Creating Printable PDFs with QuarkXPress 7.x/OS X

Why Bother?

When you print a document in Mac OS X and you choose the Xerox drivers, you're actually using the Apple driver with the Xerox helper files. The driver process converts what you see on the screen into PostScript code, while the helper files provide specific information about your printer (like whether it can automatically print on both sides of the page, what kinds of finishing devices are part of the printer, etc.). This is pretty much the same as it is for other manufacturers' printers, too.

The PostScript that the driver process creates is valid PostScript code, but when you print to network printers you assume one possible set of difficulties (font issues), and when you print large documents, you add another possible difficulty (resource issues).

Font Issues

Since type faces aren't copyrightable, your version of (for example) Helvetica font may not be exactly the same as the one on the printer or its substitute, Arial. That might not be important for short documents, but the letters jostle themselves around to fit inside the margins, and in long documents, the differences cause the text to reflow. Sometimes the text is no longer next to the illustration it's supposed to describe, and sometimes Tables of Contents and Indexes are made inaccurate by the text's rearranging itself. Sometimes the look-alike font looks too light or too clumsy. Sometimes the printer hasn't a clue how to draw the characters and you might see blanks, squares, or other characters where a letter ought to be.

At the expense of a larger PostScript file that must be sent to the printer (and in production runs of several tens of thousands of pages, this could be substantial), using the application's print settings to download the font information as part of the PostScript code will tell the printer exactly how to draw the fonts so they'll look as they did on your monitor. This is a legal and expected use of the fonts as licensed to you.

Resource Issues

When your printer interprets the PostScript code you've sent it so that it can print your document, it works its way through the code one line at a time. It's a lot like playing Las Vegas-rules Solitaire. You play one card at a time. If you don't have a place to play the card, it goes onto the discard pile, and you can only play the top card off the discard pile if there's a place for it. If you run out of places to put your card or the card at the top of the discard pile, the game ends. PostScript interpreters work that way, too. When they run out of places to put their instructions, you end up with a stack error and the job will stop with either no output or only partial output. If you send the printer a very large job with no way for it to manage its memory resources, you increase your risk of failure, even though the PostScript code is "theoretically" correct.

The Adobe (they're the folks who took Xerox's Interpress language and worked it into what is now PostScript) Document Structuring Convention (ADSC) was designed to help produce PostScript that Adobe's interpreters could convert to print jobs, even with very big jobs. Historically, Apple has called that page-independent PostScript, and Microsoft has called it optimized for portability.

Apple's driver is not, by itself, capable of generating page-independent PostScript code. Some high-end applications write some of their own PostScript code, bypassing the Apple drivers, and their output is page-independent PostScript. Most applications (including QuarkXPress) lack that ability, making the printing of their very large documents a risky venture.


PDF, the Portable Document Format, was originally designed so that documents generated on one computer operating system (for example: Sun's SPARC CPU running Solaris Operating System) could be read on a different computer operating system (say, an Intel platform running Microsoft Windows).

Later, as document tracking and security features were built into PDFs, demand grew to print them, so an industry standard was created by DDAP (Digital Distribution of Advertising for Publications) to assure consistency of output and reliability of printability. It became known as the set of PDF/X standards. The X stands for graphic eXchange.

According to the Association of Graphic Solutions Providers' PDF/X Guide, "PDF/X-1a:2001 - The most common conformance level designed for blind exchange. All fonts and images must be embedded. Colors are limited to CMYK and spot colors."

PDFs are page-independent. There's no getting around it. That takes care of the resource issues.

Setting Distiller's default settings to PDF/X-1a and/or setting your application's PDF export default to PDF/X-1a will take care of the font issues.

How to Do It

At Your Macintosh Workstation

  1. Open/create your document in QuarkXPress.
    Here's the information for the version I used.

  1. Click on the menu bar on file and from the drop-down menu, mouse-over Export and select Layout as PDF… to open the Export as PDF window.

  1. Click on the Options… button to open the PDF Export Options for Layout window.

  1. With Pages highlighted on the left, go to the verification field at the top of the window, click on None to open a drop-down menu, and select PDF/X-1a: 2001.

  1. Assuming that you've already saved your graphic files as grayscale or black and white images at 600 dpi (It's not a good idea to make your layout software resize your graphics on the fly.), and at the halftone frequency of your production printer, highlight compression on the left side of the PDF Export Options for Layout window and make sure you've chosen to keep the resolution at which you've saved your graphics images.

  1. Highlight the Color selection on the left side of the PDF Export Options for Layout window, and on the right, set your Mode to Composite and your Setup to Grayscale. this will result in your not having to build a lot of color information into your PDF. Your clients will never see it, and your black & white printer may misinterpret the color information.

    For color printers, modify as appropriate.

  1. Finally, highlight Fonts in your PDF Export Options for Layout window and make sure that there is a checkmark in the Select All box for Font Options. You want the text to look like it does on your monitor and you don't want to run the risk of text reflow and that it will do to your layout if your printer substitutes its own version of your typeface.

  1. Click the [OK] button to generate your PDF file.

Created by Norman A. Teck
November 7, 2007