Can PitStop Win the PDF Race?

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Although PDF, Adobe's Portable Document Format, didn't generate much buzz at Seybold Boston 2000, PDF-related products were scattered throughout the show -- a testament to how popular PDF has become, especially in the print publishing industry. Among the companies hawking their PDF wares was Enfocus Software (888-363-6287, ), makers of the $295 Adobe Acrobat plug-in PitStop.

PDF was introduced as a format designed to look the same anywhere, regardless of whether the document creator and the viewer shared platform, applications, or fonts. It was tough to change a PDF file, and that's the way Adobe wanted it. Users had other ideas, however, and PDF editing products appeared, including PitStop -- a program that goes beyond the PDF editing abilities Adobe finally added to recent versions of Acrobat.

After making a somewhat wobbly vault from version 1.5 to 4.0 in 1999, PitStop's current version, 4.05, offers an impressive set of features. It retains a bevy of tools for editing text; drawing and editing Bezier shapes; and changing objects' position and size. Guidelines and a measuring tool are still available, as is the Adobe Photoshop-like Eyedropper tool that samples and copies colors and object attributes.

Version 4.0 of the plug-in introduced PDF preflighting. It checked documents for attributes that might cause printing problems (such as page dimensions wider than those allowed by the target printer) and automatically fixed some glitches based on powerful profiles. Version 4.05 does all of the above, and adds "actions," a group of corrective steps applied en masse to fix identified errors. You build an action's steps by choosing them one by one in the Action List control panel. About 40 steps ship with the program; you can also create new steps and add them to the list.

Also at Seybold, Adobe announced InProduction, a program that not only preflights PDF files, but also handles PDF color separations and trim/bleed and trapping parameters (see " Adobe Places PDF Tools in Production "). With that kind of competition, PitStop may be in trouble. However, Peter Soderlund, Enfocus' director of business development, contends that the PitStop plug-in has the preflighting edge, thanks to actions' sophisticated but easy-to-use automatic corrections, and to the plug-in's integration with the PitStop server, which preflights PDF files in batches.

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