Markzware Flightcheck 3

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A potentially invaluable utility for checking publications before they  are sent out for commercial print. The program is expensive but could save the  serious publisher a lot of time, money and misery.

Flightcheck 3

Producing publications in-house for outputting on your own printer connected to your own computer is a relatively simple job. As soon as you take the job outside to produce commercial print the world becomes a much less friendly place. Now you have to prepare your work to the far more rigorous demands of the imagesetter and suddenly issues such as image formats, fonts, line screens, separations, trapping and so on raise their ugly heads. What's more the pressure is now on as any mistake will prove expensive if you catch it at the film stage and potentially disastrous if you don't.

This is where Flightcheck comes in. It is designed to "preflight" your publication looking for potential problems before they happen. To do this it opens your file - PageMaker, Illustrator, FreeHand or Quark - and extracts a huge range of information from it regarding images, fonts, print settings, colours and so on and then presents you with a results window highlighting possible problems. The process is certainly comprehensive. Loading a PageMaker file that had already been printed successfully, I was surprised to find nine separate errors reported.

Fortunately most of these "errors" weren't really mistakes at all. I'm happy to live with the fact that certain images were of unnecessarily high resolution, for example, or that they would take slightly longer to output because they had been rotated within PageMaker rather than within Photoshop. Rather more useful was the information that the publication included unused spot colours, a situation that could lead to confusion and expense at the bureau. Very useful indeed was the reported conflict between Type 1 and TrueType versions of the same font, a potentially serious problem that I immediately - and gratefully - sorted out.

By default Flightcheck always errs on the side of caution reporting any publication features that fall outside certain parameters. These parameters can be changed through the Ground Controls dialog, which lists each of the settings that Flightcheck investigates. With over a hundred options the dialog is seriously intimidating and not for the faint-hearted. Generally though, Flightcheck does everything it can to make a difficult job as simple as possible. If an image error has been flagged, for example, double-clicking on the file name opens a window which shows exactly where the image is on a visual representation of the layout. Double-clicking from here opens the image into a preview window.

Once you have sorted out the reported errors, Flightcheck will collect all necessary files into a new subdirectory ready for sending to your bureau. Using the default settings, however, I was surprised to find that some of the image files and some of the fonts were missing. It turned out that the missing images weren't strictly required as they were embedded in the publication file, but it would have been better to include them anyway, especially for archiving. The missing fonts were a more serious problem caused by Flightcheck's inability to automatically recognise and copy font families.

It was disappointing to see Flightcheck causing some problems rather than solving them, but it's probably just as well to realise that the program isn't a miracle cure. Sending work out to commercial print will still be a complex and nerve-wracking chore, but with Flightcheck it's much less likely to be a nightmare.

Ease of Use

4

Features

5

Value for Money

3

Overall

4

ratings out of 6

Flightcheck
Software / Upgrade
Save $$!
Books / Reference
Save $$!

Tom Arah

March 1998


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