SignPro Europe
Avignonlaan 33
5627 GA Eindhoven
The Netherlands

+31 (0)40 293 25 25


25 years of PDF – Celebrating with GWG

The Ghent Workgroup is inviting the global printing, packaging and publishing community to join them in celebrating 25 years of PDF – a quarter of a century of technical research, dedication and collaboration.

Invented 25 years ago with office communication in mind, PDF has changed the way the global community handles file processing.  There were many steps along the way and development was slow at times but the key players who have brought PDF to where it is today are rightly proud.  Chairman of the Ghent Workgroup, David Zwang says, "This is a milestone for GWG.  It has been my privilege to be involved with the evolution of PDF from those early days.  It took a lot of development and actual application use by many people before PDF achieved its current state as the standard file format for the delivery of data and instructions for high quality printing and packaging.  The Ghent Workgroup continues its commitment to produce specifications and share best practices for PDF exchange. Its goal is to provide valuable tools and guidelines to automate and test processes in order to promote consistent output results. Today we are working with our global members and partners to extend and create specifications for the future of PDF for Packaging, Wide Format and industrial print processes."

Early Days
At the Seybold Seminar in 1998, a white paper was presented – "PDF for prepress".  This paper explained the development of the first PDF/X standards required to achieve ISO certification.  It also envisioned the definition of the PDF/X-Plus specifications as developed by the Ghent (PDF) Workgroup (GWG).  The PDF/X-Plus specification added the missing technical quality criteria for major print processes and products. In addition to wide adoption throughout Europe, the GWG specifications were also used in Switzerland for the popular PDFX-ready settings and preflight profiles.

Before the Ghent PDF Workgroup was started, Enfocus in Ghent was holding meetings with individual associations in Belgium, the Netherlands, UK and France to create settings for preflighting in prepress that would manage errors and streamline the file handling process.  These associations wanted to share their findings with their members and Enfocus found themselves repeating the same preflight settings and requirements to each group.  Enfocus took the initiative to invite all the associations to come together round the table so that the discussions represented all countries.   This was the start of a workgroup in Ghent (where Enfocus is based) and they called it – the Ghent PDF Workgroup.

What the Ghent PDF Workgroup managed to do was capture a unique bridge between End Users (represented through industry associations), Industry Partners and Software Vendors and Developers.  Stakeholders then recognized the added value of working together on best practices for the different market-segments. 

Benefits Today
Driven by industry trends, end users are able to formalize the implementation of PDF/X standards via GWG.  GWG Specifications are now the recognized PDF reference for the current Printing and Publishing Industries.  The unique combination of GWG members with different industry backgrounds working together in Sub Committees in different countries brings expertise from all quarters and ensures comprehensive and considered results.
By coordinating and driving forward PDF best practice, the Ghent Workgroup has continued to help industry sectors move forward and optimize PDF Exchange between Creators and Processors.

The Future for PDF
The PDF/X portable format and many new compliant workflows are now the standard for our industry. The current market trends are driving a fundamental need for best practices – freelance designers, short runs, fast brand cycles and the use of packaging for marketing means a greater need for more guidance and standardization. Companies just don’t have the time to do the research and develop their own best practices.  GWG works on best practices and solutions to help companies with day to day problems and challenges.  They create practical and efficient tools to answer the needs of the market and its evolution – such as hybrid printing (conventional and digital) . GWG tools and educational documents are free to download from the GWG website.

Jason Lisi, GWG member and Associate Professor at Ryerson University concludes, “I believe that moving forward the GWG will be even more relevant for our industries.  As they continue to navigate and successfully implement various functionalities of PDF in practical ways, they will continue to stay ahead of the curve and embrace new innovations.  Here’s to the next 25 years!”

About Ghent Workgroup
The Ghent Workgroup, formed in June 2002, is an international assembly of Industry Associations, Suppliers, Educators and Industry members from around the globe. The Ghent Workgroup’s objective is to establish and disseminate process specifications for best practices in graphic arts workflows.

Since its inception more fifteen years ago, the organization has consistently produced numerous process specifications for PDF exchange, as well as developing useful tools for automating processes and testing workflows to establish consistent PDFs for print and publishing – all available for free at: