InDesign plug-in bundle automates advertising workflow

Depending on the type of work you do, Mechanical Cubed just might become one of those “I can’t live without it” sets of plug-ins. Designed for graphic studios at advertising agencies and corporate marketing departments, Mechanical Cubed is a collection of plug-ins—Slug Cubed, Crop Cubed, and Job Spec Cubed—that are also available separately. The actual Mechanical plug-in coordinates information between the Slug and Crop plug-ins and the Job Spec plug-in. It sounds a little complicated, but the process is fairly straightforward for general usage. Each plug-in serves a unique function, so we’ll look at each one individually (remember, they’re available separately if you don’t need the whole package).

If you create brochures and flyers with multiple folds, the Crop Cubed plug-in will save you tons of time. It creates custom crop-and-fold marks on a locked layer. One of the handiest features is the ability to alternate the fold marks on different pages (a big time saver, and something that’s sometimes overlooked by designers). All of the marks are placed outside the page area in InDesign’s slug area, so you need to turn that on when printing (and not use InDesign’s default crop marks). Also very useful are the automatic guides (and an optional mask) that show the live area, or safety margins, in a layout.

Slug Cubed is a useful utility for placing custom information along the bottom, top, or sides of a page. These slugs can be customized as needed and set up for auto-data insertion—such as the file name, the modified date, the fonts used, and the linked graphics. When used with Job Cubed, user info such as the client, art director, designer, printing colors, and due date can be imported from outside sources. Another handy use for the slug, which can be inserted automatically once per document or on every spread, is a checklist for an approval process.

Job Spec Cubed is the link between the plug-ins and the outside source files; that source can be either a PDF form or an XML spec file. The PDF form source seems fairly simple to create or update from one of the supplied samples. The XML spec file is slightly more complicated, requiring some XML coding knowledge; however, there are a couple of sample files of XML code supplied, too.

My complaints are generally minor. The slug’s default fonts are TrueType/dFont Times and Helvetica. Since InDesign distinguishes between different types of fonts, however, if you removed the TrueTypeT/dFont versions of these fonts, you’d get a slug with missing fonts. Luckily, these can be edited and updated easily in the Slug Styles palette. I would like the PDF samples to include a setup for custom folds; they can be programmed in, but don’t appear to be in the samples. Finally, I’d like to have a simple FileMaker and Microsoft Access database included (similar to the PDF forms), set up to export to XML.

Mechanical Cubed is now available for the Macintosh OS only; however, the Windows version is currently under development. The bundle is priced at $326 per single user, and volume discounts are available.

PRICE: $326
FOR: Mac
FROM: Triple Triangle Inc.
PHONE: 800-442-9639