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

05 Jun

New! Automator actions for Pages

We’re pleased to announce a new tool to help you automate Apple’s Pages app using Automator workflows. Pages Automator Actions allows you to create workflows, apps, droplets and services to make those repetitive, time consuming tasks go like a breeze.

Whether it’s batch exporting documents to ePubs or PDFs, or finding and replacing text in the body text of a collection of documents, the handy actions can save you time and effort.

Of course, since Pages Automator Actions works with Automator, no knowledge of AppleScript or any other type of coding is necessary. If you can drag and drop then that’s all you need to know.

Included actions are:

• Open document(s)
• Close document(s)
• Export as ePub
• Export as PDF (with optional password protection)
• Export as formatted text (rtf)
• Export as unformatted text (txt)
• Export as MS Word (doc)
• Find and replace text (body text of word processing documents only)
• Make new document
• Save document(s)

Why not get your copy today and start automating Pages the easy way, for only $12.50*

* or near local currency equivalent

25 May

Illustrator Automator Actions: Demo Available

Illustrator Automator Actions

Good news! We’ve made a trial version of Ai Actions available for download so you can give it a test drive before buying. Ai Actions gives you a set of handy Illustrator Automator Actions which you can use to create your own workflows and even apps to automate your work. And the best thing is that you don’t need to write a line of code! If you can drag and drop, you can create a workflow.

NB. The demo version contains 4 sample actions. The full version contains 18 actions.

Click here to download demo

Less donkey work, more creativity!

Lets imagine you have a hundred Illustrator artworks and you need to open each, delete any empty text frames, convert all the text to outlines and save as a JPEG and a PDF. Normally you’d have to do that by hand. Using Ai Actions and Automator you can create a workflow to do this automatically saving you heaps of time. And more importantly, letting you concentrate on the creative stuff instead of the boring donkey-work.

A simple Automator workflow using Ai Actions to automate Adobe Illustrator

A simple Automator workflow using Ai Actions to automate Adobe Illustrator

Why use Automator?

The advantage of Automator is that you can use functionality from many other apps in your workflow. So, for example, if you wanted to email the PDFs created by your workflow then you can harness the power of Mail.app to do that for you.

The trial version has only four Automator actions whereas the full version contains 18. There are some tips for getting to grips with Automator here:

Getting to grips with Automator
Creating a simple workflow with Ai Actions

Where can I get the full version?

The full version of Ai Actions is available from the Mac App Store. Get automating today!

Illustrator Actions for Automator, Automator Actions, Automator Illustrator Actions

23 May

Learning Automator

Automator is a really easy way of building workflows, apps, services and hot folders and requires little or no programming knowledge. Once you’ve mastered it, you can automate all sorts of things on your Mac to save you time and remove the drudge work.

Automator is built into every reasonably recent Mac running Mac OS X. However, few people know its there or use it… any they’re missing out! If you’d like to know more then there are some really good tutorials here:


One of the big frustrations for those of us in the design industry is that there are no Automator actions provided with Adobe Illustrator. However, that’s where our app Ai Actions comes in. It provides many actions for Illustrator allowing you to make Automator workflows to automate common artwork tasks.

Check out Ai Actions at the Apple App Store:

Illustrator Actions for Automator, Automator Actions, Automator Illustrator Actions

04 Apr

Automating barcodes on macOS using a service

Many years ago now, I was the office barcode expert – in as much as I was the only person with a copy of any barcode creation software. Colleagues would email me frequently with lists of barcodes they wanted me to create for them. Sometimes the numbers would be in a Word file, sometimes an email, sometimes a text file – you name it.

If only there was a way I could just highlight the text and make barcodes. Well, in those days, there wasn’t but luckily now we have Barcode Basics. In this tutorial I’m going to show you how use Barcode Basics to create a Service in Automator to create barcodes from selected text.

NB. You can click any of the screen shots to enlarge.

