Joerg Palmer - Compart (Updated)
Joerg Palmer recently sat down with us to discuss the strengths of the Consortium, the future of AFP, and how things have changed in the years since the site’s last Q&A with the Compart veteran.
Q: Why do you feel the AFP Consortium is important to the print industry? Has your view of the role of the AFP Consortium changed in your time working with it?
Joerg: My view of the AFP Consortium’s role is still the same: The Consortium collects and amplifies user voices from around the industry and world, bringing diverse perspectives and understandings of how AFP should progress forward into the decision-making fold.
What has changed is I think AFP has gone much further beyond the bounds of print. The name change to Advanced Function Presentation was clearly wise. These days, we discuss more items that are not about printing directly – encryption, tagging, metadata and so on. Also, as the AFP Consortium has become more established, and AFP’s history as a proprietary architecture becomes further in the past, I think the outlook has become more global and diverse.
Q: As the walls between different types of print continue to lower, and print operations increasingly look to incorporate broader capabilities, such as graphic arts to complement direct mail, do you think AFP has an opportunity to grow in new areas of print?
Joerg: Technically, AFP’s specifications already allow for the kinds of enhanced capabilities graphic arts applications need. The next big hurdle is getting better composition tools for graphic arts for AFP – which means we need to get the people who make composition tools excited enough to do so. They have to see the use case, and they have to be interested enough to make the investment. It’s something of a chicken-egg issue: You need composition tools to broaden your user base; you need a user base broad enough to interest composition tool makers to get those tools made.
Q: What would you say is AFP’s single greatest strength? Where do you think it could most improve?
Joerg: AFP remains very strong as a printing datastream. Its ability to virtually guarantee print integrity, together with unique levels of printing speed, provides the most competitive advantage compared to other print datastreams. Also, AFP’s use of container technology to work alongside other datastreams makes it incredibly flexible.
At the same time, we’re working to improve AFP in a number of ways. We’re working to improve on security, in terms of both encryption – at the object and file levels – and signatures, among other fronts. We’re also talking about tagging content, which builds the base for security-minded applications, as well as providing potential accessibility and efficiency benefits. I’d also like to see the AFP developer community grow, with new additions bringing fresh perspectives and creating and distributing more AFP tools.
Q: What is the one thing about AFP that you think we should know that we likely don’t today?
Joerg: If you’ll forgive my going over the limit, I’d like to name two things. First, AFP has unique capabilities for structuring information. For example, page-level error recovery in even million-page-long print files. All pages can be clearly tagged and addressed, identified, rearranged, modified and whatnot. That’s the major little-known differentiator that comes to mind first for me.
My second answer is one I didn’t realize wasn’t so well known until very recently. I was talking informally with someone in the print industry, and he was completely surprised when I mentioned AFP could contain PDF in object containers. I’d like to make it better known that AFP can carry other objects in containers. Embedding a PDF page in an AFP print file is quite easy work, and obviously some people still don’t know it. This one capability opens up so many use cases!
Q: What industries do you see AFP being leveraged the most today? Do you think this has changed in recent years? Do you think it will change in the near future? If so, how?
Joerg: AFP continues to be primarily used for high volume and high speed printing. Everyone who works in high volume, high sped print looks to AFP sooner or later. But AFP has also opened itself to embrace other technologies, such as PDF, which in turn opens up many possibilities. With the flexibility of object containers, everyone can create their own blend of technologies that best fits their individual needs. To give an example, embedding PDF pages in AFP print streams can provide PDF’s famously vivid color graphics while still leveraging AFP’s impressive reliability at high speeds. I think we’ll see more applications that combine these applications in the future.
Q: A couple of years ago, we asked you what you think sets AFP apart from other presentation architectures. Would you say that’s changed in the time since? Or is it still AFP’s capability to embed and embrace other architectures, as your colleague Harald Grumser said in our last interview?
Joerg: In my opinion, this is still AFP’s most important differentiator. But I would like to add: We should always look at AFP in conjunction with IPDS. There is nothing that compares to the dream team of AFP and IPDS in terms of print efficiency and speed. It’s outstanding.
Q: Is there one particular development in AFP or the AFP Consortium in the last few years that you are particularly proud of or excited about?
Joerg: It was incredibly exciting when we recently achieved ISO certification for AFP/Archive. We’re still forging ahead to continue improving AFP, and one ongoing project I’m particularly excited about is broadening the use of metadata. Even if our work on metadata is not initially widely viewed or used, it provides the basis for more sophisticated tagging. That opens the door for AFP to become more interactive and more universally accessible. It allows us to address many more use cases. AFP/Archive lays the foundation for so much of this, and it’s a foundation we intend to build on.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Joerg: Just this: People in the industry are so often talking about “competition” between AFP and PDF, but most end users don’t look at it that way. They just want whatever will solve their problems, whether they’re color related, print speed related or anything else. They don’t care how they see improvement; just that they improve. That is why AFP’s flexibility and compatibility with other platforms is so important.