OK, so you just finished your book or a pleasing layout for your brochure or manual and you then bring it to your printing company and they cannot accept your files. You are then stuck with the following:book printing, magazine printing, catalog printing

1- Buy new software,2- Learn new software, 3- Import your files, if they can be imported and do the layout from scratch. Not a pretty picture here. However there are some tricks you can learn with ease that can allow you to use your Word files and print with reasonable success.

First of all there is one form of printing that can accept word files and that is digital printing. While this is a generic word as most printing presses today are so called “digital presses” and they are not 100% digital. I am referring to the Docutech for black only print and the iGen or Canon equivalent for color. They use toner and not ink and do not use plates. The quality is relatively equal to the ink presses you may use providing you did not have your files in Word.

The problems faced while using Word for any form of printing is the lack of accuracy. Files can shift using the same version just moving them from one computer to the next. Things become worse when two computers do not share the same version of Word. Microsoft word has larger issues than this with respect to what you see on screen vs. what you get when you print it out with a commercial printing company. The reason for this is that the equipment at a printing press is far more sophisticated than your desk top printer and thus far more accurate. Any errors or issues will be magnified at the printing press level while they may not be noticed at your desktop.

Here are some of the issues you will potentially face using Word to present as a file for commercial printing and some work around ideas.

Convert File To PDF:

By converting the file to a PDF three things occur:

1-      Your printer will accept a PDF while not accepting a Word file.

2-      PDF is essentially an image format so it locks in your work as Word is NOT stable.

3-      Adobe Acrobat by its default settings will convert an RGB color scheme from Word to CMYK required for printing.

Now your book or business printer will accept a PDF, but that by no means represents a perfect trouble free file to the printer and you still could be facing some issues with respect to accuracy of the file. By the way, there are numerous free PDF creators and I have tried some, but those I have tried are slightly glitch and you would better be served purchasing even an older, not too old, version of Adobe Acrobat as that is only way you and your printer will have some commonality while working with your file.

When creating the PDF a text box appears in Adobe Acrobat that allows you to choose what type of PDF to create. The two most important things to know are to save your file for “printing press” in the dialogue box and to uncheck the box near bottom that states “rely on system fonts, do not use document fonts”.  This is crucial as if you ask for help at press to fix something it is possible to do so without going back to the Word file. Otherwise, your printer will not be able to help you and you will waste what may be precious time getting your print materials or book to market as you will then need to go back to Word and create a new PDF file.

Word And Color:

Microsoft Word does not support CMYK color. This stands for Cyan Magenta, Yellow, Black which is the system ALL printing presses use to print full color with. Word uses the same color system as your desktop monitor or camera and that is RGB which is Red, Green, Blue.  You are by no means stuck here as when converting in Acrobat it will change the file to CMYK, but not with color accuracy. Frankly if you are working in Word I somehow think that relative accuracy will be fine, but if not your next step is to move all into Microsoft Publisher, where with a bit of searching at the bottom of the color tabs you can find under custom colors a choice to switch to CMYK. This may help a bit, but you also would need to have started with a CMYK image that you are importing as well. If not, once again you will probably get relative accuracy as to the color of your images.

Image and Text Boxes:

Other than color, here is one of the biggest problems with using Word and why printers frankly hate it and will not want to work with your files.  If you are just creating straight copy, then all you need worry about, other than font choice and size, are margins and page size (see below).  However, should you want to attempt some creative flair in order to make your work seem more interesting as well as having images to depict your story line, product or service, then here is the tricky part.

Most professional graphics programs utilize some form of image box to place images into for accurate positioning on the page. You may also want to have a quote or special text set on the page in a unique fashion rather than all looking like a typed letter. For this you would use a text box in Word. Herein is the problem: While programs like Adobe InDesign or Quark Express have text and image box features that are accurate and provide for a clean insertion to the page, Word does not. The image and text boxes tend to be much larger then you would hope them to be for that which you are inserting. The Word boxes tend to have a lot of extra space around them so that they take up more space on the page which may cramp a nice layout style and can actually cover up text that is not within the box as it overlays it. The problem is you may not see this until you either make a PDF and it still may not show or when you go to print.

The trick to using text or image boxes with Word is to “allow for the elephant in the room”. By this I mean to allow additional space around these boxes for that which you cannot see or foretell at the time you are creating them. Stay as far from them as you possibly can in order to be safe as by the time you receive your printer’s proofs the error will be visible AND you just paid for another round of proofs after you make your corrections.

Margins and Page size:

While this is not a problem with Word, you still need to understand how to set them so that they represent the final product you intend to have. If you will be printing on a web press, then the usual requirement for a book or manual is 3/8” on each of the four sides and under the margins tab in Word you can easily set this. When creating the page size do make sure you understand two things:

1-      What is the final trimmed and finished size of the product you want?

2-      What is the finished size your printer can best print in? You may need to minor adjust your finished size once you check with the printer as you may be thinking 5.5 x 8.5” for your book or brochure, but they may only be able to print it at 5 3/8 x 8 3/8” which is a standard size for a web press. You are always best served setting up your files for the final job rather than having the press adjust things in the RIP, where your files are processed for imposition and printing.

Now, as a commercial printer, am I happy accepting files that were created in Word, no. However, if you must and when you must hopefully these points will help you to produce your printed piece that is as close to your original intent as possible.

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