User login

Automation Without Sticker Shock

(January 2007) posted on Wed Jan 03, 2007

Prepress folk can start to enjoy lower-priced workflow tools.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Stephen Beals

For QuarkXPress 7 users, there’s a suite of XTensions from Gluon ( called ProPack 7. Although not all of these are pure automation tools, the tools are certainly production-oriented-ProScale, for instance, allows you to scale entire multipage layouts, and DragIn lets you drag pictures and text files directly from the desktop.

couple of the very latest automation tools are standalone applications designed specifically for print workflows.

Enfocus (, recently purchased by Artwork Systems, has created PDF Automate, which is a product that falls somewhere between Enfocus PitStop Server and Artwork Systems Odystar. It provides a high level of automation and, while it looks a bit clunky when you start it up, it offers a great variety of automation tools. You can: set up routing; generate e-mail responses; distill, compress, and expand files; split and merge pages; preflight; and much more.

Polkadots Software ( has developed its AutomateIT product; an alpha version was previewed at Graph Expo and the full product should be available soon. Among its capabilities are: PDF distilling, splitting, merging, and file renaming. It uses hot folders for FTP upload and download and can handle preflighting, load balancing, and file-housekeeping functions (moving, copying, archiving, and deleting). AutomateIT also will interface through scripting to popular software like PitStop, Acrobat, Photoshop, and other scriptable applications.

Share your tools
Of course, I’m only presenting here a short list from the universe of automation tools that are available. We’ll hit on more of these throughout 2007.

In addition, I’d like to know what your favorite tool is. It might be an entire application, or it might be an XTension for your favorite page-layout program. It could be something you use to direct your FTP downloads to the right place or to check the file’s integrity. It might just be a few lines of script that have made a dramatic difference in your workflow. Or it could be a product that speeds up your color calibration or conversion process.

After more than three decades in this business, I’ve found that many print shops rely on tips and tricks to keep their workflow running. What might seem to be a very small idea can make a very big difference. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money-it just has to do the work when you need it.

Stephen Beals (, in prepress production for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.