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Can anyone recommend an acrobat pro alternative?

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11 hours ago, Boris.Volosin said:

The best one is by my opinion PDF Xchange Editor. Full Acrobat functionality, or even with more functions.

It is a fine piece of sofware, but for the moment it is basically just an Adobe Acrobat Reader replacement, so it can be part of a solution for looking a replacement for Adobe Acrobat Pro. As for print production, it can list spot colors as document colors, but it cannot show color separations as per ink, knockouts / overprints, and its object properties view is RGB based so all color values it displays are in RGB and can be examined for vector objects only, and while its virtual printer is fine, and can e.g. convert embedded fonts to curves, its output is in RGB. It can nevertheless convert colors from selected color spaces to desired target color spaces using profiles, make reports of compliance problems, and convert existing PDFs to PDF/X standards (1, 3 and 4). It has also one serious limitation considering many users of this forum: it is Windows only.

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11 minutes ago, Lagarto said:

but it cannot show color separations as per ink, knockouts / overprints

Which is exactly the basic functionality I'd generally need in my everyday workflow to check PDFs that are to be sent to a printing service...

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On 2/11/2021 at 4:55 AM, Lagarto said:

I might myself get in to that at some point -- I've been doing web-based PDF-creation scripts but not based on open source but with libraries like Debenu Quick PDF, which supports CMYK and blend modes and importing TIFF out of the box. I think this should primarily be disc-based (Windows / macOS).

Have you seen that the Ghost Script pdf parser is actually written in PostScript? I thought that was quite neat, almost turing-complete :)Sadly I don't have any working knowledge of PostScript :(

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Of course it is qestion of purpose of software you are looking for. The functionality we as architects need is mostly commenting drawings, combining booklets, rotating, printing, replying comments, distribution of documents. We were not looking for advanced color speration functions or advanced printing etc. Adobe Reader itself is useless except viweing th files, it cannot do almost anything, and to buy to 60 seat office of engineers an architect 60 licences of full Adobe Acrobat only for this purpose is just too expensive and unnecessary. So for us PDF Xchange was a great solution. Proffesionall printshop etc is a different story. As for the commenting of PDF drawings PDF Xchange is for us even more pracital than Adobe Acrobat with much more options, presets of annotations etc, integration into Windows Shell. So we have successfuly cut a lot of cost by this solution, which might be not for printing service. Then Adobe Acrobat is worth the money. Generally we are looking to get rid of all Adobe fully, but purely due its pricing policy, not because it is bad software. 

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2 hours ago, BofG said:

Have you seen that the Ghost Script pdf parser is actually written in PostScript?

I was thinking about hacking up a routine that would execute the color separating GS command for user selected PDF using a shell command, then take the resulting grayscale TIFFs, superimpose and apply multiply blend mode on them, color them with process inks, color a named spot color with a composite and then create a layered PDF. I think this can be done with native OS calls on both platforms, but might require additionally some help from  G'MIC and PDFlib (I checked Quick PDF and it seems its blending and coloring capabilities are limited to drawing and cannot be applied to e.g. imported raster images, but I could not have used that library on both platforms anyway). It would be fairly simple task in itself as it would basically rely on user having GS and some layer-capable PDF reader installed on the system, so it would either be a command line utility or a drag-and-drop tray and a reader launcher at most. So no need to know anything about PostScript! But it would of course be very elementary -- I think GS can handle only one page pdfs and would probably be lost with PDF/X based exports (even PDF/X1). But it would be a start, and it would not be too hard to later create a viewer app that allows turning on and off ink layers and showing the grayscale-based CMYK percentage values for whatever the user has a picker tool on. It is weird that anything like this has not been done already years ago...

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1 hour ago, Boris.Volosin said:

Adobe Reader itself is useless except viweing th files

Yes, I used the wrong term as I have not been using Adobe DC based apps, and do not know what the actual difference between the standard and pro DC versions is but just meant that PDF-XChange basically does most of the stuff Adobe DC does, but not the jobs specifcally related to print production and prepress.

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Incredible, Adobe have losing a lot of professionals with their strategy, i do not agree with actual Adobe market position / strategy too, i know that Adobe softwares have a great quality and years of experience and confiability, but now is other time, and affinity show this for us.

