09 Aug

Ain’t no party like a barcode party…

Barcode Party!

Our macOS barcode creation app “Barcode Basics” hit an important milestone today. Since it’s release in late 2013, it’s now sold over 2,500 copies.

Our vision was to make a barcode app that was affordable to the masses, yet still produced barcodes good enough for packaging, publishing etc.

Five years later and Barcode Basics has matured nicely and is being used on a daily basis by freelance graphic designers, publishers and printers around the world. It’s still the only barcode app we’re aware of that ships with Automator actions as standard.

We’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to every last one of our users, to assure you that we will continue to develop and support the app. Now to figure out what exactly a barcode party entails…

15 May

Using Automator to convert Pages to PDF

Recently we were asked how to use Automator to convert Apple Pages documents into PDFs. In the spirit of sharing the knowledge, here’s how we did it.

It’d be great to make an app which we could drop our Pages files on and have them made into PDFs. The obvious way to make such an app is with Automator. Unfortunately, Pages doesn’t ship with Automator actions (although there are some funky third party options)

Luckily, Pages is AppleScriptable so we can make our own action. Let’s look at how to do that.

First, launch Automator (you’ll find it in your Mac’s Applications folder). Select “Application”.

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 13.19.38

Next, drag a “Run AppleScript” workflow into your workflow so you have something that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 13.20.06

Replace all the purple text in the action with the following AppleScript:

on run {input, parameters}

repeat with theFile in input
tell application "Finder"
set theFilesFolder to (folder of theFile) as text
end tell

tell application "Pages"
set theDoc to open theFile

set theDocName to name of theDoc
set theName to (characters 1 thru -7 of theDocName) as text
export theDoc as PDF to file ((theFilesFolder & theName & ".pdf") as text)

close theDoc

end tell
end repeat
return input
end run

Save the workflow and you should now have an app that you can drop Pages documents on.

Note that it’s up to you to make sure that the documents you drop actually are Pages documents – the script doesn’t check and may error if you drop the wrong type of documents.

On a related note, if you’d rather dodge the AppleScripting all together then you could try out our handy Pages Automator Actions.

While we have your attention… why not check out our macOS apps?

Barcode Basics – macOS barcode generator (including Automator support)
Ai Actions – Automator action pack for Adobe Illustrator
Pages Automator Actions – Automator action pack for Pages

09 May

Backing up a folder on macOS with rsync

Terminal

Quite often we’re asked how to keep a backup folder in sync with a work in progress folder. There are many possible solutions apps and third party solutions out there, but its quite easy to set up a rough, homespun backup solution. All you need is a little command line wizardry using something called rsync.

Syncing with rsync

First, lets imagine we have two folders on our desktop. One is called WIP, which contains all my work in progress. The other is called Backup which is where I’d like to keep a backup of all my WIP.

Open up a Terminal window (you’ll find Terminal in /Applications/Utilities) and type:

rsync -av --delete

Don’t hit return yet! Next, drag the WIP folder onto your Terminal to get the path to your folder. Add a slash to the end of it. You should have something like this:

rsync -av --delete /Users/YourUserName/Desktop/WIP/

Don’t hit return yet! Of course, the path will be different on your Mac – don’t worry about it. Next, drag the Backup folder onto the Terminal. You should now have something like this:

rsync -av --delete /Users/YourUserName/Desktop/WIP/ /Users/YourUserName/Desktop/Backup

Now you can hit return! You should find that the contents of WIP are copied to Backup. If you run the command a second time, nothing will happen. This is the beauty of rsync. It’s smart enough to only copy files from WIP if an identical copy doesn’t already exist in Backup. Our “–delete” option means that anything in in Backup that’s NOT in WIP gets deleted.

Of course, your backup folder can be anywhere – on an external drive or even on a remote server.

Scheduling

There are a number of ways to make this rsync command run a schedule. You could run it via a scheduled Automator action, via cron using something like Cronnix, or (my favourite) using a Launch Agent.

Have fun with your new backup command!

While we have your attention… why not check out our macOS apps?

Barcode Basics – macOS barcode generator (including Automator support)
Ai Actions – Automator action pack for Adobe Illustrator
Pages Automator Actions – Automator action pack for Pages

09 May

How to split PDF into PNG files in OS X

One pdf to multiple png files

We were asked recently how to split a PDF file into PNG files on Mac OS X. That’s to say, if the PDF has five pages then you’d want five PNG files produced, one for each page. Here are some options:

Adobe Acrobat
If you have Adobe Acrobat (not to be confused with the free Acrobat Reader) then you an simply open the PDF and select File>Save As and select “PNG”. However, Acrobat is expensive for what it is and there are some free alternatives such as…

PROs: Very easy to do
CONs: Acrobat Pro is expensive and probably not worth the price if this is all you’ll ever use it for.

