Am Bratach

Company: AdobeCustomer: Am BratachSubmitted by: MCC InternationalDate: October 1999Am Bratach, a small but award winning regional magazine has successfully streamlined its production processes by implementing digital workflow, despite the publication’s limited resources. Adobe’s products play a fundamental role in the magazine’s new production processes. From gathering news and artwork from many contributors using diverse systems, to production, printing and worldwide distribution via the Internet, the magazine depends on Adobe products to hit its deadlines every time. Am Bratach relies on Adobe’s PageMaker 6.5, Adobe Photoshop LE (Limited Edition), and Adobe Acrobat Distiller products for layout, graphics handling and file compression.


Established in 1991, Am Bratach is an independent, monthly, news magazine published by North West Sutherland Council for Community Action. It is one of the UK’s few Gaelic/English publications.As a community project, Am Bratach operates on a limited budget, relying on very low level hardware. The magazine is currently produced on two computers, an AMD 166 and a Pentium 90, both with 64Mb RAM. Most issues have 20 pages, although this may occasionally go up to 24 in the height of the summer, and between 12 and 15 thousand words of editorial.

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The only permanent member of staff is the editor, Donald MacLeod.


Because his office in Strathnaver, North West Sutherland is so remote, MacLeod has to rely on a widespread network of volunteers and freelance journalists to report local news stories by e’mail.The contributing journalists submit their copy in a variety of formats (including MS Word 97, MS Word 2.0 for DOS, Word perfect 8, WordPro 97 and AmiPro V3). Each has to be converted for use in the publication. Fortunately, Adobe PageMaker’s file conversion facility lets MacLeod handle anything that arrives in his mailbox – even when it is written in Gaelic!Am Bratach is also produced as an Internet publication.

In the past, web-based copy had to be created using a dedicated HTML editor. But now, by translating PM65 Am Bratach pages into pdf files, MacLeod is able to put the magazine directly onto the web without needing to waste time creating additional documents. This speeds up the on-line publication process and makes the magazine available to Gaelic readers all over the world as soon as it is published in Scotland.”I now handle the entire magazine layout in Adobe PageMaker and deal with all the photo preparation and manipulation in Adobe Photoshop” says MacLeod. “Adobe software allows me to move data between packages without any problems, create HTML files as required, and generally make Am Bratach easier and faster to produce.

“As a community magazine, Am Bratach contains a high percentage of photographs. In the past these images have been processed more than 50 miles away using a process camera. Now, the Am Bratach team has three digital cameras used by volunteer photographers to produce instant digital images that can be e-mailed into the editorial office.Making the move to Adobe Photoshop was a big advance for Am Bratach. Pictures that had previously been created using a process camera at the printer’s and used with limited forms of editing are now not only retouched, but also converted to monochrome and resized to fit the space in the magazine, greatly enhancing the overall appearance of the publication.

Improved Magazine Quality:

“The quality of our photographs have steadily improved since we installed Photoshop” says MacLeod.

“The interface between editorial and print is smoother. Digital images taken direct from a digi-cam seem much easier to use and are far better quality than those produced by an ordinary process camera.”


When the magazine has been completed in PageMaker and is ready for printing, it is converted into Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) files using Adobe Acrobat Distiller. This simple process reduces the file to less than a tenth of its original size. The magazine is then sent electronically to the Inver-Ross Printing Company in Dingwall.Thanks to Adobe technology and ISDN, it now takes just 8 minutes to transfer all the pages electronically, complete with illustrations, crossword and even a cartoon sent from the Isle of Skye.

Sending data across ISDN now saves a round trip of more than 150 miles by road.The printers are equally delighted with Am Bratach’s increased efficiency as they simply download the PDF file into a PowerMac, print the file on a high quality Xante PostScript laser printer before plate making, and doing the final print run.

Training and experience:

MacLeod insists that he had very little knowledge of computers when he started out, but maintains that PageMaker and Photoshop are so intuitive that he just ‘learned as he went along’.He first used Adobe PageMaker when he recruited a temporary typesetter who knew how computers worked but had never used desk top publishing (DTP) before. They didn’t have time to read the PageMaker manual in depth, but still managed to produce the magazine in time to meet their production deadline, as the typesetter found the software very straightforward to use.”I have never yet been late for a deadline” MacLeod is pleased to say.

He adds that they are still learning the many facets of DTP. “PageMaker 6.5 is far more advanced than we need but we are slowly moving towards understanding and using all the features. When I started out in all this I got a book to learn about monochrome – Once I worked out how to use Adobe Photoshop, I finally understood the book!”


Donald MacLeod has overcome the problems of a tight budget, keeping up with the digital age in publishing, and reaching a worldwide audience, by harnessing the power of Adobe’s products. He has been able to traverse the many electronic boundaries that crisscross the production process of his magazine, uniting all the people and organisations that help to create it into one, digitally-compatible team.

Most significantly, MacLeod has achieved all of this without any prior DTP knowledge. He concludes, “I like all the Adobe products very much and wouldn’t even consider shifting to anything else. Honestly, I don’t know how we would cope without Adobe!”