Adobe PressReady

SAN FRANCISCO (01/25/2000) - Professional graphics and publishing programs, Macs, and ink-jet printers haven't been the best of friends, due to the printers' nearly universal lack of built-in PostScript capability. You need a PostScript printer if you want to produce EPS files from Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia FreeHand, or QuarkXPress-and Adobe's new InDesign software won't print on anything other than a PostScript Level 2 or PostScript 3 device. Many graphics pros have also found that inexpensive ink-jet printers often fail to reproduce colors accurately.

That's where Adobe Systems Inc.'s new, $249 PressReady 1.0 comes in. Combining a PostScript 3 translator and color-management functions, it lets you use almost any Mac program to produce color-accurate PostScript output on several non-PostScript ink-jet printers: the Canon BJC-8500; the Epson Stylus Color 800, 850, 1520, and 3000; and the Hewlett-Packard 895C, DeskJet 1120C, and 2000C. The program does what it promises, but it's seriously overpriced and works with a limited range of printers. Adobe says PressReady will support other, unspecified printers via future downloadable updates.

Better Output

Using PressReady is simple: just select the PressReady driver in the Chooser (as you'd select any printer driver). We tested the software with an Epson Stylus Color 850, printing photos with PressReady and with the native print driver, and then comparing both prints to the original image. We found that PressReady does indeed create higher-fidelity output. While the native Epson output was more saturated, the colors were less true to the original, flattening out detail and gradations. The PressReady output's tone and detail were much truer to the original image's.

Although the output from the native Epson driver (left) is more colorful and dramatic, it's less true to the original image's (middle) tones and texture.

The PressReady-generated output (right) more closely matches the colors in the original.

Although PressReady does produce better-looking output, printing takes longer with PressReady than with a native driver. However, the time difference varied widely; some images took twice as long to print with PressReady, while others printed nearly as fast as they did with the native driver.

Adobe's Extras

PressReady does more than let you print-and that's actually a problem, because the added features needlessly inflate the price. The package includes Adobe Acrobat Distiller 4 software, which allows you to generate a PDF file directly from the Print dialog box when using the PressReady driver. However, this option, accessed through the Printer pop-up menu, is easy to miss, and Adobe's own PageMaker software can't take advantage of the feature because its Print dialog box doesn't let you change printers.

The Circulate utility lets you print and e-mail PDF files, but it has some serious limitations.

Another utility, Circulate, lets you navigate your hard drive and select one or more PDF files to print or e-mail, but it's very limited. For example, if you want to print a file, the program launches Acrobat Reader, and you print from there. However, you can do this easily enough yourself by double-clicking on a PDF file in the Finder. Circulate can also attach selected PDF files to an e-mail message, but it doesn't work with Microsoft Outlook Express 4.5. The PressReady package additionally includes Adobe Type Manager 4.51, a $100 font-management utility.

Macworld's Buying Advice

PressReady is a disappointment. The core PostScript driver works just fine, and it would be a wonderful $50 product. But Adobe added the other features with little thought for real integration, and they puff up the price to an exorbitant $250. Most users would be better off sticking with their printers' native drivers or considering the $99 StyleScript 3.8 (3.0 mice; Reviews, August 1998), a PostScript interpreter from Infowave (604/473-3600, http://www.infowave.com) that supports 22 printers from Apple, Canon, Epson, and Hewlett-Packard. However, you'll need PressReady if you want to produce PostScript output on Epson's Stylus Color 850, which StyleScript does not support. And because PressReady supports PostScript 3, it is indispensable if you want to take advantage of the PostScript 3 features in Adobe InDesign; StyleScript supports only PostScript Level 2. Adobe needs to rethink the value of PressReady and reprice the product accordingly.

RATING: 2.5 mice

PROS: Provides high-fidelity PostScript output on non-PostScript printers; easy to use for printing.

CONS: Expensive; supports a limited number of printers; Circulate utility does very little.

COMPANY: Adobe Systems (800/323-1722, http://www.adobe.com).

LIST PRICE: $249.

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