Plug-Ins and XTensions: InDesign Scripting, Photoshop Compositing, Acrobat Layering
- InDesign Prepress Scripts
Chris Paveglio's ID Prepress Scripts ($5) is a set of InDesign AppleScripts that automate several prepress and production functions such as converting colors to CMYK, unlinking Master Page items, converting single pages to spreads and more. Installation instructions are included with the installer.
PictureManager for InDesign
Slendro Solutions' PictureManager ($99) is a plug-in for InDesign that adds several useful picture-managing capabilities. You can search for pictures on your Mac or your network and drag them onto your document page from the results. It shows the complete path to any picture, unlike InDesign's limited path display. It also shows the image size, effective ppi, file type, and color space, and can update picture links, collect linked pictures, and reveal pictures in the Finder.
Easy Variable Printing
XMPie's uDirect ($2,500) is a remarkable plug-in for InDesign that lets you assign variable data and images to any text or picture box in an InDesign document. The remarkable thing about it is its ease of use, even though it provides tremendously flexible features. Its interface is a simple palette that lists every field in a text file exported from a database. You select a word, phrase, sentence or a picture box in your document, then click on a field in the palette to assign that field to the text or picture box. It gets more interesting from there: you can assign conditionals to each item, so that, for example, a different picture or text appears when one of the data fields equals a particular value or is within a range of values. So, a different picture or text (discount amount, special offer, etc.) can appear according to a person's gender, age, spending history, etc.
Previewing is easy: just click through the records in the palette to instantly see each customized document. Text or text boxes can automatically resize according to content, to prevent overflow. Layers can automatically change visibility according to field values. And all of this can be easily understood and used by an average designer. We're very impressed by its ease of use.
When your document is complete, you can export it in several formats, including PDF, PostScript, and native formats for high-volume printers. You can also connect to XMPie's advanced PersonalEffect to access capabilities such as multiple database connections, cross-media output (personalized Web page, coupon, email, etc.), Web-to-Print deployment and higher-volume printing.
See a WebEx demo at www.xmpie.com/udirect/demo
- Instant Charts & Graphs in InDesign or QuarkXPress
Soft Horizons' Chartbot ($995) creates 2D and 3D charts and graphs on the fly from data in your document. Its most powerful use is in combination with any variable-data formatting plug-in or XTension such as InData, XData, InCatalog, Xcatalog, DesignMerge or uDirect, to create custom charts as the document is printed or exported to PDF. It works like this: you import a chart placeholder into a picture box in your document, then place a non-printing text box on top of it. The data in the text box is used to build the chart. If that data comes from a variable-data merging solution, then the chart is automatically built from the source database. Chartbot supports many kinds of charts, including bar, line, area and pie charts, all of which may be customized in any way you like.
- Step-And-Repeat for Flexography
Wriston Development's FlexoStep ($300) is a plug-in for Illustrator or FreeHand that automates the process of distorting and arranging multiple copies of artwork for printing labels and containers using flexography.
- Much Faster Image Compositing
When pasting a new object or person into an existing image, it's difficult to defringe the edges and match the background's color and lighting. A new Photoshop plug-in, AKVIS' Chameleon ($69), makes this a much more efficient and successful process. Your initial selection of the object can be quite rough (no need to accurately trace its edges). Once pasted, Chameleon realistically blends the edges into the new background and adjusts the object's color to match the background. See their website for dozens of impressive examples and a free 10-day trial. It's quite amazing.
- Create & Control Layers in PDFs
Callas Software's pdfLayerMaker 1.0 ($90) is a plug-in for Adobe Acrobat 6 or 7 that lets you create layers within PDF documents. With it, you can assign page objects to layers, making it easy to print specific objects instead of all objects (such as fold marks, cutting marks, etc.).
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