MarkzScout

On the production side of a magazine, there is always an uneasy tension between art directors and production editors: the first make the pages look good, the latter make them work technically. For instance, there is little point having a fabulous Photoshop-created graphic if it is left in RGB mode, and ends up being printed in greyscale! QuarkXPress’s Collect for Output facility will not pick up such problems in EPS files, and while the various preflighting programs alert you to such anomalies, they don’t correct them – until MarkzScout. Single engine
Using its proprietary MarkzONE engine, Markzware has built on the reputation and experience gained through FlightCheck to create a program that can inspect files, subject them to relevant criteria and route them through a workflow system. MarkzScout uses an object-oriented flowchart, termed a ‘layout’, with checkpoints that query aspects of a file to decide which of two paths it will follow, and actionpoints, where data is changed according to a ‘rule’. In terms of input and output, MarkzScout uses ‘hot’ folders – mirror images of actual folders residing on your hard disk. For instance, image files provided by some clients may be in JPEG format – a simple layout with an input folder and a single checkpoint will weed these out and place them in an output folder. The extra step
Taking this a step further, MarkzScout can link into the actions side of Photoshop 5. So, the checkpoint above could send all JPEG images to Photoshop, convert them into EPS or TIFF files and then place them in the output folder along with all non-JPEG files that were sent there directly. The various arrowed paths are colour-coded – blue from an input hot folder, red and green for ‘yes’ and ‘no’ from checkpoints, and so on. When a layout is run, a file’s path is tracked by turning each path yellow in colour. Most native pre-press applications are supported, including XPress, PageMaker, FreeHand and Illustrator, along with numerous file formats – including TIFF, EPS, PDF and HTML. Additionally, FlightCheck can be plumbed into the system.

OUR VERDICT

MarkzScout is a very powerful tool – and complex to use if you need to create rules from scratch. Fortunately, it comes preconfigured with a library of some 300 rules, layouts and scripts that cover most eventualities, with more to follow on the Markzware Web site. It’s certainly not a cheap option, and, as such, is likely to appeal only to larger institutions at present. But anyone controlling a busy production environment would be well advised to investigate MarkzScout – and there’s a 14-day full trial with a 145-page tutorial on September Macworld’s cover-mounted CD.

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