Preflight Programs: How to increase the level of capabilities

Answered by Stephen Beals, Digital Pre-Press manager and industry writer

Can you suggest a pre-flight program for me to check before releasing to the print on my pc? I would like to check “all” native files, not hi-res pdf.


There are some good preflight programs out there, but the real answer to your question really depends on the types of native files you are using. If you are using Quark or InDesign, they both offer built-in pre-flight capabilities which cover a lot of potential problems. But they don't check everything.

To increase the level of capabilities, the best program out there I know of is Markzware's FlightCheck Pro. The wonderful thing about this product is the ability to customize exactly what it is you are checking for with a feature called "flight controls." For example, you can say you want to reject any images less than 100dpi or less than 300dpi. Or you can reject RGB images. The program looks at all of the files used in your project: the eps files, the images, the fonts and so on. You can also create a different set of rules for different projects or different print suppliers.

One caveat: the ability to build any set of FlightControl means two things: first you really have to know what you are doing when you set up your controls, and second, as nice as the user interface is, even a relative expert can wonder what options should be checked. On the other hand, once you have a set of controls set up, you can simply keep applying it to any number of jobs, and the product ships with a set of basic ground controls. And a print supplier who has the Pro version can furnish designers with sets of flight controls that work with the Designer version. Major industry standard specifications such as PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 compliancy as well as the Ghent PDF Workgroup (GWG) PDF/X PLUS are built directly into FlightCheck.

FlightCheck will work with QuarkXPress, Adobe InDesign, Acrobat PDF, Adobe PageMaker, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe FreeHand, Microsoft Office, CorelDRAW, EPS, TIFF and many more.

The program sells for $499, and there is a less capable Designer version for $199. But the Designer version could be all you need. Markzware offers discounts for multiple seats of all of their products. And they offer both Windows and Mac versions.

What about folks who are using Microsoft Publisher (a program that makes most printers cringe)? Markzware actually has a program that converts Publisher files to InDesign. It's Called Pub2ID and sells for $199. Be forewarned that none of the conversion programs (Markzware also makes a Quark to ID and ID to Quark converter) can possibly be perfect. There are too many differences in the way the different programs work to make the creation of a perfect conversion tool to be possible. But the folks at Markzware have done a pretty good job of getting you a reasonably useful version of the file after conversion.

Stephen Beals is a digital pre-press manager and has been writing for major print publications for many years. He is the author of A Practical Primer for Painless Print Production. He can be reached at
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