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Working with workflow automation for 20 years, Ray Robertson believes any job can be automated.
BackgroundRay Robertson’s interest in automated solutions began when working on dedicated typesetting systems in 1982. In 1987, he bought a Macintosh, and soon became a power user of QuicKeys, a macro utility. In 1991, he won a nationwide contest from CE Software for “Best Implementation of QuicKeys” for developing sophisticated shortcuts for QuarkXPress, PageMaker and other programs.
Some of his other automation routines and scripts have appeared in several books: QuarkXPress Tips and Tricks, Using PageMaker 6, and The Mac Bible. His Proxy Palette application–a program for QuarkXPress developed entirely in AppleScript using FaceSpan–was posted on the FaceSpan web site as a model example. For several years, Ray also served as a SYSOP in CompuServe’s Publishing Forums where he was the section leader for the Scripts/Tags/Macros area. In this capacity, Ray helped numerous people–from newbies to very experienced users–develop automated solutions, and in the process learned much from other scripters and prepress professionals.
Ray’s favorite task is taking a “job from hell” where hours of tedious work seem inevitable and then producing an automated solution. “AppleScript solutions can save professionals not just hours, but days. And it can make some jobs affordable for printing/publishing which otherwise would be too expensive to produce in any way,” he says. He also specializes in database publishing and document-generation solutions using XTensions/Plug-ins for QuarkXPress and InDesign. After five years of developing AppleScript solutions for Type Solutions, Inc. of Atlanta, Ray started Scripting Events in September 1998. “I always tell people AppleScript is so powerful it automated Atlanta traffic out of my life,” he says.
In addition to developing scripts and other workflow automation solutions, Ray has been leading AppleScript and other automation training events for more than three years. These sessions include three-hour seminars, hands-on training events, and the well-received AppleScript Pro Sessions with Shane Stanley. The Pro Sessions have been a tremendous success, despite predictions by other trainers that there was “no market” for such training and “no need” for advanced AppleScript training. Ray also conducts customized on-site training, often automating real-world jobs as he teaches the client more about AppleScript. Although this type of session is the most demanding of the trainer, it is also the fastest way to get any client up and going with AppleScript, help the client learn exactly what he or she needs to know about automation technologies, and automate a task so the client may immediately demonstrate the power of automation to management.
Some automation consultants believe that the expertise of the developer is the most important thing to ensure success of the project. Ray believes that is important, but it ranks behind two other things: experience in the field, and attitude of the developer. With Ray’s experience in the prepress field, he is particularly helpful with automating printing workflows because he understands the needs of people in production. Contrast this to someone who has only a programming background. Ray also believes that the attitude of the consultant is of primary importance. He tries to approach every job with an ego-free attitude, listening patiently to the client at all times. He uses the same approach in training. Having worked in production, and understanding the rift that often occurs between production departments and information services, he takes special care to develop a lasting relationship with the client.
And although he believes skill ranks last, Ray is a highly skilled developer. More importantly, when entering a new area in which he may be lacking experience, he knows the right people to ask for help. He has often partnered with other developers to create very sophisticated solutions.
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