Number Press 6 (review)

From Bates numbering to variable data printing, with Praeter Software’s inexpensive Number Press 6 it’s all possible from the comfort of your Mac. With Number Press 6 you can print lottery tickets, number pages, or add unique codes to documents.

The 80 USD that you’ll spend on Number Press 6 will get you a lot more than just a numbering application for printing. That is what Praeter Software themselves call this software and it’s understating the value of the tool. I found that you can use this software to create a “Filofax” refill just as easily as a MICR printed chequebook (with the right toner, anyway).

IT Enquirer rating

9/10

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Pros
  • Numbering Assistant
  • MICR cheque printing
  • Variable data
  • Dates generation feature
  • Multiple fonts
Cons
  • No support for fonts managed with Suitcase or FontExplorer
Price (approx.): €61.70

Number Press can generate forms, raffles, slips, coupons, book receipts, tags, diary (agenda) refills for a year, cheques with MICR code, Bates numbers, etc, etc. Anything that requires a unique number or code is something you can use Number Press 6 for.

The program comes with a Numbering Assistant to make the numbering job easier. If this sounds like silly — we all can count, right? — then think about this: you may want to print 1,000 tickets printing six tickets per page. This is relatively easy to calculate, but I can assure you it’s easier when the Numbering Assistant does it.

And it can get more complicated quickly. How about the need to print two numbering schemes on the pages of an existing PDF document, while also skipping even pages? Number Press can do this, and the Assistant won’t make it super-simple, but easier nevertheless.

Variable Data printing with Number Press 6

You can have 128 positions per page to put a number stamp or an entry from a CSV file (VDP). That’s quite impressive — and difficult to manage. I needed much experimenting after using four positions only, but I was bad at maths.

Number Press 6 allows for multiple fonts; one per position. It lets you create a PDF from scratch, or use an existing PDF to stamp. You can also use TIFFs, JPEGs, GIFs and other image formats. All of them require you to enter the correct DPI resolution, except for PDF. Export is to PDF only, which is by no means a restriction. It’s the only format that makes sense from a quality point-of-view if you’re outputting to print.

Variable Data printing with Number Press 6.

Numbering can be standard, random, shuffle, ABC, abc, and Variable Data. There’s also a special MICR cheque mode that is only usable in the US and countries that use cheques with MICR codes. For MICR cheque printing you’ll need special laser toner.

Number Press 6 further supports dates generation so that you can easily create a list of dates to use in Variable Data mode. However, Variable Data mode allows for much more powerful usage scenarios — please bear with me.

The numbers or codes you generate with Number Press can be positioned using a Quick Layout. This is a tab that shows you the page with (or without) the background image or PDF you’ll be using. Quick Layout lets you zoom in, show a grid and has a crosshair for accurate positioning of the number or code on the page. You can also rotate the text per position, so that you can end up with a number printed horizontally and one vertically or any other angle.

Variable Data mode was the mode that I found most interesting. It works like this: you create your coding scheme in a spreadsheet using the B column, leaving all other columns blank. Then you import this spreadsheet as a CSV file in Number Press. This allows for unique codes to be used as numbers. But there’s more.

Using Number Press 6 and a spreadsheet app you can create any sort of unique alphanumeric list. That is what I tried. I tested this feature using a custom-made diary refill for a Filofax style diary. I created the template in QuarkXPress 9.x and exported to PDF (which contrary to the Number press user guide, imports perfectly).

I then created a column in Microsoft Excel with the days of the week for January only (this was a test, remember?). As Excel did not by itself add a comma at the beginning of each line when I left the A column blank, I first opened the CSV file in BBEdit and added a comma at the beginning of each line, then imported it in Number Press.

I now had my variable data — the days of the week — that I could place at the reserved spot in my template. Generated the PDF and re-imported this under a different name as background in Number Press. Then generated the numbering for January in position 2 using 36pt red Helvetica, and that was it. I had my first month of a “one-page-per-day” diary!

I’m not even sure that you need to re-import the PDF for each additional “code” you want to add, but I do know the quality didn’t get worse from doing so. PDF is vector-based and that sort of guarantees consistent quality across output runs. The output quality is not visible in Number Press as the program is built for speed.

And speedy it is. A PDF with 50,000 pages (!) took four minutes to create. I didn’t try to look for the upper limit, but I guess you could generate half a million documents in one fell swoop with Number press without it blinking an eye. The resulting document would be unwieldy to handle, however.

Number Press is not perfect, though. It can’t handle fonts not in your Library folders, so Suitcase Fusion or Linotype font managers won’t do you good. Justifying your numbers or codes right or centred is impossible (it’s never been asked for, the developer told me). And occasionally, without reason, the toolbar icons disappear and you need to sweep over them with your mouse to make them appear again. Finally, I would have loved to see a Cancel button on the window that pops open when you click the Export PDF button.

But none of these affect Number Press’s impressive capabilities.

TIP:

If you want to use iWork Numbers’ automatic numbering feature and you want to use a code containing figures as well as alphanumeric characters, that would be impossible if you needed to do this within one column because the spreadsheet app doesn’t know the logic behind the numbering (1, 2, 3, etc. or a, b, c…).

On the other hand, Number Press only knows about B column. What you do is this:

  1. Break down your code in individually numbered parts
  2. Create an A column with the first part of the code, B column with the second, and so on
  3. Export the file to comma-delimited (alternative: tab-delimited)
  4. Open the file in BBEdit
  5. Perform a Grep search and search for commas (alternative: tabs)
  6. Replace the commas (tabs) with a blank space
  7. Run the Grep Find & Replace operation again, but this time search for the beginning of the line and replace with a comma.
  8. Import in Number Press and you have a unique code for each page of your document!

TIP 2:

If you want to create a PDF that is made up of multiple variable data placed in different positions on the page, then you can repeatedly export to PDF and reimport the last version with the last code you produced.

The tip is that you should rename the PDFs you use as new background. If you don’t, Number Press will hang when exporting the new PDF — it will not simply overwrite the old one because that one you’re using!