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Peirce Print Tools

"OK," you may be thinking, "I read parts I and II of the QuickDraw GX article, and I now know a lot about printing with QuickDraw GX. I run five programs regularly and only one of them even supports the GX printing architecture. I’m all in favor of progress, but what’s the use of upgrading?"

Good question, and it’s one you must consider carefully.

The problems in upgrading may outweigh the benefits, unless you add a few more benefits to the QuickDraw GX mix. For example, you might use Peirce Software’s nifty new Peirce Print Tools (it works with System 7.1 and newer). Peirce Print Tools offers a collection of tools that enhance printing, and shows off GX frills and features. Of course, to use Peirce Print Tools, you must have the hardware horsepower to accommodate QuickDraw GX and be prepared to deal with the transition to GX. Peirce Print Tools comes with five disks. Four disks contain QuickDraw GX (in case you don’t already have it from System 7.5), and the fifth contains the Peirce Print Tools software along with a well-thought out collection of templates and utilities, including the GX-based utilities that normally come with System 7.5.

After installing Peirce Print Tools, you take advantage of its tools through the Print dialog box. If you print from a GX-savvy program (see Part I of the GX article in TidBITS-243), Peirce Print Tools shows up as a More Choices option, and gives you friendly, quickly-comprehensible dialog boxes for each tool. If you print from a non-GX-savvy program, when you open the Print dialog box, a Peirce Print Tools icon shows in the menu bar, and you can access different tools from the menu that drops down from the icon.

The dialog boxes are easier to use than the menu, especially when you are new to all the tools. If you use many non-GX-savvy programs, you’ll want to explore Peirce Print Tools in a GX-savvy program (you can always use SimpleText or the Finder), so you can see the dialog boxes. Once you get up and running, though, the menu shouldn’t pose problems.

Design Tools — Peirce Print Tools gets around the problem of most programs not offering features for page borders, watermarks, and fold-over pamphlets. The Border tool offers about ten possibilities – nothing super fancy or unusual, but a decent basic selection. You can’t control where on the page the border lands, so the borders may prove frustrating in certain design situations, though they do print as close to the edge as they can, given your chosen paper type.

You create watermarks with the WaterMarks tool. A watermark can print on all pages of a print job, only the first, or all but the first. You can pick among several watermarks or create your own, using text or images. You can also set the darkness of the watermark.

The Pamphlet tool helps you print a one-fold pamphlet, such that the pages print out correctly and all you have to do is to fold the pamphlet (this task becomes onerously complex without the help of something like the Pamphlet tool for all but the most spatially gifted once you get past about four pages). To use the tool, you must set your margins appropriately, as explained in the manual. The margins are not hard to set, but Peirce Print Tools also comes with pre-made pamphlet stationery files for WordPerfect 3.0, Microsoft Word 5.1, MacWrite Pro 1.5, and ClarisWorks 2.1. To use the tool and print double-sided, you still must have a few spatially alert brain cells, and the DoubleSider tool should help with longer pamphlets.

Printing Tools — Two of the tools, BackToFront and DoubleSider, help you print in reverse or print to both sides of each page. Another tool, the PaperSaver, enables you to print thumbnails, where you end up with, for example, four pages printed in reduced form on one physical page. The InkSaver tool works much like Working Software’s Toner Tuner utility (see TidBITS-175). You can set a "Savings Level" for printouts, either by selecting radio buttons for High, Medium, Low, and Very Low, or by creating a custom percentage.

Administrative Tools — Administrator types should especially like the Log tool which logs a large and flexible amount of data about each print job and can be exported as tab- or comma-delimited data. You can optionally query users for up to two items of information each time they print. Peirce Print Tools even comes with Excel and FileMaker templates for analyzing the data.

The CoverPage tool lets you choose among five sample cover pages, each of which shows basic information about the print job and either a picture or a message. In a GX-savvy application, the dialog box shows a thumbnail preview of each cover page so you can see what you are choosing. You can also create your own cover pages, with a custom picture or message. You can set exactly what basic information will print, with choices for Page Count, Date/Time, User Name, and more.

If you use the new QuickDraw GX printer sharing feature to "capture" a printer, you can force any job printed to the printer to have a cover page of your choice or to be logged.

You can also take all the various settings that you set among the tools and assign them to a particular desktop printer icon. For example, you might set up a draft watermark and set the InkSaver feature to conserve a lot of toner. You could then assign these settings to a desktop printer aptly named "Draft Printer." You can make more than one desktop printer for the same physical printer, so you might make another desktop printer icon called "Final Copy Printer" and assign it to always print a watermark representing your company’s logo and only save a tiny amount of toner.

Similarly, you can take a set of settings that you feel go together and turn them into a Group. Peirce Print Tools comes with a few sample groups, such as "Turn All Off" and "4 up with borders," but you can create your own and then (when you want to use a group) just choose it. Groups are particularly handy for printing from a non-GX savvy application, because they conveniently show at the bottom of the Peirce Print Tools menu.

In a GX-savvy application, the Summary tool lets you configure any of the tools via of pop-up menus. The menus might overwhelm you at first, but once you become familiar with the various tools, the Summary tool provides a convenient way to set up a print job.

Many of the features in Peirce Print Tools can be found elsewhere, but by putting the features together in one package and adding the grouping and summary capabilities, Peirce Software has created a unique and, depending on your needs, tremendously useful utility. My main complaint is that you can’t change the font of custom text in a custom watermark or cover page (though you could make a custom PICT that used any font you wanted). For the $129 suggested retail price (about $90 mail order), you won’t buy Peirce Print Tools unless you plan to regularly use the features, but given the feature set and overall implementation, the program is definitely worth the price.

Even if you don’t want to ante up the money for Peirce Print Tools, if you have the System 7.5 CD, look for special versions of the PaperSaver and WaterMark tools. They only work with GX-savvy programs and aren’t quite as flexible as the versions that come with Peirce Print Tools, but they should give you the basic flavor of how they work in the full-featured package.

Peirce Software — 800/828-6554 — 408/244-6554
408/244-6882 (fax) — <[email protected]>
Working Software — 800/229-9675 — 408/423-5696
408/423-5699 (fax) — <[email protected]>

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