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Job Definition Format (JDF)

Job Definition Format (JDF) is a technical standard being developed by the graphic arts industry to facilitate cross-vendor workflow implementations of the application domain. It is an XML format about job ticket, message description and message interchange. JDF was initiated by Adobe Systems, Agfa, Heidelberg and MAN Roland in 1999 but handed over to CIP3 at Drupa 2000. CIP3 then renamed itself to CIP4.

The initial focus was on sheetfed offset and digital print workflow, but has been expanded to web(roll)-fed systems, newspaper workflows and packaging and label workflows.

It is promulgated by the prepress industry association CIP4, and is generally regarded as the successor to CIP3’s Print Production Format (PPF) and Adobe Systems’ Portable Job Ticket Format (PJTF).

The JDF standard is currently at revision 1.3. The process of defining and promulgating JDF began circa 1999. The standard is in a fairly mature state; and a number of vendors have implemented or are in the process of implementing it. JDF PARC, a multivendor JDF interoperability demonstration, was a major event at the 2004 Drupa print industry show, and featured 21 vendors demonstrating, or attempting to demonstrate interoperability between a total of about forty pairs of products.

JDF is an extensible format. It defines both JDF files and a job messaging format based on XML over HTTP. In practice, JDF-enabled products can communicate with each other either by exchanging JDF files, typically via “hot folders,” or the net or by exchanging JMF messages over the net.

Acrobat 7 includes a menu item to create a JDF file linked to a PDF. This starts with the ‘intent’ for the job. More JDF detail is added later in various steps of the production workflow.

As is typical of workflow systems, the JDF message contains information that enables each “node” to determine what files it needs as input and where they are found, and what processes it should perform. It then modifies the JDF job ticket to describe what it has done, and examines the JDF ticket to determine where the message and accompanying files should be sent next.

The goal of CIP4 and the JDF format is to encompass the whole life cycle of a print and cross-media job, including device automation, management data collection and job-floor mechanical production process, including even such things as bindery, assembly of finished products on palettes.