I hope that things are changing in actual scenary, and Hope so we see a new softwares to help us to have new experiences, walking to equal or best of Adobe solutions. I choice for my freelancer work to use only affinity solutions, i learning too and like it very much! Affinity helps me with performance on my old laptop, the softwares run optimized and this is very important.

 

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42 minutes ago, Lagarto said:

I was thinking about hacking up a routine that would execute the color separating GS command for user selected PDF using a shell command, then take the resulting grayscale TIFFs, superimpose and apply multiply blend mode on them, color them with process inks, color a named spot color with a composite and then create a layered PDF. I think this can be done with native OS calls on both platforms, but might require additionally some help from  G'MIC and PDFlib (I checked Quick PDF and it seems its blending and coloring capabilities are limited to drawing and cannot be applied to e.g. imported raster images, but I could not have used that library on both platforms anyway). It would be fairly simple task in itself as it would basically rely on user having GS and some layer-capable PDF reader installed on the system, so it would either be a command line utility or a drag-and-drop tray and a reader launcher at most. So no need to know anything about PostScript! But it would of course be very elementary -- I think GS can handle only one page pdfs and would probably be lost with PDF/X based exports (even PDF/X1). But it would be a start, and it would not be too hard to later create a viewer app that allows turning on and off ink layers and showing the grayscale-based CMYK percentage values for whatever the user has a picker tool on. It is weird that ahything like this has not been done already years ago...

I see, sounds like a good plan. I guess the overall complexity puts people off trying, I've read some of the docs for PDF and it's a complex beast, add in the ICC possibilities and it rapidly gets daunting. I shall be interested to see it when you get something up and running.

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32 minutes ago, BofG said:

I've read some of the docs for PDF and it's a complex beast

I guess it can be, but e.g. Quick PDF is very high level and there is plenty of sample code available so it is surprisingly simple to compose PDF content, even seemingly complex (layered), do things like merging PDF documents, adding images like logos, outputting accurately formatted text etc. etc. The drawing functions are pretty much equivalent to native calls, but just more high-level,. But it depends of course on the task at hand: I mostly design and create templates and then write the code -- typically scripts to be run on web server -- that fill in data fetched from databases (i.e. kind of programmatic mail merging). This specific task would be in respect of PDF creation easy as it would basically just mean putting four+ same size (preprocessed) TIFFs on top of each other on global layers. 

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44 minutes ago, Lagarto said:

I guess it can be, but e.g. Quick PDF is very high level and there is plenty of sample code available so it is surprisingly simple to compose PDF content, even seemingly complex (layered), do things like merging PDF documents, adding images like logos, outputting accurately formatted text etc. etc. The drawing functions are pretty much equivalent to native calls, but just more high-level,. But it depends of course on the task at hand: I mostly design and create templates and then write the code -- typically scripts to be run on web server -- that fill in data fetched from databases (i.e. kind of programmatic mail merging). This specific task would be in respect of PDF creation easy as it would basically just mean putting four+ same size (preprocessed) TIFFs on top of each other on global layers. 

I was looking for a way to get the bounding boxes of every element on a given layer, couldn't find any libraries that made such a task simple. Most are geared towards creation or editing. I then started reading the PDF specification document, and quickly realised two things 1) it was beyond my ability and 2) why all these tools / libraries are so expensive :)

For compositing the tiffs, maybe ImageMagick could be useful? If you are running on a server, you could then produce the composite images (C|C+M|C+Y etc) and have some simple javascript to toggle them in the browser rather than needing a pdf viewer. I'm expanding the scope of your project, I should be in management :)

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So, I have installed Ghostscript from pages.uoregon.edu/koch – v9.26 for MacOS El Capitan.
I'm a total amateur when it comes to Terminal but after studying the ghostscript.com/doc/current/Use.htm a bit as well as "gs -h", I've figured out that all I need to run is this:

gs -sDEVICE=tiffsep -o /path/to/output/folder/output.tif -r300 /path/to/input/file/affinity_pdfx3_export.pdf

The output file name apparently must have the ".tif" suffix within the command, otherwise error.
-r is the resolution switch in ppi.
"output.tif" itself will be a CMYK TIFF @ 300 ppi, no spot colors.
But additionally there will be all separations as individual grayscale TIFFs as well, named:

  • output(Black).tif
  • output(Cyan).tif
  • output(Magenta).tif
  • output(Yellow).tif

and any spot plates like:

  • output(PANTONE 199 C).tif

Then I have placed the separations in ADe.
Being grayscale, they all have the "K Only" option on by default, meaning they can be colorized as a fill: C, M, Y, K + spot colors.
Then blend them as Darken.