Third party website
Probably the easiest way is to use a web site such as pdf2png.com. Whilst I’m sure they’re a reputable site and we’ve used them successfully in the past, its always worth thinking twice before uploading anything that may be confidential to a third party site.

PROs: Also very easy
CONs: Can be slow if you need to upload a big pdf. Think about security.

ImageMagick
If you’re comfortable on the command line then you can use ImageMagick to do the heavy lifting. If you don’t have it installed already then we recommend using the installer from Cactus Labs.

Once you have ImageMagick installed, you can fire up the Terminal and use a command like:

convert ~/Desktop/myfile.pdf ~/Desktop/myfile.png

…and ImageMagick should do the rest, including sequentially naming the files. Don’t forget to change the paths to the documents to your own!

PROs: Completely free. Also ImageMagick has lots of other uses if you work with graphics. It’s worth having in your arsenal! For extra credit, you can even get ImageMagick working through Apple’s Automator to build your own custom workflow.
CONs: You need to be reasonably comfortable with using the Terminal.

There are plenty of other ways, but these are the ones that work best in our experience. Let us know if you’ve found any better ways!

While we have your attention… why not check out our macOS apps?

Barcode Basics – macOS barcode generator (including Automator support)
Ai Actions – Automator action pack for Adobe Illustrator
Pages Automator Actions – Automator action pack for Pages

03 May

Automating HTML to PDF conversion on OS X

Ever wondered how to convert a big batch of html files into PDFs?

Well, you *could* open each html file in the web browser of your choice and save/print it as a PDF. However, that’s going to take a long time for a big batch. One fun way you can do it in macOS is by creating an Automator service to do the donkey work for you. Let’s take a look at how to do that.

First, launch Automator (you’ll find it in your Mac’s Applications folder) and create a Service document (NB. Click any of the screen shots here to enlarge them).

Create Automator Service

Next, set the services input options as shown below.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 14.09.55

Next drag in a Run Shell Script action. Make sure you set it’s “Pass input” option to “as arguments” – that’s important! This lets us pass the files we select as an input to the shell script.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 14.10.33

Change it’s contents to:

for theFileToProcess in "$@"
do
cupsfilter "$theFileToProcess" > "${theFileToProcess%.*}.pdf"
done

And save it as “HTML 2 PDF”, or whatever makes sense to you. Now it should look like this:

Run Shell Script options

Now, if you select a one (or more!) HTML files in in Finder whilst holding your control key down, you should be able to find the service you just created under “Services”. as shown below. Select it and you’ll run the shell script on all the files you selected!

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 14.13.29

Note that this will work best on fairly simple html – if you have heaps of JavaScript, movies etc in your html then the PDFs may not be great. However, its a handy quick way of taking some of the pain out of converting html to pdf.

While we have your attention… why not check out our macOS apps?

Barcode Basics – macOS barcode generator (including Automator support)
Ai Actions – Automator action pack for Adobe Illustrator
Pages Automator Actions – Automator action pack for Pages

14 Mar

Still the best AppleScript IDE

Script Debugger - AppleScript

Many moons ago, I was a humble (well, humble-ish) Graphic Designer at a small print shop. My life was made a misery by all the routine, time-consuming non-graphic design stuff I had to do in the course of the day. Stepping up business cards for output, exporting a stack of Illustrator files as PDFs, zipping and uploading files to FTP sites… it was a pain.

Sure, I’d heard of AppleScript and tried my hand at it but I just couldn’t make head nor tail of the scripting dictionaries. And when stuff wasn’t working I had no idea why not.

That all changed when I got my hands on a copy of Script Debugger from Late Night Software. I’ve been recommending it to would-be AppleScripters ever since. It gave a nice view of applications’ dictionaries and they suddenly made sense. It made debugging so much easier and I was actually able to figure out why my scripts weren’t working… most of the time anyway.

Over ten years on and I still use it on the (admittedly rare) occasions when I dip my toes into AppleScript, and I’d be lost without it. Script Debugger is still going strong and it looks like the latest release brings some cool new features and a stripped down free version.

If you have an interest in scripting/automation on macOS, do yourself a favour and get a copy of Script Debugger.

Of course, if you don’t want to get your hands dirty with scripting, you can talk to us about custom scripting. No job too small! Click here for more info.

