. In fact one was so pleased with the GWG test patches that they took it back to their engineers to tweak their solutions and have even set up internal training for their operators on how to use the patches to optimize their workflows for PDF.”

Taking the Test Inside

With the external testing completed, Kew moved on to implement extensive internal testing using GWG test patches to test all of the RIPs at its farflung locations.

“Every single plant fell in love with the tests and the PDF workflow. Getting the PDF workflow portion right was a critical part of attaining our 100% total digital workflow goal.”

:Electronic Job Tickets:

The bonus money maker hidden inside your workflow

It’s difficult to stop and tweak a workflow that’s working adequately, even if you know that modifications will make it faster and more efficient for the long term. Like anything else, however, you are always so happy once you have done it, wondering why you didn’t do it earlier.

Enhancing workflows—by using XMP job tickets—is a powerful example. A small investment (that doesn’t stop production) in using the XMP capabilities many systems already have is proven to yield thousands of hours in savings. XMP-

supported job ticketing is one of GWG’s major work areas. The GWG Job Ticket Subcommittee investigates and defines best practices regarding different forms of job tickets. The group’s Advertising Job Ticket has in fact become a de facto standard throughout the Belgian advertising community. Using the GWG Ad Ticket, detailed and useful information such as media agency (buyer name), creative agency, prepress name, contact information including phone/email, advertiser name, and first publication date, as well as production information (publication, color description, size, width, bleed, and correction remarks) all follow a PDF ad from creation through production.

A more recent development from the Job Ticketing subcommittee, attributable to significant help from member ICS’ Dan Caldwell, is the soft proofing job ticket for tracking of approval conditions. The GWG Soft-Proofing Ticket uses Adobe XMP specifications to attach information to a PDF file. It provides both an easy-to-understand description about the user as well as accurate details about the viewing conditions in which the document was approved. It contains a list of user names, approval date(s), description of the approval software; and essential detail including monitor serial number and set-up, brightness level, white point values, color temperature and calibration status.

Next up is the multiple version job ticket, an offering that sub-committee member Tom Beckenham has been instrumental in defining. Beckenham’s company, Specle, works with publishers, advertisers, agencies and prepress providers to allow seamless exchange down the supply chain. Beckenham brought an agency perspective to the job ticket sub-committee discussions, introducing the concept of the multiple version job ticket.

Says subcommittee chair Stephane Georges, software product manager at Dalim, “Creative agencies very often face the problem of creating multiple files of the same ad, in different sizes. Creating all these files is quite a lot of work. Plus, when you consider the fact that each will have its own correction cycle, the amount of work can quickly become incredibly high. In order to promote software solutions to automate the creation of these PDF files, the sub-committee is defining this new, open format ticket, which contains the information for all the targeted insertions.”

And, because all the information is in one package—or ticket—Beckenham says that you can send the ticket around to the agency, media buyer and prepress provider. “Publishers love it,” he says. “The job specs for an entire campaign can be captured and automatically applied during creation and production. It will eliminate redundancy and great numbers of errors.” The multi-version job ticket is scheduled for release 2nd Quarter 2008. For more information, go to