Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cool Tool: Booklet Creator

Sorry to delay the Arnica news, but I've been busy this weekend with my day job (Technical Writer for various Oil & Gas companies) and I needed a specific tool for a specific job that might actually have some use in game development.

Sometimes I need to create Saddle-Stitched Booklets for game props or prototypes. Now, a saddle-stitched book is basically a magazine. It's a set of pages stapled in the middle and folded like in this picture.

It's called a "Saddle Stitch" because it looks kind of like a saddle when you hold it up by the spine it bows out a saddle. It's nothing particularly special, but the pages need to be arranged in a specific order to get the booklet to print correctly. Here's how the pages normally look, one after the other:

In this case, I made the odd-numbered pages blue so they will stand out more in the next picture. As you can see above, this is nice, normal and orderly. The pages are perfect for when you're printing the pages to staple together in the upper-right corner, but not so great when you need a booklet. Booklets have a special page order so that they will print correctly. Take a look at what I mean below. 

Pages organized like this
are called SPREADS
To make an 8-page booklet, you need two sheets of paper. When folded in half, that yields 8 pages because there are two pages per side of paper (2 x 2 x 2). This is also why all magazines MUST have page counts that can be divided by 4. If you ever think you've found a saddle-stitched document that is not divisible by 4, then you've probably miscounted because you're letting the cover or a "blank" page throw you off. This is one of those laws of physical reality: Unless you have tipped in a page and are holding it in place with glue or some other odd technique, then you MUST have a page count based on the number 4.

 It all makes sense if you look at them spread out below -- when you do you can see that this is a little more complicated than just putting the pages out and hoping they will fall into the correct order.

The Right Tool for the Right Job
Reordering the pages and resizing them in something I can do easily if I'm printing from a hgh-end page design program like InDesign or QuarkXPress. Both of these are industry-leading tools and have those tools built right in. These are great time-savers when I use those programs to create my documents.

But what if I'm using Microsoft Word or PowerPoint? Most of the time I just fall back on the "Booklet Setting" built right into my printer. It's a great little feature in my Brother 4070-CDW color laser printer. BUT, it resizes the pages when it does it, usually by shrinking them. This is great for proofs, but not something I need to take to a print shot.

For this one task, I found a great little tool that I wanted to mention: Booklet Creator. This is a simple application that does one thing and one thing only: It does the following:
  • It takes an existing PDF document
  • Resizes the pages if needed
  • Reorders the pages (definitely needed) 
  • Outputs the finished spreads so you can print them at home or professionally
This program has only one screen as an interface. You pick your input file, make a few minor decisions like page range or or output page size (I left it on auto for my first job and it guessed correctly that I wanted to take my 5.5 x 8.5 inch pages and output them to a single sheet of 8.5 x 11 letter-size paper).

In other words, this program is a one-trick pony. It does one thing, but from what I've seen, it does it VERY well. If you read this review and are thinking that you can't picture when you would use this program, then you're right: You won't use it and you won't need it. But, if you're reading this and are thinking this sounds like something you might be interested in, then you're probably doing some print jobs where this will come in handy. If you're in the latter camp, I suggest getting this. It does what it says it does and at a very reasonable price.

This program is available for both Windows and Macs. I'm running it on Win7 64-bit. Get it for only $19.95 from the publisher: http://bookletcreator.com/  I downloaded the trial (which only does a 16-page sample document, but does not add any watermarks or text that I could see). I bought it and was e-mailed the registration/unlock code in less than 5 minutes.

By the way, if you're interested in how to saddle-stitch a booklet without a long-reach stapler, I wrote instructions about that for Mike's Workbench over at the Hawgleg Website: http://hawgleg.com/columns_detail.asp?CatID=2&ColID=67

See you back here on Thursday, amigos!

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