Using another "proof of concept" ADe document's PDF/X-3 as an example (intentionally exported and processed @ 580 ppi so don't get confused by that), voilà:

ade_ghostscript_separations.png.51fbdc14dd66a9456ae37658189ed342.png

Cross-checked with the PDF/X-3 in Acrobat X that still runs on El Capitan: looks correct!

On Mac, this can be partially automated via Folder Actions, AppleScript, Automator Service/Workflow/Droplet etc.
(I will go for an Automator Service plugin as I have already programmed about a dozen or so of them that I use almost daily; the shell script command will need to be slightly altered to accomodate Automator variables)

And now…

Waiting for Serif to finally implement Affinity scripting in THREE, TWO, ONE …

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Thanks for confirming -- this was described already in the thread in a couple of other posts If you can create Apple scripts for them, it would be great. I am in the process of creating a Windows app that does superimposing on the TIFFs and tries to simulate some of the functionality of the Output Preview of Acrobat Pro. It is of course very limited, as it is raster only but at least it allows to check pixel values and correct separation, including knockouts and overprints.

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22 hours ago, Lagarto said:

I think GS can handle only one page pdfs

That will be the next thing to check out.

22 hours ago, Lagarto said:

would probably be lost with PDF/X based exports

Apparently not.

5 hours ago, Lagarto said:

this was described already in the thread in a couple of other posts

Um… tl;dr ;) – at least not all of it.

5 hours ago, Lagarto said:

If you can create Apple scripts for them

I was just thinking about it while waking up (the best time of day to prepare concepts :)) and it all should be scriptable up to ADe/APu creating a new document via System Events to place the TIFFs. It’s just that Automator blocks are more modular and easier to handle for a hobby scripter like me, so I will use AppleScript only where necessary. But I think everything can be run as a single AS if needed.

However, given the nonstandard Affinity UI and my earlier experiments, possibly I'd need to integrate everything into a Keyboard Maestro macro to interact with Affinity beyond just new document creation. KM seems to be sometimes able to access objects that System Events can’t. (Or that I can’t, haha)

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On 2/12/2021 at 12:23 PM, Lagarto said:

I think GS can handle only one page pdfs

On 2/13/2021 at 11:25 AM, loukash said:

That will be the next thing to check out.

Ah, that was easy:

gs -sDEVICE=tiffsep -o /path/to/output/folder/output%d.tif -r300 /path/to/input/file/affinity_pdfx3_export.pdf

%d in output filename = page number
And if you need a real "%" in filename, escape as "%%".
And on Win console apparently you must always escape every % as %% or something. But read the ghostdocs for yourselves.

Also recommendable, among others, a switch for subpixel antialiasing of text. Available values n = 1, 2 or 4:

-dTextAlphaBits=n

More as it develops some time next week…

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Here's now something I created during the weekend -- i titled it PDF Output Preview, and it is a Windows Forms app.as I wanted to have it up and running in a short time just to see if this is a worthy project. I think it is since Ghostscript appears to create decent separations, and as noted in this thread, there is currently no proper output preview in apps other than Acrobat Pro and pdfToolbox.:

pdfop_01.jpg.c006c1b046327b7307b8678a1e69c857.jpg

So far it can create the GS grayscale TIFF separations on drag and drop (or via FIle menu) and then open them immediately and automatically for viewing a bit similarly as in Adobe Acrobat Pro so that any combination of plates can be viewed, showing knockouts and overprints (not simulating overprint in colors, though), and allowing examining the color values and total area coverage of any location (1 x 1 px at the moment) the mouse pointer is over on the image(s).

pdfop_02.jpg.a24a2051e5ecddadfdd4b1a2b3345519.jpg

The current version only creates separations for the first page. I plan to include separating all pages, and support this in the user-interface (where page controls are already implemented for picking the desired page in view). The pages are rendered at 72dpi which I think is adequate just for checking correct distribution of inks.

