Linux for DTP Workgroups

Warning: This article is under construction !


Choice for server platform for DTP (desktop publishing) workgroups is really hard. Wrong decision may seriously disturb production workflow, lead to time consuming and expensive migration/upgrades and seriously affect bottom line.

This article is not Linux advocacy, it is rather attempt to answer a tought question if Linux is really good for you, and if yes, for what.


First of all, we need to separate different sectors of network from each other. It is really bad idea to use one single server for corporate WEB site, accounting system database and storage for scanned images, even if your organization is relatively small. If something happens with your server machine, all activities within company will be paralyzed. Additionally, it is not secure. So, let's concentrate only on DTP-related network area.

DTP workgroups characterized by:

  • DTP is a production (and moneymaking) process, and thus, overall cost of hardware and software determined by ROI (Return on Investments), not price tag of particular product.
  • Very expensive specialized (or vertical market) applications (up to hundreds of thousands of $$$), which may be available only on particular OS (e.g. Windows NT or SUN Solaris).
  • Exceptionally high cost of stoppage and loss of data.
  • Large amount of data stored and transferred between machines. A single high-resolution scanned color separated file may be as large as 50 MB, poster-printing image around 250 - 300 MB, and printed color magazine - several gigabytes.
  • Frequent huge-capacity backups and archival.

In turn, servers for DTP/Repro workgroups fall into the following categories (important note: 1. average price quoted will include cost of particular software only without cost of server OS software and server hardware; 2. non open source UNIX variants like IBM IRIX or SUN Solaris will be referred as commercial UNIX):

  1. PostScript RIP (Raster Image Processor) for imagesetter, CTP, digital offset or high-volume digital proofer (like CreoScitex IRIS). Usually runs on Windows NT for entry-level (e.g. capstan imagesetters) devices; and on commercial UNIX. Prices start from $7,500.
  2. OPI Servers run on SUN Solaris, SGI IRIX, MacOS X (Helios, Xinet); or Windows NT (Can OPI). Prices start from $2,500 for entry-level and from $7,500 for high-end software.
  3. Digital asset management systems runs on commercial UNIX and Windows NT. In future should be available on MacOS X Server and Linux. Cost starts from $25,000.
  4. Image database may run as standalone application or as part of digital asset management system. Cost of image database server starts from several hundreds $$$ and usually run on Windows NT (entry-level) or commercial UNIX (high-end ).
  5. PostScript RIP for large-format plotters. Usually runs on Windows NT or MacOS.
  6. PostScript RIP for entry-level ink-jet proofing systems (usually A4 - A2 format ink-jet printer from Canon, Epson or HP). RIPs based on genuine Adobe PostScript Level 3 available on Windows NT and MacOS. Prices range from $100 for basic one-user RIP to $2500 and over for large number of concurrent users and big format. Satisfactory results may be obtained with GhostScript (open source PostScript Level 2 clone available on Linux and free BSD).
  7. Print server for PostScript devices like color laser or solid-ink printers. May run on any server platform because the only task it does is just collecting and forwarding PostScript jobs.
  8. File server for graphic-related data. May run on any server platform depending on preferences, particular requirements and budget.
  9. Internet server (WEB, e-mail, firewall, router). Platform choice is the same as previous.

As you can see, at this moment Linux suits only for tasks 7, 8, 9 and sometimes 6 because of lack of necessary specialized software (not because technical inferiority as server platform). Windows NT grabs the biggest piece of pie on low and mid-range, SUN Solaris and SGI IRIX on high-end, with MacOS X Server trailing behind. Taking into account very high cost of vertical market applications, price of server OS becomes not so important, so I believe situation will not change significantly anytime soon.

Continued - Linux for DTP Workgroups, part II...

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