PStill FAQ - Feb 2008
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System/Setup specific questions

Where is the documentation?

Look here.

Can I run PStill on my system?

See this list for the system requirements of PStill.

Does PStill need Adobe Acrobat installed? (Is it a plug-in or frontend?)

No - PStill is completely independent from Adobe Acrobat or any other PDF related product. It is not a plug-in or frontend but a standalone program, built upon its own PS interpreter and PDF generator. You can still install Adobe Acrobat Reader, Adobe Acrobat or any other program on a system that runs PStill - they do not interfer. If installed however PStill/Win can call up e.g. Adobe Acrobat Reader to open and display the generated PDF by a simple click on a button.

How can I upgrade?

Just download the current PStill version and install it over your previous installation. Keep in mind that any files you may have changed manually in the gpstill directory, in particular 'fontsub.table' and 'PStillConfig.ini' are overwritten in this process, so you may want to save them before. The already installed fonts are not affected by an upgrade.

Does PStill run on MS Vista and Windows 7?

PStill does work without problems on the MS Vista or Windows 7 platform. This includes the virtual print server mechanism. You need to give PStill permission to use the network however when Vista asks you and you need to install the LPD port monitor (client printing) in software installation - this is a standard component of Vista (and XP/2000). Installation of this component is not needed for normal use of PStill, only if you want to use the virtual print server feature and you want applications be able to print directly to GPStill.

I cannot use the 'virtual server' mode of GPStill on Windows 2000/2003 server? (also XP SP2)

Only one process can attach to the TCP/IP port 515 (Printer), GPStill tries to do upon startup of the program as it is a 'printer server' within its own rights. By default Windows activates the own TCP/IP services on Microsoft 'Server' products but not on 'Workstation' products, so the services must be disabled on Windows 'Servers' before PStill can be used as 'virtual server' on these platforms. To find out if a process or system service holds the port, open a command window and type 'netstat -a', if you see an entry 'printer' in 'listen' mode some process holds the printing port already and GPStill will be unable to connect.

To resolve this situation the port must be released. This can be done by disabling the TCP/IP printing service in the system services control panel or simply by not installing/ uninstalling the TCP/IP printer services on the machine. If you choose the later option the server cannot print to the local GPStill however remote clients can connect and provide print jobs.

It is possible you need to add PStill to the list of applications allowed to open a port and receive data on Windows XP SP2/SP3 (see Microsoft support on this topic). This is the case if you run SP2 with the Windows firewall activated.

Can PStill and its add-ons be used as 'portable app' (E.g. on an USB stick)?

Yes, just install PStill and all needed add-ons on a normal system (usually in C:\program files\GPStill), enter your license key and then copy the whole 'GPStill' folder to an USB stick. You can then start PStill and all add-ons from there on other systems without the need to install PStill there. Keep in mind though that parallel use on several systems legally require more than one license. However as long as you run it either on one system or the other (only one PStill process is active at any given time) no additional license is needed.

Why does the application icon look different on Windows NT4?

This is an incompatibility of the GUI toolkit used with some version of PStill and affects only NT 4.0. Instead of the default icon for GPStill you see a generic blue/gray shaded rectangle, still the program starts and works fine. You can give GPStill the default icon by downloading this icon file and select it as icon for the desktop link that starts GPStill (right click on the desktop link, then select the icon file).

Usage questions

What page sizes can PStill handle?

PStill has no strict internal page size limit. You can process most any page size with it. It is important however to choose a large enough inital page area as PStill can only shrink this one to the output page size as defined by the input job. When used as a virtual printer page size depends on the abilities of the selected printer driver. You can choose e.g. a printer type of 'HP DesignJet 750C/PS' on Windows, in this case you can output page sizes up to A0 directly.

Why does PStill take so long the first time it converts a PS job?

PStill caches embedded TrueType system fonts, that are fonts embedded by the windows printer driver as subset. This processing takes some time the first time a font is seen in the input as the whole font with all glyphs (in the case of Unicode fonts several 1000s) has to be checked and processed even if only a few glyphs are actually used in the job. All following conversion runs gets much faster as the already prepressed version of the font from the cache is used.

