ImagePrint 9 Feature Spotlight – Shuffle
Continuing our series of spotlights on what’s coming up in ImagePrint 9, this week we take a closer look at Shuffle and see how picking the best layout is not always as simple as it may seem.
Arranging multiple images on a page in the most paper-saving way possible sounds easy on the surface. Even a reasonably fast computer these days is capable of billions of instructions per second, so how long can it possibly take to analyze, say, 20 images on a page to determine the arrangement that saves the most media?
Turns out, it can take a while–a long while. Especially when you consider images of different sizes and add in the option of rotating the images 90 degrees. For instance, in the case of 10 images arranged in a simple row there are 3,628,800 combinations. Not too bad, until you figure in the ability to rotate images. Then it jumps to over 3.5 billion. For 20 images that number increases to a staggering 2.55108266 x 10^24 combinations (that’s 2.5 followed by 24 zeroes). Even for very fast computers it won’t take too many images before you are talking hours, days, weeks or longer to calculate all the different layouts. Unless you’re willing to wait a very long time to save a few inches of paper, you probably need a faster method.
Do the shuffle
ImagePrint 9’s new Shuffle feature uses a combination of algorithms to determine the most promising arrangements to calculate first. It then goes about testing these potential layouts, displaying the best its found so far as it goes. At any time in the process you can make the call to go ahead and send that current winner to the printer or keep waiting for something better to come along. To make your decision easier, it shows you how much paper you’ve saved compared to the original layout at the bottom of the screen.
We’ve found that within 30 seconds Shuffle has usually zeroed in on a layout that’s within five percentage points of the best possible. Give it a couple of minutes and you’ll likely be within 1 percent, though results may vary depending on size of the images and page.
If you don’t want to be tied to the screen while shuffle does it’s thing, just click the “Shuffle and Print” button and specify a duration. When the allotted time is up, ImagePrint will automatically print the best layout it’s found up to that point.
More work or more media?
One pitfall of laying images out in the most media-stingy way possible is that you can end up with a final print that looks like a jigsaw puzzle of nested images. Separating such a layout can require a lot of manual, right-angled scissors work, so if you need to make straight across cuts you’ll want to make sure “horizontal cut lines” is enabled. This mode ensures that Shuffle arranges the images in rows with clear horizontal cut-channels between them for easy cutting. While this mode will usually result in less media being saved it can be invaluable to those who don’t want to cut out each image by hand.
Combined with ImagePrint’s Inked Area Only feature (which ensures the printer only outputs paper as far as the last image on the page) Shuffle is a tool that anyone who prints multiple images on roll paper can take advantage of–anyone who gets ImagePrint 9, that is. Make sure to give it a try when it becomes available–you may find it saves you paper, and money, with every print.