Appy new year: print gadgets for your phone and tablet

Simon Eccles
Monday, January 12, 2015

Where are all the print apps? Since the launch of the Apple iPad just five years ago, tablet computers have seen a rapid take-up for both business and personal use. They’re now offered by all sorts of suppliers, from Apple and Samsung at the high end down to Tesco at the low, not to mention even cheaper Chinese variants.

Apart from portability and ease of use, one of the attractions of tablets is the huge choice of mobile apps, which are small, often very low-cost programs that can be downloaded and installed very easily. There are millions of apps, but surprisingly few of them are aimed at the professional print sector and its related customers and suppliers. 

One reason may be that tablets have limited memory and processing power, while professional printing and imaging tends to use large files that need significant power and storage. Remote access to heavy duty servers works better for this, and such programs tend to be accessed via web browsers. 

Probably the most useful mobile apps are the remote links to MIS and CRM systems, which can keep on working without a continuous internet connection, just periodic online synchronisation. For instance Clarity’s Proof of Delivery is a well thought out practical use of a smartphone for signage installers. 

Manfred Breede, professor emeritus at Ryerson University’s School of Graphic Communications Management, has developed at least 40 print-related iOS Apps, some of which are listed here. Many are calculators and convertors for iPhones, which are interesting to see but perhaps of limited practical use, as pre-press systems and workflows will handle many of these automatically.

Art and design programs are appearing for tablets, but so far are only really good for doing rough sketches on a train or perhaps a client’s office, as opposed to real retouching and production work.

There are no sections dedicated to print on any of the main App stores (ie the Apple App Store, Google Play for Android, Amazon Appstore for Android, or the Microsoft Store for Surface Pro). Searching for likely keywords such as print, paper, ink gives hundreds of returns, most of which are consumer related, or completely irrelevant. You may get better results by looking for supplier or brand names. 

Here we’re listing a selection of the mobile apps we tracked down. Most are free and many are less than £10, so it’s hardly a risk to try them out.


16-Up Page Imposition 

Developer Manfred Breede

Price £1.99

Platform iOS

One of a series of apps for determining imposition schemes. There’s also 2-Up, 4-Up and 8-Up, each at £1.99. Signatures can be imposed with unlimited page numbers, according to four major imposition methods: sheetwise for perfect or thread-sewn binding; sheetwise for saddle-stitching; and work-and-turn for perfect or thread-sewn binding.


Adobe apps

Developer Adobe

Price Free with Creative Cloud subscription

Platform iOS

Adobe has created a whole suite of apps, based on its Creative Suite programs, with varying degrees of functionality. If you have a subscription to the Creative Cloud set of full-function programs, you’ll also get free access to a set of related Adobe and third-party apps for iPhones and iPads, but not Android or Microsoft so far. Notable Adobe apps for real production include Adobe Reader (PDFs); Lightroom, a photo processor that syncs with your main Lightroom libraries via Adobe Cloud; Illustrator Draw, that enables vector drawing with paint effects too; and Photoshop Mix, for basic enhancements and cut-outs that can be exported to the full Photoshop.  


Any Roll Length

Developer Manfred Breede

Price 69p

Platform iOS

A calculator that tells you what length of material is on a roll, when you enter the material thickness, roll diameter and core diameter. Imperial and metric measurements are used. 


Book Thickness Calculator

Developer Manfred Breede

Price 69p

Platform iOS

A metric calculator that gives the thickness of a book when you enter the number of pages, gsm of the paper and thickness of the cover boards. A compensation factor can be entered for different paper characteristics. 


Coating Weight Calculator

Developer AutoLean

Price 69p

Platform iOS

A dried coating calculator for gravure/anilox and flexo application systems. It’s a US product that works in US pounds only and not metric. 


ColorTrue

Developer Pantone

Price Free

Platforms Android, iOS

Mobile devices so far don’t have internal colour management for their displays. There’s a handful of calibration apps that rely on eyeballing, but only Pantone’s ColorTrue uses proper measurement instruments, including X-Rite/Pantone’s ColorMunki Smile (Android only), Colormunki Display, i1Display and i1Photo Pro (iOS only). It doesn’t modify the system-level display: app developers have to register as ColorTrue Aware suppliers and apply the profile to their own output. The only one listed since the March launch is CamRanger, a previewing controller for a motorised camera head.


Epson LFP Ink Cost Calculator

Developer Signals

Price Free

Platforms Android, iOS

This lets you calculate ink usage for all of Epson’s current large-format range (Stylus Pro and SureColor). It calculates ink usage, cost-per-print and monthly total, with comparisons to other Epson types if required. 


Enfocus Switch Client

Developer Enfocus

Price Free

Platform iOS

Remote monitoring of Switch automated workflows. You can view job files and preflight reports. 


