Job Files

Job files are used to automate the production process and minimize data entry errors. A job only consists of the actual text to be stamped (variable data). In its simplest form, a job file can be just a list of names, but a job can contain the variable data for each of up to eight different text areas supported by a particular template. While job files can be created and edited from iStamp, they're typically created elsewhere - in the front office or otherwise away from the production enviroment. This frees the machine operator from the tedious tasks of data-entry and spell-checking.

On the left side of iStamp's main window, you'll see the job list. This is a list of items, or records, that you'll stamp during a production job. Each record appears on its own line, and each record contains all of the text that goes on a single product. In the example below, we see a job of 12 different book covers to be stamped. The light blue highlighted line is the current record. This means that if you click the Stamp Button, this is the record that will be stamped. The text that appears for each item is the FIRST text area. Note that each on of these records can contain up to eight text areas. If you look to the right of this text you can just see some additional text. This is the SECOND text area. If you use the scroll-bar at the bottom of the job list, you can look to see what other text areas are available in this job.

Creating a Job File in iStamp

The easiest way to make a job file is to type it into iStamp. You can install a copy of iStamp on any computer for this purpose. To create a job file in iStamp, follow these steps:

1. Click on the Job menu in the Text File Manager and select New. A blank job file will be created.

2. Decide how many text areas you want. Use the plus button to add as many as eight separate text areas. Typically we create additional text areas so that we can position groups of text differently. In this example, let's just make two text areas: one for the title of the book, which we'll stamp high on the cover, and one for the author, which we'll stamp lower down.

3. Click on the tab for the first text area and Type in the text you want. In this case, the first title is: "War and Peace".

4. Click on the tab for the second text area, and type in the text you want. In this case it's: "Leo Tolstoy".

5. Hit the Page Down key on your keyboard. In the job list you'll notice that "War and Peace" now appears on the first line, and the current record has moved to the second line. Repeat steps 2-5 to enter more records into this job. The Page Up and Page Down keys can be used to navigate up and down through the job list. When you're at the last item in the job list and you hit the Page Down key, it always creates a new record at the bottom of the job list.

6. When you've finished adding records to your job, Click on the Job menu again and select Save As... You'll be prompted to save the file. You can now use this to run a job on the machine. Oftentimes a job file is created in this way beforehand, and even remotely, then transferred to the production machine via a local area network.

Creating a Job File in Notepad

Jobs can also be created in Windows Notepad, or any other plain-text editor. Job files have a very simple format. Let's look at the job file that we created above. I saved this file as books.txt. Opening this file in Notepad, we notice that it contains twelve records. Each record has two text areas, one for the title and one for the author. A complete record with all text areas always appears on a single line.

In this case you'll notice that the text areas separated by a the bar character (|), but you can use any character to separate the text areas. To see which characters are being used as separators, click on the Tools menu in the Template Manager, and select Computer Settings. The Job list will be hidden behind the Computer Configuration pane. In the lower-left corner you'll see the settings for Group Separator and Line Separator. You can enter any character you want for the Group and Line separators, but they should be characters that you don't have on the print-wheel. Otherwise iStamp will interpret these characters as separators and they won't be printable. Enter different separator characters as needed and click the Finish button to save the new settings.

Here's another example of the same job, except now the title of each book appears on multiple lines.

Notice above that we used the hyphen (-) as the Line Separator character, and in the job file hyphens appear between the words "War", "and", "Peace". Below you can see how iStamp interprets this: each word on its own line.

Automating Job File Creation

It's possible to completely automate the process of creating job files. Many organizations, for example, are using web-based order entry systems. In such cases it's the customer who enters the desired text directly into a web form. Custom software can then capture this variable data and create job files from it, so no data-entry or spell-checking is required at all. Generally, custom software like this is specific to a particular application. Flesher can assist in the development of such software, or even write it from scratch. Contact us for more information on this subject.