NB. We’re not affiliated with Late Night Software in any way – we’re just big fans of their product.

30 Jan

Are you an Adobe Illustrator drudge?

Automator actions for Adobe Illustrator

If you’re a regular user of Adobe Illustrator then you probably find yourself doing more than your fair share of drudge work. Here’s a way of avoiding some of it…

Drudge work comes in many forms, for example gathering all those linked images together ready to send your files for printing. Or opening a large number of files, saving each one as a PDF and uploading them to an FTP site. The sort of stuff you never really signed up for when you decided to become a graphic designer or artworker.

Of course, you could teach yourself AppleScript and write your own scripts to automate your workflow. But who’s got time to learn AppleScript? Or you could hire an AppleScript expert. Or you could invest in technologies like Automation Engine from ESKO, but the price tag puts those options beyond the budget of many freelancers and many small businesses.

This is where our product Ai Actions comes in. It adds support for Adobe Illustrator to Apple’s workflow software, Automator. If you can drag and drop then you can create your own automatic workflows to automate Illustrator and integrate with other apps too such as Mail, Preview etc. You can even save your workflows as apps.

A sample action fro Ai Actions
Click here to see how to use Ai Actions to create a simple workflow in Automator.

If you want to try your hand at automating Adobe Illustrator then why not download the demo version of Ai Actions from here:

Ai Actions DEMO

…the demo version contains a small selection of the actions available in the full version which contains over 20 useful actions and is available from the Mac App Store.

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29 Jan

Scan barcodes from your Mac’s screen

We’ve relaunched an old favourite app, Onscreen Barcode Scanner this month with an update for macOS Sierra and High Sierra.

Onscreen Barcode Scanner allows you to scan barcodes displayed on your Mac’s screen and see the number they encode. Using it is as easy as taking a screen shot! It makes a ideal partner to our flagship barcode product Barcode Basics.

Onscreen Barcode Scanner’s main use is in packaging artwork so designers can check that the bars on the code actually match the displayed digits. It’s a great way of catching hard to spot barcode errors.

We’d had to take Onscreen Barcode Scanner offline to do some work on it to make it compatible and it took longer than we thought. Apologies for that. It’s now back up and running, and the update is free through the Mac App Store for existing users. Hope you find it useful!


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07 Nov

We’re launching Priority Support Subscriptions!

All users get free support for Ghostotter products. However, we understand that our software is business-critical for some users and they need a faster support response than other users.

If that sounds like you then you might want to consider purchasing a priority support subscription (PSS). A PSS enhances the support options for your product with the following benefits:

A faster response
We always try to respond to support requests as quickly as possible. However, some users need a super-fast response. With a PSS, we will respond to your support request within 1 working day. (Normal response time is within 3 days).

A dedicated support contact
You will have a dedicated member of the Ghostotter development team who will be your first point of contact should you need help. NB. Contact will be via email and in English.

Priority support
Support requests from users with a PSS will be dealt with ahead of other support requests.

Priority development requests
Development requests (e.g. new feature requests) from users with a PSS will be prioritised ahead of other development requests. Be aware that not all development requests will be accepted.

More Info

20 Oct

The case of the elusive “℮”

Recently, I needed to choose a font on macOS which would support Russian and also the character “℮”. You can often find the ℮ character next to the weight/volume on packaging e.g. 150ml . It indicates that the value is estimated.

How did I figure that out? Luckily, I remembered one of our lesser known apps called Fonty, which was designed for exactly this kind of situation. Here’s what I did…

Firstly, launch Fonty and uncheck every language except Russian. Hey presto, we now have a list of fonts that contain all the glyphs required for the Russian language.

That’s great, but not all of these will have a glyph for the “℮” character. We need to filter out the fonts that don’t support it. This is where Fonty’s custom character sets come in. We select Preferences and click “Add” to add a new character set adding just the “℮”. Right there at the bottom, see?

Having closed the preferences window, I can now see my new character imaginatively called “℮”. If I select it *and* Russian, I can now see a list of all fonts installed on my Mac which support Russian and the ℮ character.

Of course, I could have just added the ℮ to my Russian character set. The beauty of doing it the way shown above is that you can select the ℮ in combination with other character sets. So for example, if you wanted to find out which fonts support Czech and ℮ then you’d just need to select Czech instead of Russian.

In conclusion, Fonty lets you choose the right font to use for the characters you need to support. You can get your copy from the Mac App Store!

Mac Font Repertoire checker validate validator