Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Since the past several months I have been working on some publishing tasks through Apache FOP (Formatting Objects Processor). The basic goal was pdf generation through FOP. Since there is a ton of paperwork in the insurance business and taking care of it is a manual cumbersome process so I come under the document production/letter generation aspects of it.

Working on FOP from scratch since the past 3 months now have made me realise a couple of things about the printing/publishing/typesetting business.
1. Production Printers differ greatly from Regular Printers. (The same pdf that you see may not come out the same way from both the printers)
2. Absolutely no one actually knows the innards of a publishing system. (Even my tech lead/dev lead weren't aware.)
3. Everything is in the details. It isn't enough to just make a document by eyeballing it but you will need to go and zoom in several hundreds of times to make sure that absolutely everything is just that perfect.
4. Fonts are BIG BUSINESS. The weird font you see on the bottom of a check for the account number/routing number is a font approved by the ABA.(American Banker's Association) That specific font can cost anywhere from 2k -3k $.
5. Barcode changes made by the USPS to replace legacy barcodes which have been around for ages can be very hard to implement especially if the USPS does not communicate those barcodes in a widespread fashion.
6.There are some things which are just dumb in the way they were designed/coded. But since 'kaam chal rhaa hai' noone would bother to find out why this was so.
7. Paper quality is very very important. It won't matter if the typesetting is perfect but the paper quality isn't.
8. There is vast difference in 300dpi and 600dpi prints. (Unseen to the naked eye)

Maybe someday I get my hands on an intaglio press and then would start some real fun ;)

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