Cleaning up a D&D Character File

A couple of months ago Wizards of the Coast "upgraded" the Character Builder program from the downloadable .NET application for Windows to a Silverlight program that can run on a Mac. In theory I support this. However, one crazy thing happened: the new program doesn't send text to a printer and instead sends big images. This means if you print to a PDF file two things happen: the file size is obscene (12 or more Mb for a four page file), and the text is blurry as all get out.

After some struggling with this I had an epiphany: if WotC wants to give me images go ahead and work with that, process the images, and get a smaller, sharper file. After some messing about I came up with a process that works well for me. If you have a Mac and you want to play along here's an Automator app. You'll also need a scriptable image editor - I use Acorn from Flying Meat software. (You might ask why not Pixelmator. The answer is Pixelmator seems crashy when run from script. I have a version of this that uses Pixelmator but I have to run it 5-6 times to get a successful output.) Here's what you do:

  1. Run the Character Builder and hit the Print button.
  2. When the print dialog opens use the PDF button in the lower left and choose "Save PDF to folder as TIFF". Pick someplace (I use the Desktop) and let it run. You now have a TIFF file for each page in the character file. These are fat and they are blurry but we'll fix that next.
  3. Select all of the pages and drop them on the Automator App.
  4. The Automator app uses Applescript to tell Acorn to open all of the TIFF files, run an Unsharp Mask on them, and save them again.
  5. The Automator app then creates a new PDF from the Images. This will be named Character.pdf and it will be on your Desktop. You can now delete the TIFF files and enjoy a readable PDF that can put on an iPad (for example.)

To be clear, this is still a work-around. The Character Builder ought to output text and then you could just use the print to PDF button normally. This workaround isn't great - there's still some definite halo effects on the text and the files are still pretty fat. My sorcerer (Gurdrian) was a 471 Kb PDF file with the old builder and my current version is 6.1Meg - over an order of magnitude larger, while looking worse. This is sucky, but it's less sucky than the 15 Mb version simply printing from the app to a PDF create

Anyway, if this helps somebody out there, here's my Automator app. No warranty, etc, blah, blah but it does the trick for me. If you try it and have an issue drop me a line and I'll see what I do to help.

Character Builder Cleanup App