I also plan to include TAC coverage violations and average area sampling similarly as in Adobe Acrobat. In addition, I plan to include support for reading already created separations based on the composite name. Note that existing separations with the same file name will be deleted already by Ghostscript.

pdfop_03.jpg.b5844c30a443627928249b4fddc62af7.jpg

The current version supports max 4 spot colors. It reads the Affinity PMS color names and gets the RGB colors from those files. The colors are not accurate as the app is not color managed at the moment. The CMYK colors are shown in the sRGB gamut similarly as they typically are in Adobe Acrobat and Affinity apps.

Single plates are shown in grayscale similarly as in  Adobe Acrobat.

pdfop_04.jpg.8ae2f5f125996c691bc2a1f7265ecfac.jpg

I am not sure if  I end up adding support for zooming. There is no much purpose because these are just low-resolution bitmaps. (On the other hand, large-format PDFs need to be handled somehow; currently the canvas is autosized.)

The app uses only Windows .NET library calls so extrernal graphics libraries were not needed for coloring and blending, or reading in the TIFF format. I plan to add support for PDF handling so that it would be possible to create separations only for single pages or a page range of a larger publication. There might also be point in checking whether separated files can be handled quicker with some open source graphics library.

I might create a macOS version of this, as well, and hope to be able to develop it directly based on the same code as I think there is limited support for running Windows .NET apps on macs. But perhaps this could be handled with scripts on macOS.  

If you're interested, below is some kind of a deployment package. It might fail to install, and at least it probably welcomes you with a couple of warnings. Ghostscript needs to be installed and the executable be accessible via environment variable. There is a setup routine so that the app can also be properly uninstalled. I have tested this VERY little so if you go for it, you are guaranteed to find bugs. I''ll create subsequently probably desktop distributions as it may be that the app breaks already because of not being able to read the PANTONE color definitions from an external file.

UPDATE:

Here is a standalone desktop version with a test file and Pantone colors (standalone in the meaning that there is .NET Framework 4.7.2. dependency), which should run from any location and does not require setup. Note that the separated files are placed under the user's MyDocuments path in the PDFOutputPreview\Output folder (once I implement preferences, there wll also be option to place output in a subfolder relative to the executable).

Latest version:

PDFOutputPreview_Standalone_1008.zip

 

 

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10 hours ago, Lagarto said:

perhaps this could be handled with scripts on macOS

In the meantime I have a rough "beta" of an Automator Services plugin. It will create a folder next to a selected PDF, process the PDF through Ghostscript and place those TIFFs into the folder. At the moment it only works on one selected PDF file. I remained stuck on figuring out how to loop everything to process multiple selections without writing everything as an AppleScript loop. But eventually I'll likely end up doing exactly that…

I've been also looking for a scriptable way to place the TIFF separations into an Affinity document, but the only method to keep them fully linked in Affinity is either via Place command or via mouse drag & drop from Finder. The former could be manageable via System Events, the latter not. There is a scriptable possibility via copy & paste one TIFF by one as file proxies to create pixel layers, but the pasted images lose their attributes like file names becoming layer names. Also, there is currently no built-in scriptable MacOS method to stack the separations as layers within a single TIFF or PSD, unless either installing ImageMagick or resort to other scriptable 3rd party apps like GraphicConverter or Photoshop.

Everything else goes vastly beyond my hobbyist programming skills…

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8 minutes ago, loukash said:

I've been also looking for a scriptable way to place the TIFF separations into an Affinity document, but the only method to keep them fully linked in Affinity is either via Place command or via mouse drag & drop from Finder

I have no idea how Apple scripts (or whatever technology is currently available for system level scripting) can interact with an app that itself does not have any kind of a scripting interface or exposed document object model... I do not think that this is possible on Windows On the other hand, Microsoft and Adobe apps and apps like CorelDRAW have a huge capacity built in allowing easy access with Javascript and especially VB.NET etc with native controls, to do practically anything, so this would be a trivial task in these apps as they can do the "hard part" (coloring, blending and layering) natively, and implementing a TAC color picker (using underlying grayscales rather than the colored and blended layers that are in RGB) would also be an easy task. 

