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Project Overview
First published in 1994, County Snapshots provides brief descriptions of every county in the state of Georgia. The publication is produced by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and is used by teachers, students, business leaders, elected officials and others for various research and presentation purposes. Because Georgia has 159 counties, the 4-page publications involve a large number of elements:
  • 636 separate blocks of descriptive text covering local community information, demographics, economics, and government information, all drawn from a Microsoft Access database.
  • 318 text-based tables based upon data from a Microsoft Access database.
  • 954 graphs generated in Adobe Illustrator based upon data drawn from a Microsoft Access database.
  • 318 photographs cropped, size and color-corrected in Adobe Photoshop, along with captions for each produced in Microsoft Excel.
  • 477 maps placed into the final document.
  • 636 separate pages formatted in Adobe InDesign.
  • 159 final PDFs with hyperlinks generated with Adobe Acrobat.
Going From Print To Pdf/Web
Snapshots is one of DCA's most popular and most requested publications and previously was produced in printed form only on a 4-year publishing cycle. Once the document was printed, data became outdated quickly.

This year, the department decided to produce the publications on the web with PDFs available for on-demand printing. Changing from a commercially printed document benefits DCA in the following ways:
  • The publication becomes easily updateable.
  • The data remains current and accurate.
  • The PDF format is more flexible for the client–they can print out individual county PDFs rather than search through a 700 page plus document and make copies.
  • The PDF format saves significant money in commercial printing costs and postage. The last Snapshots print run cost $30K, plus postage.
The automation of the Snapshots website was done previous to the production of the printable PDFs.

An All-Adobe Solution
A previous publication (CityScapes) was automated by Scripting Events using QuarkXPress. This time, Scripting Events recommended a solution based upon Adobe InDesign because of its excellent AppleScript support, both for formatting text and graphics as well as producing PDFs directly from the program via scripting. More info on this solution >>

By taking advantage of excellent AppleScript support in Adobe Illustrator, Scripting Events was also able to automate the production of all 954 graphs, which included bar graphs, line graphs, and pie charts. This script was run multiple times as data was corrected and chart formats were refined, and also produced charts in JPEG format for use on the website. More info on this solution >>

DCA was also interested in knowing if Scripting Events could help with the tedious process of scanning and editing 318 photographs for use in the publication. Scripting Events came up with an automated solution using Adobe Photoshop and InDesign to crop and position the photos for the final publication, and produce files with standard photo editing applied. More info on this solution >>

Time Saved
It took over a year to complete Snapshots. It was a major effort on the part of DCA and other state and federal agencies with regard to data collection and analysis activities. Scripting Matters developed the scripts for each stage of the project while the DCA went through an internal review process. Once the final script was delivered, the automation only took a few minutes per county.

Scripting Events developed four sets of scripts which were run by DCA overnight. Most scripts were run 2-3 times to account for updated data--a process which could not have been considered if the job had been done manually. A conservative estimate of what it would take to do this project manually would be around 2000 hours, or the equivalent of one employee working for more than a year (assuming the employee took a minimum number of breaks and was extremely productive).

With this process, it took less than two minutes to build each publication.
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