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FAQ: Creating PDF Files from FrameMaker v.6 & earlier Documents -- Why you should not use "save as PDF"! -- Windows & MacOS Only!

Dec 6, 2001 8:02 PM

An issue that has come up over and over again on several FrameMaker and Acrobat/PDF email lists as well on the corresponding Adobe User-to-User forums is that of creation of PDF files. FrameMaker 5.5.6 and 6 have what looks like a convenient feature that is supposed to allow you to create PDF files via simply saving the document as a PDF file. I have gone on record as advising end-users not to use this approach for reliable creation of PDF files from FrameMaker documents under Windows and MacOS with FrameMaker 6 and earlier. Why do I most vociferously offer this advice and why doesn't the problem get fixed? And how SHOULD you create PDF files from FrameMaker?

GOOD NEWS

I will start with the good news. The "next major version" of FrameMaker will indeed have "save as PDF" re-implemented in a manner that it will be as reliable as printing to the "Acrobat Distiller" printer instance under Windows or the "Create Adobe PDF" desktop printer under MacOS. I am personally working with the FrameMaker development organization to make sure this really happens and is fully and properly tested and debugged! Furthermore, this next major revision of FrameMaker, unlike FrameMaker 6, will come with a Distiller installer that will properly install the "Acrobat Distiller" printer instance under Windows and the "Create Adobe PDF" desktop printer on the Macintosh (of course assuring that the latest PostScript driver is also automatically and correctly installed).

DON'T USE "SAVE AS PDF"

But what's wrong with "save as PDF" as currently implemented?

The following are some of the SYMPTOMS reported over the last few years by FrameMaker users that were traced back to use of "save as PDF" under FrameMaker:

(1) No PDF file is produced at all, possibly with a log file showing not-readily apparent PostScript errors during distillation.

(2) The PDF file "loses" color in images. All or some images (raster, bitmap images, NOT vector artwork) appear in the PDF file in grayscale.

(3) The resultant PDF file is on the wrong paper size, i.e., the document's logical page size does not match the output page size as seen in Acrobat or Acrobat Reader.

(4) Some or all text in the resultant PDF file is blotchy looking or overly bold.

(5) Some or all text in the resultant PDF file cannot be searched or indexed.

(6) Some or all text in the resultant PDF file appears in Courier or in some other substitution font.

(7) Interword or intercharacter spacing is a bit irregular in the resultant PDF file.

(8) Content is missing in the margin areas of the page, i.e. you cannot do full-page bleeds.

(9) Some or all page content is missing (other than margin areas).

(10) Relatively inefficient PDF is generated.

If this list by itself isn't enough for you, please note that some of these symptoms are very subtle and may escape attention when the PDF is first viewed or printed. Oftimes, it is when one attempts to manipulate the PDF file in Acrobat or repurpose its content or even view or print on a system other than the one on which the PDF file was created, that some of these symptoms make themselves obnoxiously visible (or invisible in some cases I won't make any bad jokes here about graphic examples!).

It is important to understand that FrameMaker does NOT have its own native ability to create PDF. Any and all PDF created from FrameMaker documents is actually done by creating PostScript via the PostScript driver and having the Acrobat Distiller create PDF from that PostScript. The only exception to this is creation of PDF via the Acrobat PDFWriter driver, which is likewise not recommended (see below).

In order for "save as PDF" to work correctly, FrameMaker must do the equivalent of calling Printer Setup and selecting the "Acrobat Distiller" printer instance under Windows or the "Create Adobe PDF" desktop printer under MacOS followed by setting the driver's options correctly for paper size, page range, etc., followed by sending the proper commands to the driver to create PostScript.

Contrary to popular belief, PostScript as generated by the Windows and MacOS PostScript drivers is VERY device-dependent. The information in the PPD file associated with a printer driver instance provides critical parameters for generation of PostScript including:

Whether the printer supports color (Acrobat Distiller does)

What PostScript language level is supported (Acrobat Distiller 4.x and Acrobat Distiller 5.x are both PostScript language level 3)

Whether native TrueType support is available (Acrobat supports native TrueType as Type 42 fonts)

Available binary communications (Acrobat Distiller supports pure binary and ASCII, but NOT TCP, TBCP, or PJL)

Resident fonts (Acrobat Distiller doesn't really have resident fonts)

Available paper sizes and custom paper size availability (Acrobat Distiller supports a wide range of predefined sizes and continually variable "custom" sizes up to 200" by 200")

Margins / printable areas (for PDF and the Acrobat Distiller, there are no margins in which imaging is not permitted)

Device resolution (Acrobat Distiller can be set to any value from 72 to 4000 dpi; as a convenience, the Acrobat Distiller PPD provides a series of values for use by the driver. Since there is no inherent "resolution" of a PDF file, this parameter is used only for purposes of allowing PostScript programs that query for such a value to be satisfied and for the driver to be able to communicate this value to the operating system and/or application as required.)