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12 minutes ago, Lagarto said:

I have no idea how Apple scripts (or whatever technology is currently available for system level scripting) can interact with an app that itself does not have any kind of a scripting interface or exposed document object model

AppleScript can open a document in any application and manipulate the UI via its System Events library, regardless of direct scriptability: I can tell AppleScript to run menu commands, execute existing keyboard shortcuts, click buttons or other UI elements with or without keyboard modifier, or click the mouse at a position relative to the window bounds or absolute. Some UI elements are not directly accessible because Serif apparently use nonstandard objects. For example the "»" button on an overflowing context toolbar is invisble to AppleScript. It could be only clicked by relative position to window bounds, see e.g.: https://forum.affinity.serif.com/index.php?/topic/123454-shortcut-for-lock-children/&do=findComment&comment=731465

 

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16 hours ago, Lagarto said:

Here is a standalone desktop version with a test file and Pantone colors

Surpised that it only has one download.. (I will be adding to the tally when I have time to look at it), maybe this is why there aren't a lot of options out there!

Looks like a good tool you have put together, I can see it being useful. Is there any way with ghostscript to see what the profile/type of colour setup the pdf is? Like in Reader where it shows the pdf is /x and output intent profile?

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Here is version 1.0.0.5. This supports now extraction of a single page of a multipage PDF at drag & drop. This version can also so far process only one page at a time but extraction at least allows to input large PDF files without separating all pages. The extracted pages are placed under the user's document path in PDFOutputPreview\Input folder and files with the same name will be overwritten. Extraction is done by Ghostscript and superficially checked it seems to retain the color specs of the original file.

 Latest version:

PDFOutputPreview_Standalone_1008.zip

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11 hours ago, BofG said:

Surpised that it only has one download..

It had more but I changed the initial app version to standalone desktop so the counter was reset. But I do not wonder, this is in very early state, has no instructions as for installing Ghostscript, and very little test time and lousy error routines. But it might evolve into something quite useful... 

11 hours ago, BofG said:

Is there any way with ghostscript to see what the profile/type of colour setup the pdf is?

I know very little about GS --- I did not know that it is also a PDF tool! So far I have not tested anything other than devicecmyk PDF outputs. I am sure it cannot handle PDF/X3 and PDF/X4 with RGB content, but who knows.

EDIT: The separations from RGB color space and requiring color profiles are surprisingly good but not accurate so the emdedded profile or color intent are not applied at teast not identically with color values that are shown in Acrobat. But it is not bad so what's important the preveiw tool could still be used well for checking (approximate) color distribution, knockouts and overprints, and its color values and TAC readings are useful.

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3 hours ago, BofG said:

I can see it being useful

The need is more urgent on macOS (Catalina +) where 32-bit Acrobat Pro no longer runs natively. The tool will most probably remain quite limited but at least it puts in good use the GS capability to make separations. (Just realized that there is no point in reading PANTONE color values from Affinity files as I get much better values from the GS created composite.) There are PDF/X compliance checking tools for both platforms, and powerful general Acrobat replacers so trying to make it any bigger does not seem a good idea. But making it a full fledged graphical Ghostscript front-end might be a good idea. As said, I very much wonder that there does not seem to be that kind  of a tool...or perhaps there has been but general strong PDf tool development has made them obsolete.

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1 hour ago, Lagarto said:

but who knows

I just realized a much bigger issue: Affinity will rasterize any vector objects with transparencies on PDF/X-3 output.
Unlike e.g. AICS5 with exactly the same vector content.
Add a spot color to the mix and Affinity becomes useless.

That's a serious downer. :(

transpdfexp19.afdesign
transpdfexp19.afdesign.pdf
transpdfexp19.ai
transpdfexp19.ai.pdf

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8 hours ago, loukash said:

I just realized a much bigger issue: Affinity will rasterize any vector objects with transparencies on PDF/X-3 output.

Yes, in addition to rasterizing without a necessity, they also often leave ugly boundaries where a shape has jaggy rasterized edge at parts where transparency was flattened (by rasterizing), and sharp edges at parts without overlapping parts (where flattening was not needed).

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