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Dazmondo77

Can anyone recommend an acrobat pro alternative?

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On 7 March 2019 at 7:02 AM, Pariah73 said:

Tried PDF Exchange, PDFSam, PDF Architect, Bullzip, Sumatra, PDF Creator, PDFill (which had the best value -$20- for pro if you can deal with the hideous interface) Foxit Reader (trial of Phantom PDF) Nitro..there's some more that I can't remember. Only program I've discovered is Callas

Looks like I'm sticking with Acrobat Pro 9 then which does the job on checking separations and ink density, Verify PDF/X standards conformance, but won't run on new macs FFS - can't believe theres no alternative?!?!?!?!


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Mac Pro Cheese-grater (Early 2009) 2.93 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon 48 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 ECC Ram NVIDIA GeForce GT 630 - 2 GBUgee 19" Graphics Tablet Monitor Mac OS Mojave 10.14.6

Affinity Designer, Photo and Publisher 1.9.2 + Illustrator CS5 / VectorStyler mainly for Vector distortion workarounds + InDesign CS5 for multipage spread jobs with Slug + ImageVectoizer / Vectorize for raster to vector conversions

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On 8/10/2019 at 12:55 PM, Dazmondo77 said:

Looks like I'm sticking with Acrobat Pro 9 then which does the job on checking separations and ink density, Verify PDF/X standards conformance, but won't run on new macs FFS - can't believe theres no alternative?!?!?!?!

When i was using Illustrator, I did all my work using the Pantone spot colors, then Illustrator would handle the color separations. I can't remember if ink density was an option but AI did my seps and then i could use whatever pdf program I wanted from there.  While I was looking for a similar solution when I first started with Affinity, I made my designs and exported them to do color separations with Scribus (which is free) and that worked well enough.  Then I discovered that Affinity's predecessor, (the Plus products) DrawPlusX8 also does color separations and I began using that. Then I came across an article showing how to get Illustrator CS2 for free, so I did that and it also handles color seps (and text warping!) just fine, despite its age and the fact that I'm using Windows 10.  As far as PDF programs, I am currently using the free PDF24 products, which are free.  I hope any of that was in some way helpful.

.......aaaaaand here's where i remember you were looking for Mac *doh*  well maybe some part of that will lead you to an actual solution lol

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Thanks for this highly interesting discussion. I am also looking for a Acrobat Pro replacement. Acrobat DC Preflight feature is the only missing link to me e.g. reliable color management and full support for ISO PDF standards.

Pitstop and pdfToolbox seems to be the only "real" alternatives for reliable print preflight jobs. However if you don't work a for a big print house, it looks like a bit over-size. PDF Checkpoint (Mac) offers some interesting but limited feature set. I am going to take a closer look at pdfToolbox.

Who's already using pdfToolbox? Any experience so far?

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23 minutes ago, howdytom said:

Who's already using pdfToolbox? Any experience so far?

I use it as I think was mentioned earlier in this thread. The one main difference between it and Acrobat is pdfToolbox cannot edit text.

callas is who licenses the preflight goodies to Adobe, so that will be familiar to you. And it does do some things that Acrobat doesn't do, including imposition, etc.

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On 2/20/2019 at 4:15 PM, Dazmondo77 said:

Damn - in that case I hope Serif continues to develop for El Capitan as I'm gonna have to stick with Acrobat 9.5.5 which works great in El Capitan  - wish I could afford pdftoolbox - shame they can't do a trimmed down version for skint freelancers

You can install El Capitan into a Virutal Machine on Mojave and run Acrobat 9/X (or any other such important apps) from there.
I'm doing so with my Adobe CS 6.5, it's a bit slower, obviously, since you run two OS' at once, one virtualized, but better than nothing.

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@Pariah73:  Funny! No application does, what is needed, except one. But this one is expensive. Could it be, that creating such a complex application simply is expensive? Even Adobe didn‘t bear this investment, but licensed the according code from Callas.

And: The market for such an application is very limited. (Who needs it, except prepress guys?) This, in combination with huge development expenses justify the price level.

