Digital processes, the World Wide Web and related standards such as XML have had an enormous impact on the broad publishing community, and have radically altered the economics of publishing. The industry has fully recognized the necessity of production automation and has started along the path towards its implementation. However the tools currently available fall short of addressing the industry’s needs.
The productivity gains required by the increasingly competitive environment can no longer be achieved solely by monolithic systems focusing on islands of automation. The industry needs to build pathways to connect these islands and create a unified world between disparate systems.
Gradual Software will offer affordable desktop solutions to help establish and maintain these connections within a climate of constant change. Gradual’s solutions will usually be deployed in small increments, offering the flexibility to integrate a major new technology step-by-step rather than in large-scale hit-or-miss implementations. Hence the company name: Gradual Software.
Gradual’s automation solutions will benefit all of the participants in the publishing workflow including content originators (such as authors and designers), content processors (such as editors, designers and layout artists), brand owners (such as publishers and marketing departments) and service providers (such as printers).
Gradual Software was founded in November 2004 by Peter Camps to pursue his vision of providing full automation across the numerous stages of professional publishing activities, from document creation to delivery. Camps is well known in the industry as the founder and ex-CEO of Enfocus Software, the company that set the worldwide standard for the effective use of PDF in publishing with its technology and products.
Camps assembled a well-rounded team of experienced board members and executives including Ignace De Bock and David van Driessche who were all instrumental in the success of his previous endeavor, from initial launch in 1993 until its acquisition by Artwork Systems in 2000, and for several years after.
Immediately after its launch, Gradual Software acquired Danish automation specialist CaslonSoft; their CaslonFlow automation product formed the basis for the current SWITCH family of products. “Communication with our customers has always been one of our strengths – we want to develop something that works in real publishing workflows”, says Peter Camps. “The CaslonFlow product provided us with the means to experience what worked and what was needed”.
Gradual Software has grown substantially since those early days: the offices in Ghent, Belgium, house eight people, while software development is almost completely outsourced to an external development company.
SWITCH – Automation at Your Pace
The core of the Gradual Software product offering is the SWITCH product family. All three flavors of SWITCH (the entry-level LightSWITCH, mainstream FullSWITCH and advanced PowerSWITCH) provide very flexible and easy-to-use automation.
With that flexibility and its ability to drive industry-standard software applications from other vendors, SWITCH occupies the space between the monolithic vendor workflow systems on the one hand and do-it-yourself solutions on the other hand. SWITCH automates third-party applications in a visual, drag-and-drop way while retaining the ability to do far-reaching customization using scripting when necessary.
The key to SWITCH is that it leaves you in charge. You can decide what you want to automate and how you want to implement your workflow. Start with as little or as much automation as necessary; there is always a flavor of SWITCH that delivers exactly what you are looking for. And if the time comes to expand, SWITCH will grow with your needs.
Crossroads – Where Automation Meets
Centered on the robust SWITCH automation technology, Gradual founded the Crossroads communication platform. In today’s world, if you want to build a flexible automated workflow you automatically end up using products from different vendors. The challenge is then to make sure those different products work together seamlessly.
Crossroads pulls together a complete ecosystem of software vendors offering products that can automate tasks in publishing workflows. It provides product information and tips & tricks on how to combine the applications from the different vendors in the best possible way. Add interaction possibilities to make it easier to ask questions to vendors or talk to your peers, and Crossroads becomes an indispensable resource for anyone looking to automate.
Crossroads targets the complete publishing workflow: it presents solutions for job reception, PDF creation and preflight, color correction, proofing, image manipulation and more… It also is as vendor-neutral as SWITCH itself; if multiple options are available for a particular task (PDF files for example could be preflighted using tools from Markzware, callas, DevZeroG, Enfocus…) all options are presented. It is up to you to decide what the best technology is for your situation.