Does PStill has 'Hotfolder' functionality?

On Windows - you can run the command line version on a folder so it constantly checks for files of a certain type and convert them, looping on the directory. Use the tool Controljob for this purpose. On Unix just use the Shell 'find' command with -exec option and wrap it a while loop.

How many pages can PStill process in one run?

The limit is defined only by the resources of the system. PStill can use up to two 2 GB of memory (as 32 bit application). Tests here were done up to 16000 pages for a single PDF document.

How do I process only a subset of PDF pages?

Win32 GUI: Hold left shift key while clicking on the 'start conversion' button. A dialog appears where you can enter the page range to extract. Note: This option only works for pure PDF input. On the command line there is an option called -M pdfpagerange=A,B where A and B are page numbers.

How do I use the command line version? What options should I give?

Read this information here for more info.

If you like to run several instances of the command line version in parallel on the same system each one must be started with a different temp directory, otherwise the instances may interfere. Use option '-T path/to/temp/directory' in this case. This option is not needed if you run only a single instance of PStill, in this case pstill will use the system temp directory.

How can I produce PDF/A?

In the GUI version just define PDF/A-1b as output in the Interpreter options and set the output intent to PDF/A-1b. If you leave the intent string empty 'sRGB IEC61966-2.1' is assumed, this also works for the Win32 command line version. On Linux and other systems you need to define the output intent in full and also provide a matching ICC profile. See above note on how to use the command line version for details.

How can I do the N-UP trick? (Place multiple pages on one)

In the Win32 GUI - see the 'N-UP Output options' dialog
In the command line versions - Use Option: '-M pagecontrol=path/to/'
(Scripts can be found in the 'controls' directory)

Why can't I convert (multiple) files? (Win32 GUI)

Converting multiple files is triggered by dragging more than one file to the GPStill main window.

Don't drag your input files to the text field but to any other area inside the main window. Otherwise only the text field gets the input but it is not reported to GPStill.

What does e.g. 800 dpi 'accuracy' mean and why is there another numeric accuracy setting?

PStill let you configure its 'accuracy' with two settings. First please understand that PStill always calculates in floating point accuracy for all curve points and coordinates. Sometimes however a PostScript command needs to 'flatten' a path, that means it will rewrite it from curves to line segments. Here the DPI accuracy come into play, the more you specify here the better the approximation of a curve that is finally written to the PDF. As the dpi setting actually defines a raster, the 'error' introduced by this method is actually approx. half the dpi size. The DPI setting has also no impact on bitmap image data, only 'downsampling' affects them in their density.

The 'nummeric accuracy' defines the number of digits (+2) behind the decimal dot that are written to the PDF result for a floating point value. Rounding takes place at the last step before writing the PDF - this setting will affect the size of the PDF result as less digits means less data to write. Also some special optimization takes place for a nummeric accuracy value of 1 or less, in this case also the accuracy of image data (their 'bits per sample' value) is modified to create smaller output. For prepress work it is recommended to use a nummeric accuracy value of at least 3 or larger.

I use the Windows printer driver to create input files for PStill and the PDF result looks 'blocky', what can I do to improve output quality?

By default the windows PostScript printing mechansim may write fonts as 'bitmaps' (one image per char, so to speak). Please open the printer setup dialog and

  • Read 'PStill_Guide.pdf' page 16 on how to setup the printer. For PStill 1.65 it should be fine just to create a new printer of type 'HP LaserJet Color PS' and use this (Windows 2000/XP). For all other platforms the type 'Canon PS-IPU LaserCopier' may be another alternative.

Can PStill be used as a 'virtual printer' so I can just print to it?