Never understand, why people want software, with which they earn their living, for no money …

 

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14 hours ago, MikeW said:

I use it as I think was mentioned earlier in this thread. The one main difference between it and Acrobat is pdfToolbox cannot edit text.

callas is who licenses the preflight goodies to Adobe, so that will be familiar to you. And it does do some things that Acrobat doesn't do, including imposition, etc.

Thank you. Sounds good to me.

3 hours ago, mac_heibu said:

Never understand, why people want software, with which they earn their living, for no money …

Totally agree. Even Adobe's Acrobat Pro 2017 single licence is within the same $500 price range.

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This is a very interesting discussion as I have been asking myself for some time now how I could possibly replace Acrobat Pro once I've moved completely to the Affinity apps and a new Mac running (for the time being) Mojave.

I – like others – have used Acrobat Pro mainly for preflight purposes and do so still with version 9.5.5 on my old machine running El Capitan. I rare but crucial cases it has also helped me with prepress specials like reducing ink density in some PDFs created by InDesign (you won't possibly think so, but you can actually output PDFs having 400% ink in certain spots with InDesign ALTHOUGH you're applying a color profile with a 340% max setting while doing so... strange things happen!).

That said, I have been hoping there might be some 3rd party standalone app which might do those tricks and be reasonably priced as well – but looking through the posts here that may be a hope that won't be fulfilled any time soon (if ever, that is).

500 bucks for Callas PDFToolbox is certainly way too heavy – but it seems like it's the only app which does all the tricks you may need at some time when you need to pass on production safe PDFs to printers. Too bad, really...

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2 hours ago, Lorox said:

500 bucks for Callas PDFToolbox is certainly way too heavy – but it seems like it's the only app which does all the tricks you may need at some time when you need to pass on production safe PDFs to printers. Too bad, really...

Sure, especially when used seldom and more privately instead of business oriented. - For simpler PDF checks things like PDF Checkpoint and the like are maybe a much cheaper alternate, though however I never tried that one out so far and thus can't say anything about it's capabilities.


☛ Affinity Designer 1.9.3 ◆ Affinity Photo 1.9.3 ◆ OSX El Capitan

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39 minutes ago, v_kyr said:

For simpler PDF checks things like PDF Checkpoint and the like are maybe a much cheaper alternate, though however I never tried that one out so far and thus can't say anything about it's capabilities.

With a Acrobat Pro background PDF Checkpoint is not a serious replacement. It's missing so many basic features e.g, PDF/X Output Intents, PDF conversion settings.

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I purchased recently PDF-XChange Editor Plus and PDF Tools by Tracker Software to be able to create a fully PDF/A compliant document (which InDesign failed to create: the versions produced were not accepted, but I have no clue why, probably because of some trivial flag not been set as required) -- and have found this package to be surprisingly robust and efficient tool for many tasks where Affinity apps fail to deliver (e.g. creating PDF bookmarks).

It does not by any means replace Acrobat Pro, and it cannot be used as a Preflight tool, but it has an impressive set of well-crafted Acrobat Pro kinds of features, including capability to convert color modes, create PDF/A and PDF/X compliant PDFs, check font usage, etc. And it edits text far more efficiently than Adobe Acrobat Pro does. The price is low, and a free trial is available, so it might be worth a check 

PDFlib seems to have a free PDF/A compliance checker, but nothing similar related to PDF/X. There are online verifiers but I'd not use these for anything else than just checking that your PDF outputs are basically ok.

I may be overly optimistic to trust that Affinity apps will sooner or later have "Soft Proof" kinds of "adjustments" or "personas" that do pretty much the same as InDesign does via Window > Output, and the rest will be handled by PDF/X standard outputs. We should not be required to use or purchase expensive prepress tools to check that our PDF exports are ok.

It has of course been nice to be able to use Acrobat Pro and its preflight tools to ensure that everything is "really" ok, and I still do this as a kind of compulsory act when delivering anything to the printer, but much more simpler verifier and troubleshooter should suffice to notify problems in the output. I would gladly pay something for this kind of a tool, but  not more than e.g. for a font manager. Nothing to be rent.

