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Transparency Problems with PDFs

Posted on 2004-08-11
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We're having problems with PDF generation with transparency.  We're using:

Microsoft Publisher 2002/XP
Adobe Acrobat 5.0

In the Publisher document, we have an image and a transparent textbox on top of it -- it's a floor plan, and we use the transparent text box to "highlight" sections of it.

When it prints to PDF, one of two things happen:

(1) The transparency is gone, and the textbox is just a big, colored box, which obscures anything beneath it.  (I think this happens when we try to use an older PDF format than 1.5)

(2) The transparency remains, but the transparent object takes FOREVER to render when the PDF is displayed.  You see the floor plan (the image) right away, but the transparent box on top of it starts rendering at the top left corner of the box, then creeps along a little at a time, left-to-right, top-to-bottom until it's completely rendered.  Takes about five minutes.

We are using version 1.5 when rendering.

Deane
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Question by:deane_barker
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Karl Heinz Kremer earned 1000 total points
ID: 11778970
Don't use Publisher to create your PDF files (or any other MS application like e.g. PowerPoint): When you create a PDF with transparency, the image is broken up into thousands of tiny images. And, of course this takes forever to render the image on the screen (and also when printing it). Applications like InDesign or Illustrator can actually create PDFs with transparent elements. Can you upgrade to Acrobat 6? Acrobat 6 Professional offers a transparency flattener at print time. This may get you around your printing problems.
Make sure that you have the latest version of your printer driver. Acrobat is pretty demanding as far as the driver capabilities, and it's possible that your printer manufacturer has already updated the printer driver to work better with Acrobat. Check the manufacturer web page.
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by:deane_barker
ID: 11779137
>Don't use Publisher to create your PDF files

Well, Publisher is already deployed, so I'm out of luck there.

>Can you upgrade to Acrobat 6?

Theoretically, we could, but it's expensive.  Are there are cheaper, third-party tools we could use and get the same effect?  We don't use 10% of the functionality in Acrobat as it is.

>Make sure that you have the latest version of your printer driver.

Confused here -- which printer driver?  Acrobat Distiller?  We are having this rendering problem just on the screen.  We haven't even attempted to print anything.
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 11779166
Sorry, I misunderstood the first problem ("transparency is gone"). I thought this was when you print the PDF.

You can download a free 30 day eval version of Adobe Acrobat 6.0 Professional from Adobe's web site. If you have the time to try this version, you could find out if the problem is fixed in Acrobat 6.
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by:weed
ID: 11779961
Just because a software package is already in use, isnt a valid reason to keep using it. Publisher is likely to cause your WAY more headaches than it's worth. Youll save money and time down the road by switching to something that doesn't butcher files, plays nice with other apps, and creates standard files. Publisher is sub-par when it comes to DTP apps.
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by:deane_barker
ID: 11782719
I never knew that the source application that generates the PDF had an effect on the quality of the resulting PDF.  I thought the whole point of PDF was to remove the variable of the generating application.

So, do certain apps (like those from Adobe, I'm guessing) have some "magic" quality that makes them generate better PDFs than other apps (like those from Microsoft)?

And, yes, while I know that Publisher isn't well-respected in DTP circles, our needs are very, very light and Publisher actually fills them quite well.  Plus, the VBA programming environment would be very hard to give up -- we've automated a lot of stuff.
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by:Karl Heinz Kremer
ID: 11782810
Distiller needs a good Postscript file to generate a good PDF file. Some applications are known to create less then optimal PostScript (another example is Quark XPress if you go the Distiler route. Their latest version does offer a method to create PDFs directly). Adobe has an advantage because they have all the modules from Acrobat that create good PDF. They can use these as libraries in their other applications. Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator (and all other Adobe apps that support direct export of PDFs) don't have to print to the Distiller printer, they can export files in the PDF format directly.

The best way around your problems is to avoid transparent features in your PDFs. Another (manual) workaround is to leave the object that's supposed to import the to-be transparent image after you've created the PDF and then use a tool like Enfocus PitStop Professional to make the object transparent.
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by:deane_barker
ID: 11782837
Very interesting information.  Makes sense now.  Thanks.
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