  • On Windows - yes, see this link on how to setup. PStill 1.65 can also work as virtual print server, see page 16 and page 25 of the 'PStill_Guide.pdf' (part of the PStill archive) for detailed information. The virtual print server setup offers easier setup and network integration and is recommended.
  • On Unix - yes, just use the pstill executable as output filter in your favourite printer spooler system.
  • On MacOS X - you can already 'print to pdf' as the system provides this, however you can use PStill to do output optimization on the so generated PDF, n-up processsing, concat several PDF to one for the result. Also PStill can output to PS or EPS on MacOSX with all PS flattening features of the PSRW license.

In a network, can other systems send jobs to GPStill? (Win32 GUI)

GPStill implements the LPR protocol as server, so all remote systems using this protocol (incl. Windows systems with installed 'TCP/IP printing services', an additional installation option for Windows that can be found on your MS Windows Installation CD for NT, 2K and XP) can send jobs to GPStill if the server functionality is enabled in the options. To them GPStill appears to be just a normal 'printer'. This includes most every UNIX system.

Tip: GPStill can log remote jobs and their source (host/user), see the 'PStillConfig.ini' file in the GPStill folder for the 'SERVERLOG=...' entry and on how to setup.

Why doesn't the Font Manager show all the Windows system fonts?

The FontMananger show only the fonts available locally to PStill. These fonts are located in the 'PSFonts' folder in the PStill installation directory. Any font that you drag & drop to GPStill will be installed there as PostScript Type 1 font (converted if needed).

PStill can still access the system fonts (usually located in the 'Fonts' folder in the Windows installtion) and may do so if it find embedded TrueTypes referenced in the source jobs.

Why is the option 'Include all fonts in PDF result' not selectable?

You installed PStill and have it create its base font set from the local system fonts. PStill recognize these 'converted' system fonts and does not allow to include them into PDF results to prevent any copyright issues for you. Under normal circumstances you never need them included anyway as the base fonts must be known to a PDF Reader by the PDF specification. To make the option selectable please install you own set of the base fonts (The so-called 'Courier', 'Helvetica', 'Times' and 'Symbol'-Families that must be present in any PS system).

My resulting pages appears cropped/clipped, what happened?

See the page size options of PStill, chances are your PDF uses a larger page size then setup'd there - the default is 'US letter' and this is in effect if you don't specify any larger size! Keep in mind that PStills option 'get' to take over the page size from the job (Option '-g' on the command line) can only make the default page area smaller. So be sure to setup a reasonable large default area, otherwise you may see clipping effects - the needed options to do so are '-w 2000 -h 2000' on the command line, instead of 2000 (pts) you can use another default size as long as it is larger or equal to your largest page size.

If you print from Windows be sure to use a printer driver device setup that supports large pages. E.g. the printer setup for 'HP DesignJet 750C/PS' can handle up to DIN A0 and large ISO formats.

I get PostScript errors? What happened?

Turn on PS Level 2 in the PS options (Command line option '-2'). If this still fails check if you use the recommended printer driver to create your PS input files. If this still fails please contact me. Level 2 is now default. PStill can also handle some Level 3 commands but announces itself as a v2012 PS Level 2 printer device. The so called language level gives indication about what commands a PostScript device can handle.

If you define a very high DPI accuracy PStill may throw a 'limitcheck' error, in this case it is a good idea to lower your accuracy a bit. See also above point explaining the accuracy modes.

Why do CMYK Colors look so dark in Acrobat Reader?

PStill takes over CMYK directly, but Reader does show them a bit dark by default. Turn on RGB output in the PS options if your application allows.

What is that PDF/X all about?

PDF/X is a focused subset of PDF designed specifically for reliable prepress data interchange. See this link for more info and a FAQ specific to PDF/X. For normal office work you don't need PDF/X, however if you must deliver 'print-ready' jobs to some service provider or magazin/newspaper PDF/X will become important.

PStill as of Version 1.61.3 (equiv. to MacOS X Version 2.7 which use another version counting scheme) can create PDF/X-3 and PDF/X-1a compatible output.

PStill can include ICC color profiles files into PDF/X, this way you can not only use 'standard' output conditions but also custom ones. The supplied profile is only included (copied to) into the PDF/X result, not applied on color data or used otherwise inside PStill - it is up to the receiver of a PDF/X to apply it accordingly.