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Thanks for sharing. Indeed PDF-XChange Editor Plus ships with some interesting features. It's Windows only, though. As already pointed out PDF-XChange Editor Plus is an PDF-Editor and PDF Viewer for simple office tasks. It's not intended for prepress.

57 minutes ago, Lagarto said:

We should not be required to use or purchase prepress tools to check that our PDF exports are ok.

Kind of strange argument. Pre-flighting is a essential step in prepress. It reduces costs and minimises undesired results. For now, I will stick with Acrobat Pro.

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14 hours ago, howdytom said:

Kind of strange argument. Pre-flighting is a essential step in prepress. It reduces costs and minimises undesired results. For now, I will stick with Acrobat Pro.

I'm just putting things in perspective. I am using successfully a Preflight tool created around 2012 2010 for checking standards created somewhere in the first decade of 2000, that are still used for most of the things that get printed today, and as a kind of safety belt (not necessarily needed when you know what you do, but just to check that you have not been sloppy). I'm not sure what its exact cost was at the time it was purchased, but not much. I'm willing to pay much more for an up-to-date tool that is constantly developed. But are these kinds of tools constantly developed, and should I pay for them, or prepress services, and commercial printers?

EDIT: Acrobat X Pro upgrade license cost USD199 in 2010, so not cheap but totally worth it. Back then Adobe allowed upgrading three versions backward so you could basically upgrade from Acrobat Pro 7 (released in 2004) to Pro X for USD199. That's less than USD3 (about USD4 current value) per month, and I guess very few would complain this to be too much for this kind of an app. Now there is strong competition for non-prepress features so paying over 500 for version 2017 (as its upgrade eiigibility is really poor, just one version backward) is a bit heavy as you'd basically pay this to get specifically the preflight features. On Windows platform Acrobat X Pro probably runs still for years, if not forever, so no need for new purchases there, but on macOS I'd probably go for Acrobat Pro 2017 anyway, as you'd get so much more than just the prepress features. It becomes cheaper than Acrobat DC in three years, and would probably run at least for a decade (though on macOS, you can only hope). If it did, its monthly cost would be about USD5. Not bad.

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21 hours ago, Lagarto said:

It has of course been nice to be able to use Acrobat Pro and its preflight tools to ensure that everything is "really" ok, and I still do this as a kind of compulsory act when delivering anything to the printer, but much more simpler verifier and troubleshooter should suffice to notify problems in the output. I would gladly pay something for this kind of a tool, but  not more than e.g. for a font manager. Nothing to be rent.

Exactly, I'm completely with you here. Applies to me 99%. 1% is for – very rarely – being able to fix certain problems (like reducing unwanted color density caused by quirks in the PDF’s creator sortware) which cannot be addressed by making changes to the document within the app it's been used to create.

And yeah: good font managers are another thing... (having nothing to do with the Affinty apps, though). The 100 bucks for Font Explorer X make me swallow, in fact, but given my usage of quite an extensive font library and my wish to have some solid structure here, it possibly seems justifiable (all others except Suitcase Fusion, an really old version which I've been able to use up to El Capitan on my Mac, are lacking on or the other feature I'd like to have). But it's almost double the price for an Affinity app nevertheless...

I'm quite certain, however, I'd actually pay as much for an up to date PDF tool (meeting the requirements mentioned before), as long as I cannot be sure my PDFs from AD or AP are really 100% standards compliant, even if I do everything right (within the limits of those applications).

20 hours ago, howdytom said:

(actually Lagarto is said to have said this...)

We should not be required to use or purchase prepress tools to check that our PDF exports are ok.

That, however, seems like a valid point to me. Given that with Designer and especially Publisher you are meant to be able to create print ready files, it should be of absolute priority to Serif Software to ensure that PDFs output from these applications fully meet the standards of the print and prepress industry 100% (provided you set everything to the correct values/options during output, that is). I haven't actually dared to deliver PDFs from AD or AP to print myself so far, but I've noticed (following prepress community discussions) that there obviously have been some problems and concerns with/about full compliance to current PDF standards. I'm not sure if these have been sorted out yet.