1. Launch Automator
Make sure you’ve launched Barcode Basics at least once – that’s what installs the action we’re about to use. Next, launch Automator. You’ll find it in your Applications folder.

2. Create a new service
Click the “Service” option to make a new service.

Services appear under the File menu of many apps in macOS, including Finder and allow you to add functionality from other applications.

In our example, we’ll be adding functionality from Barcode Basics to any app capable of understanding text. So, make sure you set the settings up as follows.

2. Configure your barcode settings
Drag the “Make Barcode” action from the Actions library (the list on the left hand side of your Automator window) into your workflow and configure as necessary.

3. Make a new email
Next, drag a “New Mail Message” action (from “Mail” in your actions library) into your workflow. You can configure as much or as little in the “New Mail Message” action as you like. I’ve configured the subject and body.

4. Save the service
Next, press cmd-S to save your service and give it an appropriate name

5. Give it a test!
If you open any kind of text file (e.g. a Word file, a TextEdit file) you should now be able to see your action under its File>Services menu. Simply select the barcode numbers (which must be one per line), then run your action by selecting it in the Services menu. You should get an email with the generated barcodes as attachments.

I hope this demonstrated just how easy it is to create a service to generate barcodes and add them to an email. Automation with Barcode Basics and Apple’s Automator software really couldn’t be easier. And, of course, you can use Barcode Basics as a stand alone barcode generator too if you prefer.

I sure wish I had this back in my days as office barcode expert! If you haven’t given Barcode Basics a try yet, check it out at the Mac App Store.

Link to Mac App Store to purchase Barcode Basics - Mac barcode software

03 Apr

Creating a simple Automator workflow to make barcodes

In this tutorial, we’re going to create a very simple Automator workflow to create barcodes from user input. In future tutorials we’ll look at more advanced methods, but for now, lets keep things simple. You’re going to need a relatively recent version of macOS and an installed copy of Barcode Basics (that you’ve launched at least once!) if you want to follow along with this.

NB. You can click on any of these screen shots to enlarge them.

1. Launch Automator
Automator comes free with macOS and can be found in your Mac’s Applications folder. Launch Automator and create a new workflow.

2. Get some user input
Drag an “Ask for Text” action into your workflow. If you have trouble finding it, type “ask” into the search field to narrow down the options. Note that’s what I’ve done in the pic below.

3. Drag in a “Make Barcode” action
Drag in a “Make Barcode” user action. Again, if you have trouble finding it, type “Make Barcode” into the search field. If you can’t find it, it may be because you haven’t launched Barcode Basics – the actions get installed when it’s first run (if this is the case, quit Automator, launch Barcode Basics then start again). Your workflow should now look something like this.

You can configure the barcode settings as required. Note that the settings (e.g. BWR) apply to all barcodes made with this workflow.

4. Move the resulting files
Initially your files will be created in your Documents folder, in a sub folder called “Barcode Basics”. You should move them out of there to their required location to avoid that folder slowly growing in size. The “Move Finder Items” action is a good choice for this.

5. Run the workflow!
Press the “Run” button in your Automator workflow to generate barcodes! Enter a new one on each line to generate multiple barcodes.

This is an extremely basic example of creating an Automator workflow using Barcode Basic’s Automator action. In coming tutorials, we’ll look at creating a an Automator app, service and some more complicated workflows.

Naturally, you can still use Barcode Basics as a stand alone app. However, I hope this demonstrates how easy it is to automate barcode production. If I’ve sparked your interest then head over to the Mac App Store to pick up your copy!

Link to Mac App Store to purchase Barcode Basics - Mac barcode software

16 Mar

macOS Sierra: Export PDFs from Pages using AppleScript

It appears that macOS Sierra introduces a bug in Pages which means that you get a sandbox/permissions related error when trying to export a PDF using AppleScript.

Hopefully, Apple will fix it soon. However, until then, here’s a workaround (see sample below in a handler suitable for Automator).

