Pitstop: WhatÕs new in fixing PDF files

By Ron Ellis

Enfocus Pitstop has long been the premiere tool for preflight and repair of Adobe Acrobat PDF files. It is safe to say that PDF files would not have the same level of acceptance as they now have if Pitstop didnÕt exist. (Pitstop was among the first plug-ins created for Acrobat, and was first released in 1996.) Recently, Enfocus has released both upgrades and new versions that make Pitstop even more powerful The new features and versions make working with PDF files even easier and are worth taking note of. What has changed? Enfocus Pitstop has been upgraded to version 7.01. Enfocus has also released a new and powerful version of Pitstop called Pitstop Automate, which is similar to the server version of Pitstop, but much more powerful.


A new upgrade

Recently Enfocus upgraded their flagship product Pitstop. Pitstop is used for preflighting, editing, and repair of PDF files. The new version 7.01 is a chargeable upgrade and has a number of new features. Here are some of the new features than make Pitstop 7 something more than the average Enfocus upgrade that we may be used to.


PDF placement

One of the first new features is the ability to place PDF files into a PDF much like you can do in a page layout program. With this new feature, you can select PDF files and place them; prior to this you had to make them into a PDF, import them into the same document, and cut and paste them onto an existing page. This feature should be especially helpful for publications that often need to edit or place ads and other objects at the last minute.


Font to outline feature

Another new feature lets you convert type into outlines. While no program can do this perfectly there are several important reasons this can be important. The first is that if you have a font that cannot be embedded, you can simply convert it and resolve any missing font issues that are typical with custom fonts and other fonts that restrict embedding. The second is that many customers favor conversion of all fonts to curves to help solve and troubleshoot font issues. Like most software that can convert fonts to outlines, I doubt it will always work, but even so it should be handy and helpful for most of us.


Action list enhancements

Creation of action lists has often seemed difficult for many of us, and just figuring out how to get started can be daunting. Action lists can now be created by turning on a recorder, recording the functions you want to build into your action list, and then saving the recording. This often can be used directly as an action list, either as is or with a little editing. (Previously, you had to either be an expert at the Pitstop functions, or else know the tricks of capturing un-dos and grabbing them into the action list manager).

In addition to making it easier to create action lists, action lists can now be run within a preflight. This means that what may have been several steps — such as run an action list and then run the preflight — can now be done in one easy step.

Changes to the interface

Many of the Pitstop tool palettes have been recreated with the intention of making the interface less daunting. Most of the time this works, although it takes some getting used to, especially if you are used to the old Pitstop interface. All of the old features such as the Action Lists, Preflight, and Global Changes have radically different interfaces.

The idea of this is to break them into logical pieces so that when you are getting ready to perform an action it is easier to navigate to that action, as well as find the item you are getting ready to work with. Be warned that when you first start Pitstop 7, the interfaces are completely different and it will take a little getting used to. The improvements are worth it, but changed interfaces are part of the price.


New tools for repetitive tasks

There are many newer features that help with automating repetitive tasks. Guides can be saved so that they can quickly and easily be applied to any document without having to redraw them from scratch. The Enfocus cropping tool allows you to have pre-defined pagebox settings that are can be retrieved when needed. These allow you to quickly and easily change page sizes.


Quality control

A view and file settings feature allows you to make sure that all operators are viewing a document with the same settings (such as for color management and overprint on). This can be used to verify that everyone is seeing the same document. While not bulletproof, it gives an easy way to tell how the document should be viewed, and with what settings. The image matching panel allows users to quickly tag images with a new profile and change all images in a color space to the new profile.


Enhanced reports

Preflight reports have been redesigned so that they are now clearer and much easier to understand. The new interface makes it easier to see the issues (bigger and more clearly presented) and also gives the user a little background on the errors and possible solutions for the errors.

While some of these changes are minor, many of them are the first major changes we have seen to Pitstop in a few years. A few of these new features like the ability to place PDFs and change type to outlines are alone worth making the upgrade for.


Pitstop automate

While Pitstop has always been popular and Pitstop Server has been popular for heavy users, the newest product, Pitstop Automate, has finally been released. Based on Artwork SystemÕs Odystar (Artwork Systems is the parent company of Enfocus) the new product does some things that Pitstop Server canÕt. The product runs only on OSX.

Pitstop Automate is much faster than Pitstop server. In some tests with large documents, Pitstop Automate was 10 times faster, so if speed and volume are important, you will want to check out this product. The product differs from Server in that it allows you to set conditional routes for files dependent on naming, owner and many other variables. This allows Pitstop Autoamate to route the job depending on these conditions. The application can also perform tasks such as printing the PDF, splitting pages, and sending the files via file transfer protocol or a variety of other methods. If you do a lot with Pitstop Server, you should check out Automate. The speed and additional functionality are worth a look.

Note that both of the above products are available as 30-day trial products at www.enfocus.com.

About the author: Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He has consulted on numerous CTP installations and he provides color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. He can be contacted at 603-498-4553 or through his web site at www.ronellisconsulting.com.