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It was possible to open a FlexRip ticket with a file selected, and to use the ticket to tell the rip to merge certain separations of the file, so that all elements of those separations would appear on the same plate. This is not possible within the tickets for Imaging Engine, but the same functionality has been added to the powerful PDF Action Lists feature that is present in Automation Engine v18.0.1 and later.

The Imaging Engine rip is intended to work with prepared PDF files. It is not intended to be a means of modifying those PDF files if they do not contain the correct information. Because of this, the merging of separations has been moved from the rip to be part of the very powerful suite of editing functions that are controlled by PDF Action Lists. Once the separations have been merged, and a modified PDF has been generated, this can then be passed to the rip as normal.


In order to use a PDF Action List to merge separations in a PDF file, we first need to build an Action List to handle the merging, which we save to the Automation Engine Server. We can then use the Action List in a standalone Automation Engine ticket or as part of a workflow to perform the merging.

If the Imaging Engine Pilot users do not see the Apply PDF Action List task on their system, see:

Making a ‘Merge Inks’ PDF Action List

Setting up

To build a PDF Action List, ArtPro+ v18.0 or later is required. Full documentation about building PDF Action Lists for general use is provided with ArtPro+, but this document will cover the building of PDF Action Lists that merge separations.

In order to build a PDF Action List in ArtPro+, we need to have an open file. We can just create a new file and it is not necessary to save it.

Also ensure that ArtPro+ is connected to the Automation Engine Server on which the PDF Action Lists will be run. Consult the manual for ArtPro+ for more information on how to do this.

Building a PDF Action List

This tutorial covers building a PDF Action List that uses separation merging to cover a common use case that can occur when a job is supplied with several separations (usually black), with each containing a different language. The relevant language separation needs to be merged with another separation before the job is ripped. Any other language separations can be removed at the same time.

  1. Click the Action List button in the toolbar.
  2. In the window that appears, click the Manage... button.
  3. The PDF Action List management window will appear. In order to make a new PDF Action List on the server, select the ‘Server Action Lists’ heading, and click the ‘+’ button.
  4. A new Server Action List will appear. Give it a name that makes sense to you.
  5. Click the Edit (pencil) button to start editing the new Action List.
  6. The Action List editor window will appear. For this Action List, the only actions that are used are part of the Separations group. Selecting Separations in the left-hand pane will narrow the list so that only separations-based actions are displayed, making it easier to find the required actions.
  7. For this Action List, only the actions Select Separation by Name, Replace Separations and Delete Separation are used.

  8. Drag the Select Separations by Name action to the right-hand pane, or simply double-click it. The action will be displayed in the right-hand pane, with fields for its parameters.

    Note that a Description field will also appear when the first action is added. It is recommended to fill in the Description field. The contents of this field are displayed in the Automation Engine ticket, so this is a good place to give a short description of the Action List that will be helpful to users.

  9. Now we need to define the name of the separation that contains the particular language text that we want to use. This is the separation onto which we want to merge the other separations. In our example, this is the Black Text 2 separation, and we will merge it with the Black separation that contains the general black elements for our job.

    If we know that we will always need a text separation with a particular name, we could simply type that name here, but it is most likely that we will want to make several Black plates for the languages in our job, and that different jobs will have different names for the language separations, so this would require a new Action List for each language in each job, which would not be useful. So, we will make use of a very powerful Action List function, called Parameters.

    If an Action List entry is defined as a Parameter, its value can be set when the Action List is run, making a simple Action List potentially very flexible. Also, Parameters can be used to make Public Parameters in Automation Engine, allowing Action List values to be easily set by the user when the ticket or workflow is launched.
  10. Parameters are easy to set up. We will add one for Separation Name. Clicking on the ‘T’ button in the Separation Name field will open the Parameter popup menu. We don’t have any parameters defined yet, so we will choose New Parameter….
  11. The Parameter editor window will appear.
  12. We need to provide a name for the Parameter and optionally a default value.
  13. We are defining the name of the language separation that we need, so we can call the Parameter Required Language Separation. If there is a sensible default value that we can use, we can enter it in the Value field. In this case, we can use Language Separation as the default value.

    Note that we will still be able to change this value when we run the Action List, but the default value will be entered automatically, which can save us from having to enter the same value every time.