What kind of color transforms can PStill do?

PStill uses the colorspaces as found in the source document, either CMYK, RGB, Gray or spot colors. For all conversions between these colorspaces the default formulas as given in the Adobe PostScript Reference Manual are used. For PDF/X-3 output PStill does not change any colors at all, except converting spots to CMYK if the preset demands. Otherwise it can rewrite colors as CMYK, RGB or Grays depending on the presets.

Why is the Separation-to-Composite option not selectable?

The additional S2C module is needed, it must be purchased separately. Please contact me for availability and pricing.

Can I secure ("encrypt", disable printing or copy/paste) the result?

Yes, starting with version 1.71 PStill can apply 'standard' encryption and permission settings to the PDF results. Keep in mind however that this protection is quite weak if only an owner password was defined and may be easily removed by several publically available 'cracking' tools (their use might be illegal in your country but most are still available on the internet).

Can PStill process encrypted PDF and remove any prohibitions?

PStill is no 'circumvention' tool, it honors the PDF permission bits for transcoding. This is the ruleset PStill uses to check if a PDF to PDF transcoding conversion is allowed:

1. If the input file is "encrypted" but the owner password is left blank (no password is set) the file may be converted regardless of the flags and restrictions it contains. The reasoning is that anyone with a full version of e.g. Adobe Acrobat can do likewise... (remove any restrictions and save to a new PDF)

2. If the input file is "encrypted" and the owner password is set the file may only be converted if it is 'allowed to print' AND 'allowed to copy text and images'. The reasoning is that anyone who can print can also scan it back in and even recover the full content by printing to image files and using OCR tools (e.g. alike Adobe Acrobat Capture) or copy the contents directly.

3. If the input file is "encrypted" and the user password (This is the password needed to open/view the file) is set, PStill cannot convert it.

4. PStill cannot process any PDF not using the 'standard security' handler as described in the PDF specification. In particular no eBooks or other PDFs using special security handlers can be processed.

Please note: "Encrypted" is written in "..." because it isn't really encryption what is going on here. To view it on screen such an 'encrypted' PDF still contains the full information to access each and every piece of the content even if the owner password is set - the contents are just "scrambled" by a defined and accessable data set. The rule "if you can see it, you can access it" holds true even in the digital world. The full procedure to access the contents of such PDF is described in detail in the PDF reference manual as published by Adobe Inc.

So in summary: PStill does not convert an encrypted PDF that needs a user password to access/view or one that has a owner password set and disallows printing or copying. In this case a message is written to the log and the conversion is aborted or asked to supply a password.

Can I use PStill to apply a 'stamp' (visual watermark) on its output (PDF, optional also PS/EPS/TIFF)?

Yes, using the Control Scripts: See the '' control script that is part of the PStill distribution and this control script example. These marking become part of the page description.

There also exists another and very fast solution, PDF-Marker can do 'stamping', updates and more. On MacOS X you may want to use StampInStone which uses the PDF-Marker engine paired with a very nice and functional user interface. Files 'stamped' using StampInStone are compatible to PDF-Marker and the other way round.

Can PStill create 'posters' from single page PDFs?

Yes, use the N-UP scripts for poster creation. The MacOS X version has a very nice GUI for this process also.

Hint: To use this option on existing, large PDF pages you may want to setup the page size option to 'get from job' to avoid PStill from rescaling the input job.

Can PStill keep spot colors?

Yes, PStill can take over spot colors to the output result. On the command line thats option '-m Xspot'.

Can PStill convert spot colors to process colors?

Yes, if you do not define the -m Xspot option (or the respective GUI option) PStill will convert spot colors to process colors during conversion. If you do define the -m Xspot option PStill will preserve spot colors.

Can PStill convert process colors to spot colors?

Yes, starting with version 1.72.9 PStill can indeed convert process colors to spot colors, see the control script. (PSRW-type license needed)

Can PStill produce color separations?

