Cheap Impostor, a great desktop publishing utility

Cheap Impostor 3.2.2
Cheap Impostor 3.2.2

Recently I took it upon myself to develop a new concert program design for the Atlanta Baroque Orchestra. They needed something fresh because they had used the same design, done in Microsoft Word, for six years of concerts.

I engaged graphic designer Beth Beaver, who did a great job working from my suggestions and using some Baroque and Renaissance woodcuts I selected from books of reprints of old art. Beth’s new design has the appropriate “Early Music” look and feel, while being highly legible and readable, using the best modern principles of layout and typography. We worked in Adobe InDesign CS5.

The Atlanta Baroque Orchestra’s printed concert programs are US Letter size (8 1/2 by 11 inches, or 21.6 cm x 28 cm for those of you outside the United States of America), folded and stapled, and they are 8 pages or sometimes 12.

We have them printed by a professional print shop that donates their services. They print on-demand, double-sided on Tabloid paper (11 by 17 inches, or 28 cm by 43.2 cm) which are folded and stapled to make a book that is US Letter size in finished form.

The print shop requires that we submit a PDF file formatted for Tabloid size and imposed, completely ready to be printed on a laser printer, without the print shop having to do any editing. When I say imposed, that means that the order of the US Letter-sized pages presented within the Tabloid pages is re-ordered for printing double-sided and folding, to make a book. The pages have to be in a different configuration and page order from that of the order of the US Letter pages created in the desktop publishing program.

It turns out that Adobe InDesign CS5 is not entirely capable of doing this within itself. When I learned this, I went looking for a solution, and I found one, a Mac-only utility called Cheap Impostor, which costs $35.

Cheap Impostor
Cheap Impostor modifies PDF layouts for book printing

Cheap Impostor is billed as a program for individuals to print booklets of their documents on their home printers. However, for our purposes, it provides a professional printing solution as well.

Adobe InDesign CS5 can output regularly-paged PDFs, and it can also print out an imposed booklet to paper, but it does not permit the user to save an imposed booklet as a PDF file. I suppose they want you to purchase Adobe Acrobat for that purpose. But Adobe Acrobat costs hundreds of dollars. Then there are professional “pre-flight” PDF imposition programs, which provide considerable flexibility for all kinds of printing situations, but cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Cheap Impostor, on the other hand, does what we need for only $35, providing a perfect work-around for InDesign’s deliberate limitation. Our needs are simple, and we only print a few hundred programs a few times a year, so the pro software is way out of our league.

We create the concert programs at US Letter size in Adobe InDesign CS5, output a PDF, open the PDF in Cheap Impostor, and with only a couple of clicks, have it impose 2-up, double-sided onto Tabloid paper (11″ x 17″), output as another PDF file. The print shop takes the PDF output from Cheap Impostor and prints up 8- or 12-page folded and stapled concert programs. The professional printers are happy and so are we.

Bravo, Cheap Impostor! It’s a useful addition to any Mac-based graphic designer’s toolkit.