The Right Way to Better Appearance
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
by Paul Diel
Every day, employees print documents, and in the process they utilize conversions without even noticing it. It’s not uncommon for a document to arrive at the printer with incorrect characters in the text or to otherwise print differently than expected. Users often wonder how and why that happens.
What is a “conversion“ anyway, and why do documents have to be transformed from one format to another? Here’s an example everyone can relate to: an MS-Word document needs to be converted into PDF format so that the recipient cannot make changes to the contents. In this case, it’s obvious why conversions are necessary. Things are less straightforward in the business world, of course. For example, conversions are often needed to transfer large documents to a print outsourcer. As part of the process, the original document may need to be converted to AFP format for printing on high-speed print devices.
So far, so good. But how can this lead to printing errors? Some common problems are missing or incorrect fonts, or use of fonts that are not supported by the target print device(s). This can lead to a modified typeface, for example overly large spaces between words or characters. Sometimes certain characters do not print correctly at all. In their place, you may find strange symbols or markings, such as an unexpected“smiley“ that seems to appear out of nowhere.
By “font“ we mean the electronic counterpart to what used to be a physical typeface consisting of individual letters created from cast metal slugs. A font is therefore an electronic typeface, which is saved in digital form. These fonts can be embedded in the actual print data stream so that, for example, a document is still able to be read after a decade or more. Fonts can also be stored externally; in this case, the data steam contains font references that tell the printer which fonts are needed to correctly render the output. Ideally, these are already stored on the printer or can be quickly loaded. Otherwise, we’re back to square one with missing characters and printing problems.
From my vantage point on the Support hotline, I see a lot of problems or disruptions due to missing fonts in conjunction with LRS Transforms. LRS Transforms are optional modules for that seamlessly integrate with our VPSX software for a more powerful and comprehensive output solution. When utilizing these transforms, you can select the“relaxed“ command line option to force a data conversion. But the “relaxed“ option is really meant for problem analysis and not for production use. You can spot instances of missing fonts in the VPSX log, for example, from messages like the following:
PDI2005W Font 'Courier' (weight 'BOLD' style 'UPRIGHT' replaced with 'Default font')
PDI2005W Font 'Courier' (weight 'MEDIUM' style 'UPRIGHT' replaced with 'Default font')
The log messages usually indicate that the errors are caused by fonts, but do not always indicate which fonts are at fault. Using the command line option “–fontentries fonts.xml“ causes the file “Fonts.xml“ to be created, which contains information about the fonts used by the input file. This file, or rather the contents of this file, can be used for mffXXX-profile data for font definitions in the directory. If the input data contains only font references (and no actual fonts), then fonts can be integrated into the data stream or substituted with other fonts. In the mffxxx profile data, the fonts used in the section must be declared in the path specified by the conversion.
Using this method, it’s relatively easy to solve font problems... assuming you have the correct fonts at your disposal. If not? Aside from the technical considerations, you must consider the legal ones. Simply using fonts found on the Internet or random fonts that were shipped with some other system may not be quite legal. It’s something worth double-checking in any event.
The simplest option would be to utilize a “worry-free solution“ that provides a set of appropriate fonts regardless of the target printer, source application, or system. One that addresses legal usage concerns and that significantly automates the output process.
You’re probably thinking that such a thing is nearly impossible. But it does exist. Give us a call; we have the fonts, the software, and the know-how to provide a “worry free solution“ for your printing challenges.