Paper handling (totally irrelevant to Acrobat Distiller if input or output tray selection via "setpagedevice" is found in the PostScript stream, it is ignored by Acrobat Distiller)

Thus, if the wrong printer driver instance is selected (i.e., it isn't associated with the Acrobat Distiller PPD file) or that driver instance is improperly configured, improper PostScript will result and one or more of the symptoms described above can occur. As currently implemented, FrameMaker depending upon version will not necessarily choose the correct printer driver instance and/or correctly parameterize the print job via driver setup options. In fact, FrameMaker 5,5,6 might even try to generate PDF via calling a PCL driver, FAX driver, or even a non-PostScript inkjet printer!

DON'T USE PDFWRITER

The Acrobat PDFWriter is a relic of older versions of Acrobat. In fact, it is no longer installed by default in the "easy install" or the "typical install" of Acrobat 5. It hasn't really be updated since Acrobat 3 and only supports PDF 1.2. It is a GDI (Windows) / QuickDraw (MacOS) driver that directly generates PDF without any intermediary PostScript. Since it is not a PostScript printer driver, applications cannot pass through EPS graphics and/or PDFMark information (used for a wide variety of purposes by FrameMaker). For EPS graphics, most applications will send the low resolution TIFF (or PICT) EPS header in lieu of the PostScript text, if they send anything at all, to the driver. Forget about links, structure, or any other PDF "goodies." Expect that PDFWriter will fully "bite the dust" in the next major version of Acrobat.

SO HOW DO I GENERATE PDF FILES FROM FRAMEMAKER 6 & EARLIER?

The ONLY method that is really reliable for producing PDF files with FrameMaker 6 and earlier requires the generation of PostScript via a properly set printer driver instance associated with the Acrobat Distiller PPD and distillation of the resultant PostScript by Acrobat Distiller.

Case 1: FrameMaker and the Full Acrobat 4.05 or Acrobat 5.0x Products

PDF file from a "chapter" -- print directly to the Acrobat Distiller printer instance (Windows) or the Create Adobe PDF desktop printer (MacOS) already installed by Acrobat. If you check the "Acrobat data" option, then make sure to UNcheck the "print to file" option that gets set at the same time. As a result, the driver will automatically send the generated PostScript to the Distiller for you and delete the intermediate PostScript when done.

PDF file from a "book" -- print directly to the Acrobat Distiller printer instance with the "print to file" option checked (Windows) or the Virtual Printer desktop printer (MacOS) associated with the Distiller PPD (see details below under Case 2/MacOS). You will need to manually process the resultant PostScript file through the Distiller (or use a "watched folder" arrangement).

In both the above sub-cases, the default driver options generally will be OK, but check on paper size and communication protocol (Use pure binary, not ASCII, for optimal performance AND no CTRL-D characters under Windows. Make sure to set Level 3 only and Binary under MacOS. Font inclusion "All" for Acrobat 4.05 and "None" for Acrobat 5 under MacOS.). With Acrobat 4.05, make sure you preset the Distiller to use the joboptions you want. With Acrobat 5, you can set this on a job-by-job basis via the driver printer setup interface (or print dialog on MacOS).

Case 2: FrameMaker 6 and the Bundled Acrobat 4.05 Distiller

Windows -- Create a new printer driver instance using the latest version of the Adobe Universal PostScript Driver Installer, downloadable from Adobe's web site AND the Acrobat Distiller PPD file (located in the XTRAS subdirectory of the Distiller directory). This driver instance should be set to print to the local port named "FILE:". Name this driver instance as "Acrobat Distiller". The default driver options generally will be OK, but check on paper size and communication protocol (use pure binary, not ASCII, for optimal performance AND no CTRL-D characters). Make sure you preset the Distiller to use the joboptions you want. Print directly to this Acrobat Distiller printer instance. Make sure that the "print to file" option is checked. You will need to manually process the resultant PostScript file through the Distiller (or use a "watched folder" arrangement).

MacOS -- Install the latest version of AdobePS 8.7.x, downloadable from Adobe's web site. In FrameMaker, go to Page Setup and select the "Virtual Printer" and go to the "Virtual Printer" window pane. Select the Acrobat Distiller PPD file (located in the XTRAS subfolder of the Distiller folder). Print directly to the "Virtual Printer" (Make sure to set Level 3 only, Binary, and font inclusion "All".). Make sure you preset the Distiller to use the joboptions you want. You will need to manually process the resultant PostScript file through the Distiller (or use a "watched folder" arrangement).

Case 3: Acrobat 3

Acrobat 3 is not officially supported for the latest OS versions and I personally would no longer recommend its use for generation of PDF files given that Acrobat 5.0.5 is the current version of Acrobat.

- Dov
 

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