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14 hours ago, Lorox said:

Exactly, I'm completely with you here. Applies to me 99%. 1% is for – very rarely – being able to fix certain problems (like reducing unwanted color density caused by quirks in the PDF’s creator sortware) which cannot be addressed by making changes to the document within the app it's been used to create.

The Output Preview window is obviously useful and the Preflight tools give a concise report and easily reveal e.g. TAC and other ink-related problems especially in 3rd party stuff (e.g., use of spot colors in ads, and you can use its single fixes instead of needing to ask a new version or do manual editing). But most of the things can be checked by using InDesign internal preflight and Output preview, and i hope that similar devices will be offered in Affinity apps in the future (it helps a lot that they can open PDFs they have produced, so certain basic things like color conversion problems and unexpected rasterizations can be checked this way, too). 

Many things have changed along the time print files have been delivered using a pdf (export) based workflow, and use of color profiles and standard export methods allowing mixed content have made things easier (even if sometimes more confusing). On the other hand, i am not sure if I could do without Acrobat Pro (as it has many other uses, too) so for my part the answer to the topic would be Adobe Acrobat Pro 2017 (and wishing good luck that it will run long enough to become a bargain; the package itself provides probably enough preflight power to be useable for a lifetime of a regular graphic designer; PostScript based technology is soon 40 years old, it evolves and is not going to fade away from the industry -- PDF and standardized export methods are made to last). 

14 hours ago, Lorox said:

have been some problems and concerns with/about full compliance to current PDF standards. I'm not sure if these have been sorted out yet.

So it has been reported but I do not know what things exactly have failed. Current lack of support for PDF passthrough is the biggest issue with Affinity apps, and might explain some of the problems with compliance checks. However jobs that are created directly with Affinity apps and imports that are fully controlled by them (opened, checked and edited as needed) seem to export just fine as print PDFs, especially when using standard modes. I have tested opening complete, complex print pdfs (e.g. magazines) created in InDesign (using PDF 1.4 based regular CMYK export), and exported them from Publisher by using PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-4 standards and checked their PDF/X compliance with Adobe Acrobat Preflight tool verifiers, and none have failed so far, and detailed Prepress tools give exactly same trivial warnings as they give for original pdfs, so I am fairly confident that Affinity apps do deliver once the documents are properly created.

I suppose  that most of the PDF export and print production problems experienced by Publisher users are related to improperly created documents (wrong color spaces and color assignments, inadvertently performed color conversions through Document Setup, unexpected rasterization due to failure to mask an effect), placed pdfs and vector graphics (with an expectation that they could be passed through but when not, appear more or less broken, fonts replaced, missing or misplaced elements, etc), use of  wrong export settings, etc. It would be good if there were some in-app guidance or at least stickies on the support forum to recommend robust workflows and list common mistakes. There are also confused settings and many UI issues that cause e.g. inadvertent color changes and rasterizations so the apps have a lot to improve.

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For many days I now have searched for an equivalent alternative to Acrobat Pro. I'm under way with Affinity software, exactly because I'm willing to shake off the yoke of that patronizing company.
But if one thinks about the PDF-technology and "emanzipation from it", you have to come to the conclusion: There can't exist a real alternative to PDF, and therefore no alternative software solution!  – Except, Adobe has licenced the original PDF-libraries to that companies, and those solutions are as expensive as original Acrobat Pro. Punkt. The same can be stated with print solutions "with original Adobe Postscript": $1000,- and more on top. Adobe has succeeded in getting a monopol on that technology, and actually more or less we are all tied to it. No escape?

With that PDF-libraries today neccessary in every software output for printing/prepress and those libraries built-in at hardware in every raster image prozessor in prepress workflows (!), you can't actually and definitely do anything, but to tie yourself to that technology. I myself am from times *before* Adobe and PDF. Can you image to print a prepress document without using PDF (HPGL and the like besides)? And the intestines of PDF are still secret to Adobe and licences are locked libraries but not "open source".

Although I actually do anything to use the Affinity solutions, to support that brave company and support that project, I'm really unsure about, what future may bring to us: Adobe is sole, dictatorial owner of the very, very last step of *any* design idea: printing and distribution via PDF.  And as long as Affinity may be forced to licence the PDF technology at Adobe , too, in order to get "real clean output and printing results", Adobe has the force to badger Affinity ...

