PrintTalk™ - A CIP4 product

PrintTalk is a branch of the CIP4 specifications based around the business and transactional model of automating print procurement and vending. It was developed in order to decrease timelines, improve accuracy and reduce cost in the business-related aspects of procuring and producing print jobs.  Whereas JDF/XJDF automation describes the product to be printed and its manufacturing process within the printing plant, PrintTalk extends into business process automation. This typically spans from the MIS (Management Information System) used by the printer to their customer, and if desired to the customer's procurement system. As a result it also can automate the change-order process, subcontracting, and load-balancing across multiple printing locations in enterprise-level implementations.

PrintTalk - The Business side of JDF

Simple model of relations between print buyer, print shop, and service provider

This end-to-end PrintTalk supply chain automation currently supports four common business cases.  The foundation is B2C (Business to Consumer).  Incremental additions include B2B functionality to support accelerating information flow to and from a buyer-customer's procurement system, change-order management, and/or subcontracting:

  • B2C – PrintTalk facilitates web-to-print catalog style ordering of printed products, as well as more complex RFQ (Request-for-Quote), followed by Quote, Order, Status Request, Invoicing and payment options. All without requiring duplicated data-entry of customer's requests either to, or from the printer's MIS.
  • B2B – Building on B2C functionality, in high-volume printer/customer relationships there may be a desire to extend automation connectivity between the print provider's MIS and the print-buyer's purchasing and accounts-payable systems. PrintTalk provides a simple toolset to do so, simplifying the print-buyer's task of placing orders, viewing current status, and payment.
  • Change Orders – Building on B2C functionality and best practices in the printing industry, PrintTalk supports generation of change orders, with re-quote and acceptance, whether originated by the print provider, or their customer.
  • Subcontracting – Building on B2C functionality, PrintTalk supports outsourcing of portions or all of manufacturing. Transparent status reporting can continue, while obscuring the identity of the subcontractor from the end-customer if desired.

PrintTalk has often been described as a business process "wrapper" around the JDF contents of a message.

PrintTalk® was a community formed by print management systems and e-commerce companies to define a “best practice” common and open communications interface between companies who buy printed products, and those who manufacture them. The PrintTalk® implementation supports and extends use of the broadly published, Job Definition Format (JDF) or XJDF standards and Commercial eXtensible Markup Language (cXML). The newest PrintTalk specification is recognized as integral to the XJDF standard. The PrintTalk® interface specification is distributed free of any license fees or royalties, in order to address the need for end-to-end connectivity in the printing industry.

In 2004, an agreement was reached between CIP4, PrintTalk and NPES (predecessor of today's Association for Printing Technologies) for CIP4 to both host the PrintTalk specification and the to assume its continued development, insuring seamless integration with current and evolving versions of JDF. Thus continues the close working relationship that has existed between CIP4 and PrintTalk since its inception.

PrintTalk is an XML-based, open data format used to describe commercial/business activities in the graphical industry. It is used mainly as an interface between the print buyer and the print provider. As an example, consider the interface between an external Web-to-Print system and a print provider’s MIS/ERP system. The second area of application is currently the interaction of print brokers, subcontractors and branch offices with a print provider.

PrintTalk Workflow. See PrintTalk 2.1 specification figure 6-2

The root element in a PrintTalk document has the name PrintTalk. There are two important sub-elements, the Header and the Request. The Header identifies the original sender and the recipient of the PrintTalk transaction. Note that PrintTalk is a protocol on top of HTTP. HTTP and protocols further down in the protocol stack (such as TCP/IP) are responsible for the actual routing of the PrintTalk element through the network.

The Request is just a container for a Business Object. In PrintTalk 2.1, there are 15 different Business Objects altogether (ordered alphabetically):

Cancellation, Confirmation, ContentDelivery, ContentDeliveryResponse, Invoice, OrderStatusRequest, OrderStatusResponse, ProofApprovalRequest, ProofApprovalResponse, PurchaseOrder, Quotation, Refusal, RFQ, StockLevelRequest, StockLevelResponse.

These objects can be used to model various workflows. The figure shows such an example

Please download the PrintTalk specification 2.2 here.


Moreover, here is the link to the PrintTalk Schema 2.1


The Interoperability Conformance Specification (ICS) for PrintTalk specifies the interface requirements for how  PrintTalk modules should interoperate to be compliant. The PrintTalk ICS elements are uniquely combined within the XJDF ICS.  So please follow the link below.

There are PrintTalk examples on the CIP4 Confluence website. They are available in both XML format and JSON format. Please follow the link below. Note that you have to open the files with a simple word processor if you just want to study them.



*) Please note that usage of the Confluence www site requires registration in order to access. New registrations can be created here.