Flexo Toolbox

Developer Flint Group

Price Free

Platforms iOS, Android

A package of tools and calculators for flexo pre-press and platemaking. There’s also a product selector for Flint’s plates and materials.


ImpressCalc

Developer ImageEngine

Price Free

Platform iOS

An app to look up the dimensions of A-sized papers, together with a converter for common print units (such as microns, points and picas to mm and inches) and a paper weight calculator for your choice of run length.


Microsoft Office

Developer Microsoft

Price From £5.99 to £79.99 per year

Platform iOS

Proper versions of the main MS Office programs Word, PowerPoint and Excel. It uses the true Office file formats and documents can be viewed, created and edited for free. Full functionality is unlocked if you have one of the Office 365 cloud-based rental schemes.


Mutoh VSM Mobile

Developer Mutoh

Price Free

Platforms Android, iOS

A remote monitor for Mutoh’s ValueJet range of wide-format inkjets. VSM stands for ‘ValueJet Status Monitor’. It shows functions such as printing status, time-to finish, ink levels and maintenance messages. Prices are in sterling and euros. 


Nup

Developer 1800 Postcards

Price £6.99

Platform iOS

A layout calculator for step and repeat work for metric and inches. You enter a sheet size plus the size of your item (such as a business card or greetings card), plus the desired margins, and the app shows the number and arrangement that will fit best. 


Paper Formats

Developer Softwise

Price Free

Platform Android

A listing of dimensions for all the paper and envelope sizes you’ve every heard of, and a few we hadn’t. This includes all the ISO A, B and C sizes (including R and SR types), and all those old Imperial, American and European names such as Double Crown, Elephant and Petit-Median. 


Paper Weight Converter

Developer Oliver Demus

Price Free

Platform iOS

Converts paper weights expressed in US pounds to GSM and vice versa. 


Pre-Press Gray Levels

Developer Manfred Breede

Price 69p

Platform iOS

A calculator that returns the number of grey levels achievable by a halftone screen ruling, for a given output resolution. It’d be more use if it could predict the effect of stochastic screens or variable inkjet drop sizes. 


Primo Live

Developer Tharstern

Price £20 per user per month

Platform iOS

This app allows mobile access to a Tharstern Primo MIS, with the advantage of an offline mode for when there’s no internet connection. It provides CRM functions, real-time MIS links and also location awareness to pinpoint other customers close to a visit site. 


Print A-to-Z

Developer Manfred Breede

Price Free

Platform iOS

A glossary of some 2,400 print-related words, terms and abbreviations. 


Printing - OEE Calculator

Developer Oliver Demus

Price £1.23

Platform Android

A stripped-down costing module - OEE stands for ‘overall equipment effectiveness’. You can feed in press set-up and run times, impressions, waste, shift details and so on, and obtain various basic analyses of performance.


Proof of Delivery 

Developer Clarity Software

Price POA

Platforms Android, iOS

An ingenious app for smartphones, developed for use by delivery contractors and installers of signage at customer sites. It links to a printer’s Clarity Pro MIS, from where it downloads lists of delivery sites and jobs, with addresses (linked to Google Maps) and documents. Users log on when they reach the site, follow the instruction sets, record progress with the camera and then hand the phone to the customer for a sign-off when they’re finished.


Quark Designpad Pro

Developer Quark

Price £6.99

Platform iOS

A stripped-down app for roughing out grid-based layouts with dummy text from templates. Results can be exported to the real QuarkXPress. There’s a free version, but the £6.99 Pro lets you save print-quality PDFs or send PNGs and PDFs to Dropbox or print them via AirPrint. 


Mobile CRM

Developer Shuttleworth 

Price Monthly fee, pricing dependent on number of users

Platform iOS

A remote link to Shuttleworth’s CRM for use by sales people on the road.


Scanning Resolution for Halftones/Line Art

Developer Manfred Breede

Price 69p each

Platform iOS

A pair of apps that calculate the scanning resolution needed for a given percentage enlargement or reduction to output at the desired size and quality. Breede also offers output resolution and screen dot size calculators, but RIPs will do this automatically.


The A to Z of design and print

Developer thePageDesign

Price Free

Platform iOS

Another glossary of terms. The interface is not as clear as Print A-to-Z.


Time Harvest

Developer Time Harvest/FileMaker

Price Free

Platform iOS

Time Harvest’s costing systems are primarily intended for digital printing. They are based on the FileMaker Pro database engine. FileMaker Go is a remote access app for iOS devices, so TimeHarvest users can take advantage of this. 


WhatTheFont

Developer MyFonts Inc

Price Free

Platform iOS

Clever utility that lets you identify fonts from photographed type samples. You use your smartphone’s camera to snap a sample of the type you want to identify, then upload it to an image recognition server. This presents a choice of the nearest matches and you make the final identification yourself.

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