"One Ring to rule them all."

 

Johannes

 

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1 hour ago, jweitzel said:

For many days I now have searched for an equivalent alternative to Acrobat Pro. ...There can't exist a real alternative to PDF, and therefore no alternative software solution!  – Except, Adobe has licenced the original PDF-libraries to that companies, and those solutions are as expensive as original Acrobat Pro. ... Adobe has succeeded in getting a monopol on that technology, and actually more or less we are all tied to it. No escape?

... Adobe is sole, dictatorial owner of the very, very last step of *any* design idea: printing and distribution via PDF.  And as long as Affinity may be forced to licence the PDF technology at Adobe , too, in order to get "real clean output and printing results", Adobe has the force to badger Affinity ...

Johannes,

The above is incorrect. Adobe turned over PDF to the International Standards Organization in 2008. Adobe is no longer in control of PDF since then.

callas and Adobe share certain technologies, but the main guts of what makes Acrobat used so much in prepress is developed by callas and licensed to Adobe for use in Acrobat by callas and is in their tool, pdfToolbox.

Serif doesn't license their pdf routines directly or indirectly from Adobe, but rather PDFLib GmbH and has done so when Serif made just Windows products.

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Hello Mike,
many thanks for your information! I will be a very happy person, if you are right – and my experiences of the last over 30 years have actually grown wrong. I remember little Adobe at the times of Quark 3.1, I remember humble "Quark killer application" Indesign 2, I remember the outrageous end of unmatched Aldus Freehand, I remember "postscript *clones*" like the Hercules RIP and others, which always ailed to be not an original Adobe ...

For me there remains the question of the theme starter: Why there are no professional PDF editors/prepress PDF utilities or alternatives - except those as expensive as Acrobat Pro ...? (but also: good work justifies a decent prize!).

And I'm happy, as long Serif has the things and qualitity of their great solutions in its own hands - from starting a layout 'till the printing plate. yeah!

 

Johannes

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As for costs and competition, I think that is due to a limited market. And the fact that unless a company reinvents the proverbial wheel, they, like Adobe, would need to license the technology from callas which would make it also expensive. 

Adobe's RIP is another issue. It is expensive because it is one of the most stable and produces consistent results. 

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Any updates on this topic? Currently searching for an Acrobat Pro replacement for preflight etc. Or am I missing something already baked into Affinity?

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As for me, there are much to my regret no new information concerning a real alternative to Acrobat Pro. I would be happy scratching off any Adobe product from the hard disc of my Mac, private and in business. May be it is Callas or may be it is Adobe which rules the whole line from graphical software output up to the printing plate. And any raster image processor is based on postscript resp. pdf technology. In my opinion there is no way out. And this is called "ingenious".

Best wishes
Johannes

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Like others, I long used Acrobat Pro (good old 32 bit CS6) for checking spot colour separations before sending off that print-ready PDF. I'd check on-screen that each of the spots was on a separate plate and knocking out or overprinting as expected. The three apps listed here are just absurdly expensive when that's all you need to do:

So I went searching. This is what I found:

  1. A command-line tool called Ghostscript. Someone on Stack Overflow asked about extracting CMYK and spot separations from PDF with Ghostscript. The answer included a one-liner for generating all separations. (Installing on a Mac involves building from source, and I haven't gone to the trouble at this stage. If someone else does try it, perhaps they can report back here.)
  2. An app on the Mac App Store called ExtractPDFSpotColor. This one I did try, and I'm now waiting for Apple to refund me the $30 or so. It simply doesn't do what it says on the tin. It failed to find spots in one file, and when it did find spots in another, it crashed as soon as I tried to export them.
  3. An online demo of a JavaScript-based SDK called PDFTRON Webviewer. This isn't really a standalone product; it's something developers can license for their own apps. But by golly, the demo is pretty darn useful! It finds all the spots and lists them (alongside the CMYK inks) with checkboxes that you can turn off and on, just like Acrobat Pro. And it runs in a web browser. So I'm not sure what makes this feature so elusive for all the devs of those cheap PDF utilities out there.

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