Easy fill-in-the-blanks automation

Pairing the right products can easily give you “fill-in-the-blanks” automation. The correct team of automation software can have you up and running right after install and have you on your way to a very fast return on investment. One set of products that provides a large set of customizable tools right out of the box is Enfocus SWITCH 10 with the Callas PDFToolbox 5 plug-ins. Although together both products have hundreds of features and ways to customize automated workflows, the fill-in-the-blanks automation that is available is what will get you hooked right away.

Of the four major plug-in elements for FullSWITCH and PowerSWITCH, Callas PDFToolbox has an “actions” element that contains a long list of pre-made tasks for customization. Each element brought into the workflow has simple to follow instructions and measurements that allow choice of units for each instance. One workflow can process files using millimetres, centimetres, inches and points all at the same time.

The “Actions N-Up” and “Step and Repeat” both offer cut marks, gutters, customizable sheet size and vertical and horizontal positioning. PDF goes in and comes out the way you want it to on the other end. This is a handy way to change the size of your PDF and position the image with marks where you want them. Use it for creating plate-sized PDFs, positioning images and adding marks. This is a perfect start to automating any CTP workflow.

The “Action Overlay” allows you to overlay your own custom marks on a PDF. After your plate PDF has been created using N-Up, pass it to the second action and overlay your custom colour bars and plate density bars. The Overlay can be set to work on every page of a multiple page PDF and the PDFToolbox Actions are dynamic, meaning that you can choose the type of PDF mark set you want to overlay based on the information about the file. Plate size and job type are examples of how to customize your workflow.

Other helpful actions like “Split In Half” which creates singles from spreads, and “Save As Image” which takes every page of a PDF and saves as a single JPEG or PNG, are just as easy to use as the other actions in PDFToolbox.

The actions are plugged into SWITCH. This makes the automated workflow work from start to finish. SWITCH (FullSWITCH or PowerSWITCH) is a complete automation platform and provides communication at the start (hot folders, FTP, email, HTTP) to bring in files, sorts them, passes them to the actions they require and then takes control of the file and directs them to the proper RIP, press, CTP device, proofer, etc. SWITCH has elements that perform actions as well. Three elements that manipulate PDF files without the use of Acrobat are Merge PDF, Split PDF, and Add PDF.

Merge PDF does just that, a folder of PDF files goes in, one PDF file comes out. Split PDF has customized naming of split files so they can be numbered, lettered and renamed after being placed in their own folder. Add PDF is a favorite, adding a PDF file at the beginning and one at the end. This one is great for job tickets and slipsheets in digital workflows. Remember after these Actions are completed, SWITCH is still in control of the final product and can direct it to the next task at hand.

The SWITCH Sort element allows you to name connections and the sort element will pick up the information from the file and send it along the correct path. Simply explained, a PDF plate can be directed to the folder for the CTP device it needs to go to based on the size of the plate. The Sort element will direct it using the size information in the document. SWITCH provides variables to use. There are several lists to choose from: Job Info, like its name, size, and where it came from; or Document Info, like program or author.

This is just a sampling of what is available as soon as you install SWITCH and Callas PDFToolbox. There are hundreds of ways to customize workflows using these two programs and all of them have the easy fill-in-the-blanks setup. They also support JDF, XML, variables and javascript, but it is nice to know that we can start off easy right away and learn more along the way. The return on investment begins with the first flow created, and it does not take long to get hooked on automation when it is this easy.

For more information on Enfocus SWITCH and Callas PDF Toolbox, go to www.crossroads-world.com, or www.tribay.ca.