Which programs do you accept? (also known as "Do you take ___________ files?)

Short answer: we can take most any program. Just get us what you have and we'll run with it.

Short answer #2: If you save your file as a PDF, it doesn't matter what program it was created in or whether we have it. We can open it. Just try to send us the original file too in case something needs to be changed.

Long answer: Certain programs are designed to ready your idea for commercial output, while other programs exist for other equally-valid purposes. For example, the core competency of Microsoft Word is writing, not layout. If you write something in Word, you can never be sure whether, on another computer, the fonts will look the same or how many words will fit on a line. Word was just never designed to precisely reproduce colors or layers of fonts. That being said, it's a great program for writing letters and resumes and books that have few pictures. If you have a layout program such as Quark, use that. But people with Quark won't be reading this article...

Any program can be set up to create a PDF from any file. That's the ideal way of submitting a file to us, because the whole format was created solely to take existing files and make sure they were embedded with all the necessary features to reproduce on another computer. If you save your Word file, or Excel file, or Illustrator file, or whatever, as a PDF, it will most always look exactly the same on almost every computer. That's why when you download an owner's manual or flier somewhere on the internet it's always a PDF with fonts embedded. Yes, it is possible to turn off the embedding of fonts in your PDF creator, but that's too rare to discuss here...

To review the last two paragraphs, the key issue isn't the content, but the supplementary files that most people never think of. It's not whether we'll see all the words, it's whether we have the same font as you, or whether we have access to the picture you included in your flier. Besides a PDF, this can also be accomplished in most programs through some form of "prepare for commercial output" feature. Here are some standard examples:

  1. Microsoft Word - We can open any version of Office programs. If you're using the PC version, under File, Save As, there will be a Tools button, then a Save Options possibility. Click there and make sure you "Embed Fonts in the File." Then make sure that whatever photos you use in your document are sent to us. So if you have a Valentine's Day party invite with 3 little clip-art cherubim angels around the border, be sure you give us 4 files (one for the document and 3 for the cherubic pictures.) *NOTE: There is no way on the Mac to embed fonts into a Word document!* You'll just have to give us the actual font files or design it in a font that you're 100% sure we have, or, the easiest option, Save As PDF (but then we can't edit it, so know that.)

  2. Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint, etc - pretty much the same thing as Word (see above.)

  3. Adobe Illustrator - We have all versions of the Adobe Suite, including CS4. Industry standards still revolve around CS2 for the Mac. Just save as .EPS and outline your fonts. Again, you may also want to include your fonts anyway in case any changes need to be made. Be sure to include ALL the fonts.

  4. Adobe Photoshop - Again, we run CS4 but mostly receive files downsaved to CS2--that's simply the current standard. Whatever the downsave, include the unlayered PSD file and all fonts; because once you flatten the image, the text will rasterize and can't be blown up or edited anymore. It's incredibly common that people design beautiful things on a flier, give us a file, and when we open it the file is only saved as 4" wide at 100 dpi RGB. Or--this is really common--their "designer" only has experience in web design, and saves everything in 72 dpi RGB. All your work needs to be at least 300 dpi at full size, and CMYK. If it's not in CMYK we'll have to convert it and we can't be responsible for the (in)accuracy of the resultant file. (See this video.) If elements are completely vectorized through Illustrator or the like, include those supporting files too.

  5. Adobe InDesign - File, Package will compile the files we need.

  6. Quark Xpress - We mostly run 6.52 on the Mac. File, Collect for Output will include everything and warn you what you're missing. Be sure to include ALL the fonts (it may complain about some.)

  7. JPGs, TIFs, BMPs, GIFs - nothing to worry about with a photo, just know the files need to be at least 300 dpi at full size and cannot be unflattened by us. Normally if someone's submitting a JPG that didn't come off their camera it's because they gleaned it off the internet (albeit often their own site), and therefore is only saved at 72 dpi. And, again, printing is CMYK while your monitor is RGB--so if you're picky about color, you will always be better off in life defining a color profile and using CMYK (or if you prefer lab color or Adobe RGB.)

  8. BLUEPRINT FILES - Most blueprints come as PDFs--but there are still reasons to submit in the following formats, all of which we accept (just be sure you embed your fonts if necessary): PLT, HP, HPGL, HP2, HPGL2, RTL, HPRTL, VCGL, VRF, TIF, TIFF, CAL, CALS, CLS, CALSG4, and raw PS. You may want to call us if you send a particularly engineering-specific format as those above since each of our production staff may not have encountered each of those formats. We can print b/w blueprints up to 36" wide by any length, and color up to 42" width. And we don't use cheap paper, either, and study after study shows that makes all the difference.

Again, we (unofficially) accept any format, and most days receive files in PageMaker, WordPerfect, Visio, iWork Pages, and binary code written straight onto napkins.

This was a lot of information. Please call with any questions.


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