This article was kindly contributed by GEN Architects, Inc. The development team would like to thank CJ for his contribution and hope the information is of assistance to other Apple Mac users. Article creation date: 2007.
We are 10-person architectural firm and were looking for a print tracking solution to recoup our reimbursable printing expenses. We happened upon PaperCut NG which seemed to suit our needs quite well. We found it easy to setup. Our office is a 99% all-Mac environment (1 PC in the office) and we also use an Apple Xserve as our server. We were able to install PaperCut and have all the printers and accounts up and running in a short amount of time (PaperCut tech support was very helpful). However, we did run into one snag: we were unable to track our large-format plotter.
This is because our CAD software (ArchiCAD) communicates directly with the plotter, rather than going through the typical print queues. This means PaperCut was unable to host a print queue for the plotter and therefore unable to monitor printing. We could have printed to our plotter, but it is considerably slower when dealing with postscript files vs. the HPGL (or plot) files.
Our solution was to take advantage of a couple tools that are part of ArchiCAD and the Mac OS. ArchiCAD has a plot spooling piece of software called PlotFlow that just sends plots through to the plotter; we setup PlotFlow to run on our server. Next, I setup up a folder on each workstation to act as a temporary spool folder for the plot files; ArchiCAD was configured to send plot files to this temporary spool folder. Using Applescript, I was able to write a script that would process those files once they entered the temporary spool folder.
The script would ask the user for the sheet size, number of sheets, and number of copies being plotted, then it would send the plot files through to PlotFlow, which in turn sent them to the plotter. The script takes the information and uses it to generate a postscript document, which would be “printed” to a dummy queue set up on the print server and monitored by PaperCut. By printing this postscript file, the PaperCut client would launch, allowing the user to assign a job number to the plotted sheets. The postscript file contained the page size and page count info, so it could be tracked by PaperCut (which is able to charge by square foot). The dummy queue was configured to dump the postscript file, rather than actually print it.
It was a multi-step process that took some thought and creativity (plus some familiarity with Applescript), but in the end we had the print and plot tracking solution we needed. PaperCut’s support team was very helpful throughout the process.
-CJ Shumate GEN Architects, Inc.
keywords: machintosh, plotter management, plotting