  14. If we click the Add button, the new Parameter will be saved, and the Action List editor window will show that the Parameter Base Separation is being used by displaying its name in white on a blue background.
  15. We have defined which separation we will be using as our language, but we still need to define which separation we will merge with it. This is our 'base' separation, and for the example, we can assume that it will normally be Black, but could still be some other name. We can use another Parameter to define this name.
  16. We want to replace the selected language separation with our base separation, so we need to add a Replace Separations action from the list in the left-hand pane. We can drag it into place below the Select Separation By Name action, or simply double-click it, and it will appear below any existing actions in the right-hand pane.
  17. We can add a Parameter for the Separation Name exactly in the same manner as for the Select Separation by Name action. Clicking on the ‘T’ button in the Separation Name field will show the Parameters popup menu. Note that the Required Language Separation Parameter is shown in the menu. This makes it easy to re-use Parameters throughout your Action List.
  18. In this case, we need to make a new Parameter. Selecting New Parameter… from the menu will open the Parameter editor window again.
  19. In this case, we are going to call the Parameter Base Separation, and, since we are expecting that this will usually be the Black separation, we can set Black as the Parameter's default value.
  20. Clicking the Add button will add the new Parameter to our Action List.
  21. The Replace Separations action has another option, which lets us specify whether the screening from our replaced separation should be used, or whether the screening of the base separation should be applied to all objects that came from the replaced separation. It’s quite possible that the objects in the language separations have object-based screening applied to them, so we can choose Keep source screening here, and have all of the screening parameters kept after the separations are merged.
  22. At this point we have a working Action List that can replace a single separation, but we also want to remove any other language separations from the job, so that they will not be ripped.
    We can do this by adding some more actions that select other separations, and then delete the selected separation. First, we drag another Select Separation by Name action into the right-hand pane. Again, we click on the 'T' button to define a parameter for this separation's name.
  23. We can give the Parameter a name 'Unwanted Text Separation 1', but since we probably won't know what this separation will be called in the job, we can simply leave the default value blank.
  24. This will select the separation with the name we supply at run-time, but we still need to make the Action List delete the selected separation. For this we can drag in or double-click a Delete Separation action.
  25. The Delete Separation action does not need any parameters: it simply deletes the currently-selected separation. To delete several separations, we can add more pairs of Select Separation by Name and Delete Separation actions, setting the Parameters for the Select Separation by Name actions as we did before.

    PDF Action Lists will not perform an action if they are unable to select anything. For this Action List, this is very convenient, since it means that any Select Separation by Name actions whose values do not match a separation in the PDF file will be ignored.
  26. We can save our new Action List by clicking the Save Action List button. Our Action List will now be saved on the Automation Engine Server and will be ready for use.

Merging Inks in Automation Engine Using a PDF Action List

Now that we have built an Action List to merge inks, we can use it in Automation Engine to merge the inks of a particular file.

We will look at two ways of doing this: using a standalone Automation Engine ticket, and as part of a workflow.

Merging Inks Using a Standalone Ticket

To merge the inks in an existing file, it can be convenient to use a standalone ticket to run the Action List.

  1. First, select the file to process, and then open an Apply PDF Action List ticket.
  2. Inside the ticket, define an output directory and filename as Normal.
  3. Choose an Action List to apply by clicking the button in the Action List field.
  4. This will show the Action Lists that are available on the server.
  5. Choose the Action List that we built in ArtPro+ earlier and click OK.
  6. We still need to set up the parameters of the Action List. We can do this by clicking the Options… button.
  7. The ticket will open a window. Define the values of the Parameters that we added to the Action List.
  8. The Options panel displays all the Parameters for our Action List. The value for the Required Language Separation and for Base Separation are filled in using the default values we added when we defined the Parameters. For the Unwanted Text Separation Parameters, we did not supply any default values, so these are blank.
  9. For our example, we have a very simple test file:

    This represents a typical multi-language job. We will be merging the Black Text 2 separation with the Black separation, and removing the unwanted Black Text 1 and Black Text 3 separations.
  10. The name of our Required Language Separation is Black Text 2. We can keep the default value of Black for the Base Separation, since this is correct. We can type the names of Black Text 1 and Black Text 3 as our first two Unwanted Text Separations. The last Unwanted Text Separation Parameter can be left empty.
    The values for the Parameters are all Smart Name enabled, so it is possible to set an Action List’s options using Smart Names.
  11. Click OK to accept the parameters, and then click the ticket’s Launch button to run the Action List on the selected file with our specific parameters.
  12. After running the Apply PDF Action List ticket, take a look at the output file, and see that we now have a single Black separation that contains the required text as well as the existing Black elements of the job. The unwanted language separations have been deleted.
  13. The ticket can be saved and re-used, and can also be set to use Public Parameters, allowing users to set the values of the base and language separations easily at run time. Public Parameters can be set by choosing Manage Public Parameters… from the Advanced menu in the ticket.

Public Parameters can be added in the usual way, and will also take note of any default values given in the Action List’s Parameters.

Merging Inks in a Workflow

It is also possible to merge inks in a workflow using PDF Action Lists, and it is set up in a very similar way.

In the below example, we have a very simple workflow that merges inks using an Action List and then rips the resulting file using Imaging Engine. Note that, since Imaging Engine is capable of generating Viewer-capable files from v18.0.1, we do not need to add a Prepare for Viewing task to the workflow.

The Apply PDF Action List task is set up in very much the same way as for a standalone ticket.

In order to use Public Parameters, they must be defined in the ticket. To do this, click the gearwheel icon to see the popup settings menu, then choose Manage Public Parameters…. Public Parameters can then be set up in the same way as for the standalone ticket, and will be added to the other Public Parameters for the workflow when a job is launched.

Click on the links below to download an example of a PDF Actionlist and an Automation Engine workflow (to merge 'language' versions and to merge any separation with another separation):

Copy the PDF Actionlist (PAL file) to the \\servername\bg_data_custom_v010\dat\PDF Action Lists

Article information
Applies to

Automation Engine



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