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Automation Without Sticker Shock

(January 2007) posted on Wed Jan 03, 2007

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

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By Stephen Beals

One of the keys to many of the big-ticket workflow products is workflow automation, but I’m now beginning to see a migration of automation tools to the lower end of the spectrum as well. That’s a welcome relief to those shops needing to increase efficiency without incurring sticker shock.

Some of these new tools come in the form of features that have been added to programs that many of us have been working with for years. For instance, it’s now fairly simple to build a little script in Photoshop CS2 that can tackle some pretty nifty things (Photoshop refers to its scripts as "actions"). You can use the Bridge application to automatically convert images from RGB to CMYK, change them from JPEG to TIFF, and move them to a new folder.

Another example: One of the most-requested tips in my "Prepress Trouble Shooting" course at Prepress Training Solution is adding noise to vignettes to eliminate undesirable banding. This is something else you can readily automate: Just go through the process once (while recording your moves), assign the action to a keystroke, and Photoshop will do the work for you next time.

Print-specific automation
Many prepress folk have taken the time to learn to write their own scripts. Most of us, however, have enough to learn just in keeping up with the changes in applications for print. All of which may be one reason that several software publishers have decided that there is an opportunity to create simple-to-use automation tools designed specifically for output.

some of these tools help us do things beyond the scope of the application. Apago PDF Enhancer (, for example, allows users of PDF to drop files into a folder and automatically repurpose them. You can create a high-, medium-,and low-resolution PDF from the same original (assuming you’re starting with a file of sufficient resolution). Meanwhile, Markzware’s FlightCheck ( can inspect files automatically based on whatever parameters you choose. And Callas Software ( makes a variety of products for inspecting, converting, and analyzing PDF files and for performing actions such as automatically converting RGB images to CMYK and combining or changing spot colors.