FlightCheck Professional 6.01

Standalone preflight application

flightcheck601FlightCheck has been around for many years and most prepress workers, if they haven’t used it, are at least familiar with it. With design and production continually being pushed into new, less-experienced hands, the need for preflight increases every day. Preflight takes its name from the aviation industry and is a checklist of inspection points that must meet certain criteria. It could be as simple as checking to see if a CMYK-only job has any spot colors, or if images have enough resolution for proper output. Where FlightCheck shines is that it can support multiple native applications (including QuarkXPress 7, InDesign CS3, and some Microsoft Office files) and PDF files. Plus, it can run the user through the native files to problem areas, fix the file(s), and then collect the job, with all linked graphics and fonts.

You can customize settings, called Ground Controls, for native files and PDFs, and share them with other users. In fact, you could even ask the printer to supply a copy of his or her settings (which can be password-protected). Available options for inspection are too extensive to cover here but a 14-day demo with documentation is available for download. There have been a few scattered reports of FlightCheck flagging items that weren’t actual errors but I think it’s more an issue of overly aggressive Ground Control settings or not having the latest update. In my tests, it did a very good job at finding problems.

A few things could be improved or updated, however. Users have to switch between native file Ground Control settings and PDF settings—it should be automatic—although this can be automated with the Auto Preflight Detection preferences. I wish they’d update their support of FrameMaker (stopped at version 6), which is currently at version 7, with 8 on the way, and for newer Microsoft Office files. (Note: Acrobat 8 and Illustrator CS3 weren’t listed as supported applications, but both of them ran through FlightCheck without major problems.) The online Help needs to be improved and the PDF manual is out of date. As with any program, there will still be a few bugs and glitches—but no showstoppers (see the known-issues list under the Updater page). Early OS X versions of FlightCheck had some problems, but if you haven’t looked at version 6.01, you should check it out.

Perhaps the major question many will ask is, “Do I need to spend $500 to check my files?” If you’re a printer dealing with strictly PDF files, you could stay with Acrobat to preflight the files, but then it would make sense to have customers run preflight on their files before creating a PDF. You could use a page-layout application’s built-in preflight; however, InDesign’s preflight is weak and can’t be customized, and QuarkXPress’ Job Jackets is hard to set up for the average user. Other programs, such as Illustrator and Photoshop, don’t have preflight or collection built-in. What you really should ask is, “How much time is lost fixing problems found in PDFs?” or “How much money is lost from jobs not printing properly?” FlightCheck can pay for itself very quickly. There are a few other options for single-application preflight for QuarkXPress and InDesign (including FlightCheck Designer, a condensed version of FlightCheck with less customization), but none offer the range of applications that FlightCheck Professional does.

Disclaimer: The reviewer is an authorized trainer for Markzware FlightCheck (but that just means I think it’s a good product).— Dave Creamer

PRICE: $499 (upgrade $199)
FROM: Markzware
PHONE: 800-300-3532
FOR: Mac and Windows (v 5.8)

HOT Checks PDF and native files
NOT Some software versions aren’t up to date