Yes, starting with version 1.72.9 PStill can produce color separated PDF output from composite input, see the control script. On the command line use the tool 'pdfseparator' that is part of the PStill 1.72.9 distribution.

How can I erase user-created setups (Win32 GUI)

Locate the 'setups' folder in the GPStill installation directory, setups are just files you can rename or erase.

Font related questions

I need fonts, where can I get them?

PStill/Win can use the system fonts as base font set, just let it import them on initial startup.

You can add more fonts by dragging & dropping PostScript fonts of type PFB or PFA (e.g. fontname.pfb as file) to the main window and have them imported. Also TrueType fonts are accepted this way, as long as their 'copyright' bits allow conversion.

Alternatively - and on other operating systems - you can also install free fonts under the GNU license as base font set.

TeX users might want to install the CM fonts as Type 1 fonts, this will also allow PStill to autoreplace bitmaps fonts*. Since PStill can use job embedded fonts usually it is not needed to install a very large font set if your jobs contain them already.

* See other FAQ entry for requirements

Can I use TrueType TTF fonts with PStill?

PStill will convert TTF outline fonts draged to its main windows to PS Type 1 fonts and install them for local use. Any TrueType hints are lost in this process and regenerated, so the result will look visual 'good' but may differ slightly from the original. Also the process of converting TTF ('cubic') spline functions to bezier splines that are used by Type 1 fonts is only possible as approximation - however a close one. So if you need best results use Type 1 fonts with PStill.

For the TTF to Type 1 conversion you need to supply a 'PostScript' name, this is the name used in the input job to reference the font. The log can tell you which fonts are missing in a job, you can use these to get knowledge about the names you need to supply here. Keep in mind that font names are case sensitive.

On Linux you might want to use ttf2pt1.

PStill also understands TrueType fonts when found already embedded inside a PS/PDF job (which codes them as so called Type 42 font, or embedded TrueType), be sure to turn on Level 2 processing for this to work.

A word of advise - your font license agreement might not allow to use them with PStill - please check first.

How can I install PostScript fonts as PFB (Printer font binary) fonts with PStill?

(PFB files are the ones used by e.g. Adobe TypeManager, PostScript printers or similar)
Just drag and drop them onto PStills main window or (command line version) copy them to the PSFonts folder. Don't forget to let PStill recalculate its font metrics otherwise the freshly installed fonts can not be found.

Can I use PostScript PFA (Printer font ascii) fonts?

(PFA files are PS fonts and mostly used on UNIX-alike systems, e.g. Linux)
Yes, you can. Type 1 or Type 3 as you like.

Can I install my old NeXTSTEP/OpenStep fonts?

NeXTSTEP fonts are in fact directories with the naming scheme 'FONTNAME.font'. Just look inside and use the file 'FONTNAME' which is a PFA file, leaving the 'FONTNAME.afm' alone as PStill does not need AFMs or PFMs metric files for it does generate its own font metric information directly.

DVIPS PS jobs with bitmap fonts are not converted using Type 1?

PStill 1.6 can now autoconvert PS jobs created by DVIPS that use DVIPS bitmap fonts. Such fonts may otherwise cause large PDF results, long conversion times and poor viewing quality, see e.g. this link for more information on the topic. If the process does not work:

  • Check if you have turned on the option (see font options)
  • Check if you have installed the needed Type 1 variants (consult the log)
  • Check if the font name are the same case (for they are case sensitive)
  • Chances are the your DVIPS generated job does not contain the needed (by the replacement mechanism) comments to identify the font. Sorry, but in this case PStill cannot replace as it simply does not know the font names. See the log to check if PStill identifies the fonts.

The information in this document is given in the hope to be useful but without any warranty or guarantee of correctness. All trademarks mentioned are the respective property of their owners and are used for identification purpose only. In particular Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Acrobat Reader, TypeManager, Distiller, PostScript and others are trademarks or registered trademarks of Adobe, Inc. This web page or its contents has no connections with Adobe Inc. or Adobe products.

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