On December 1st 2001 ISO has published the first ISO standard for prepress data exchange based on PDF (PDF/X-1a:2001). This allowed for the first time a reliable exchange of prepress data with CMYK and spot colors.
This standard has served well for many years. But with the advent of transparency in many layout applications the use of PDF/X-1a (and also PDF/X-3) became problematic since these old standards request a mandatory transparency flattening. This often leads to objects splitted in (many) pieces or even a conversion of object types (text becomes vector or even image) which makes processing these files difficult.
PDF/X-1a is a 15 year old data format which is not suitable for pages created with modern layout applications!
This was the reason that in the ISO working group we have started working on the PDF/X-4 standard which supports native transparency already in 2005. This solves many problems in prepress data exchange. Today the majority of the print service providers are technically capable to process PDF/X-4 files with live transparency. There is no reason to use 15 year old data formats anymore.
Nevertheless many files are still created as PDF/X-1a and PDF/X-3 (and even without any standard). This is highly irresponsible!
In my survey this summer more than 60% of the participants have stated that PDF/X-4 is not their most used file format. Since the readers of PDF-AKTUELL belong to the most advanced users in the industry, the real share of PDF/X-4 is certainly much lower!