The idea is to take advantage of the fact that the Pages file is a package (in effect, a folder) and temporarily save the PDF there, having done that, we move it to its correct location using the Finder. Scruffy, but it works.

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
set thePDFPath to ((theFile as text) & theName & ".pdf") as text
export theDoc to thePDFPath as PDF
close theDoc

end tell

tell application "Finder"
move file thePDFPath to folder theFilesFolder with replacing
end tell

end repeat

end run

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

16 Feb

Making shell scripts more user friendly

We were recently asked whether it was possible to copy all the files that contain some variable text from Folder A into Folder B as part of an Automator workflow on Mac OS X.

Our solution demonstrated a nice way of using Automator as a way to gather information from a user and pass it to a shell script. It’s handy because many users feel intimidated by the Terminal, but are happy to run an Automator action. Here’s what we did…

First, let’s assume that we have two folders on our desktop. One is called “Source” and the other called “Dest”. If we wanted to copy all files whose name contains “Xxx” from Source to Dest then we could fire up the Terminal and do:

find ~/Desktop/Source -type f -name "*Xxx*" -exec cp "{}" ~/Desktop/Dest \;

The “*Xxx*” bit is where we tell the find command that we’re interested in files whose name “Xxx” with any text before or after it. You might want to read up on other options the find command has if you’re not familiar with it – it can be really useful.

However, we don’t want “Xxx”, we want the user to be able to decide what text to search for. So, let’s set up an Automator workflow and add an action to get some that text from the user…

Ask for text

Hopefully that’s straight forward. Next, we add a “Run Shell Script” action:

Run shell script

If you feel like copying and pasting, then the code is:

for f in "$@"
find ~/Desktop/Source -type f -name "*$f*" -exec cp "{}" ~/Desktop/Dest \;

That’s probably a little less straight forward! So let’s look at it a bit more closely. First, note that “pass input” is set to “as arguments”. This means that the output of the previous action is passed to our shell script as a special variable called $@.

The variable $@ could theoretically be a list, so we use a for loop to go through each item. Odds are that it’ll only ever be one item, but at least this way it’ll still work if one day it is a list. Our for loop goes through the $@ list an item at a time and executes the code between “do” and “done” once for each item in that list (the item is in a variable called $f). The code being executed should be familiar as the find command from earlier, but with $f as the search string instead of “Xxx”

So, if you run the workflow now you should be prompted to enter some text. Your source folder should be scanned for files whose name contains the text you entered, and any matching files copied to the destination folder.

You can run the workflow as it is, or save it as an Application if you prefer. Hopefully users will find this a more user friendly way of passing parameters to a shell script and exceuting it than using the Terminal.

23 Jan

Barcode Basics v4.0 released for macOS

Its hard to believe that Barcode Basics is three years old this month – where did all that time go? The anniversary coincides nicely with the release of version 4.0 of our flagship macOS barcode generator.

The main thing you’ll notice is the addition of a barcode preview window. However, Barcode Basics version 4.0 is also a complete, ground up rewrite. If you don’t notice too much of a difference then that’s a good thing – it means we got it right!

So, why rewrite? Well, we wanted to restructure the app in a way that would make it easier to add some cool new functionality we have planned for coming releases. If you’re interested in producing batches of barcodes then we’ll have some pleasant surprises for you.

As always, this upgrade is free for existing users of Barcode Basics.

02 Aug

Volume purchasing of software

Apple Volume Purchasing Plan

If you want to purchase software from Ghostotter e.g. Barcode Basics, Ai Auto Save etc on behalf of a business or organisation then here’s a tip. We’re hooked up with Apple’s Mac App Store, so you can take advantage of Apple’s Volume Purchasing Plan. The Volume Purchasing Plan makes it easier to purchase and distribute software in bulk for your organisation.

At the time of writing, the Volume Purchasing Plan is available in the following countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, United Kingdom, United States.

Of course, you can still purchase individual copies of our software from the Mac App Store in the usual way if you prefer.

More info on Apple’s Volume Purchasing Plan