TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
Sorry I missed the original post. I used to work for a company that printed
all its manuals on Docutech.
> 1. I always thought that small runs would be prohibitively expensive. Does
> the Docutech make it reasonable to print 10 or 20 books at a time?
>It did for us, but we were concerned with printing costs and storage costs.
Yes, but vendors can vary widely in what they charge for this. If you will
be usually ordering in quantities of 200 or more, try to negotiate a fixed
price with your vendor based on a minimum run. We got a good price from our
vendor by agreeing to a minimum run of 25. As our relationship grew over a
couple of years or so, we found they were willing to bend even those rules
for us in extreme or unusual cases.
> 2. We use FrameMaker, not Word. I assume that Docutech works with Frame as
> well - is that correct?
>I used Frame and Word with Docutech.
It does not matter what word processor you use, as long as you can produce a
> 3. Instead of providing the printing house with the printed pages, I would
> instead generate a ps file from Frame, and send them that ps file - is
>That is how I had to send it -- ps. Of course, it had to be completely
>they could not change anything in the file (they didn't have Frame).
>Occasionally, even the PS would have strange artifacts not visable in the
> The printing house would accept Word files (and modify them if necessary).
>the time, Word repaginated randomly and caused us some problems.
Our vendor would not do any modification to the source file at all, although
they could replace individual pages or remove and rearrange whole pages
through the Docutech software. They charged a per-hour charge for this type
of file manipulation though.
Some vendors will also accept .pdf files, but the quality of print may be
> 4. We use the Acrobat Distiller printer driver to produce a ps file for
> Acrobat. Can we use the same printer driver, or do we need a different
> (I saw some references in the archives to a special Docutech driver.)
>We had to install a special printer driver the printing house gave us.
>five years ago.
The last time I worked with Docutech (about 4 months ago) our vendor still
requested that we use Xerox's Docutech driver - however, they *could* print
from a Distiller-created .ps and even from a .pdf. But they were reluctant
to assist with troubleshooting if we had problems unless we used the
We used to "pre-proof" our PostScript files before sending them to the
vendor: Using the Docutech driver, we'd create our PostScript file. Then we
would run this file through Acrobat Distiller and go page-by-page through
the .pdf to look for any errors or anything weird. If our .pdf looked fine,
then unless there was a problem on the vendor's end the proofs looked fine
too. Be sure whatever vendor you choose provides a proof; believe it or
not, some don't, or they charge extra for it.
> 5. Are there any major pros or cons that I should know about?
>How seriously do you take typography? At the time we were using it, the
>of Docutech was not the same as the "old way" (Linotype? I can't remember).
>Occasionally, we had odd problems with graphics.
We never had any typographical issues that weren't a result of using the
wrong printer driver. We did have some occasional problems with graphics,
but that was due to the PostScript translation. When you use a Docutech you
are really just using the PostScript language, and experiencing all the
attendant issues with fonts and graphic formats and whatnot. Adobe provides
some PostScript troubleshooting info on their web site if you have problems.
We had very, very few problems in the 4 or 5 years I worked at this company.
If I ever again needed a print solution for short runs, I'd go Docutech in a
I'd recommend developing a good relationship with a reputable, experienced
printing vendor. There are many print shops out there that have Docutechs
but are far from being experts with them (or even necessarily competent).
Try to find a vendor with more than one Docutech and a few years experience
If you have some more specific questions, I'd be glad to try to help you
with them off-list.