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What Software do I need?

What software do commercial printers use to manage their business?

This is an overview of the type of software that printing companies in the commercial sector typically use. It isn’t extensive and has been designed as an educational article to help printers in the commercial print sector understand more about the software automation opportunities available to them.

(By commercial printing software, we mean the software used by companies that manufacture products typically used for marketing and business purposes e.g. leaflets, posters, business cards, and booklets.)

What is the most used software in the commercial printing industry?

A print MIS system is the main piece of software used by commercial print businesses.

This is the core software application that commercial printers use to manage their print jobs – from the initial sales and estimating phase, through to scheduling, inventory, and shipping. There are a few different phrases used to describe this software, including:

Ecommerce / Storefront software for commercial printers

This type of software (sometimes also called web-to-print or W2P) is very popular with commercial printers, because it allows them to create an online storefront that customers can use to easily order custom printed products such as brochures and business cards. These storefront portals allow customers to self-serve 24/7/365 – a big advantage for the modern print buying customer.

For more information about this type of software and how printing companies use it, head to our page about Ecommerce and storefront software for printers.

Workflow software for commercial printers

When the phrase ‘workflow software’ is used in the commercial printing industry, it typically refers to the flow of the administrative job information from the estimating phase through into the prepress workflow, and into press, postpress and even further on into shipping. Typical examples of this type of software are:

Imposition/optimization software used by commercial printers

In the commercial sector, imposition software is most commonly used for laying down pages onto a folded section (e.g. a booklet). Commercial printers also use this imposition software to optimize a sheet or roll so that the layout is at its most efficient when planning up multiple jobs or components of different sizes and sometimes irregular shapes.

Read more about how printers use optimization software.

Workflow automation software for commercial printers

Workflow automation software allows commercial printers to automate some of the business processes that take place outside of their main MIS software. This can include processes such as artwork preflighting and proofing or even auto-checking the suitability of jobs for EPM printing (an option on HP Indigos that eliminates the black separation from CMYK jobs to increase printing).

Examples of workflow automation software used by commercial printers include:

  • Enfocus Switch
  • PrintOS from HP
  • Prinergy Rules Based Automation.
  • Zaikio

It can also include non-industry-specific workflow automation solutions such as Zapier and Automate.io.

Find out more about the workflow automation software used by printing companies.

Creative and graphic design software for commercial printers

Commercial printers typically use software such as Adobe Creative Suite to design their products. They don’t tend to use CAD software, which is generally more suitable for packaging and label printers.

Learn more about what software commercial printers use for graphic design.

Courier software for commercial printers

Commercial printers often favor one or two shipping providers and use their online web portals to arrange for and manage shipments. These web portals can often be integrated into the print MIS solution used by a commercial printer so that these shipments can be arranged from within the MIS software.

Examples of this software include UPS Worldship, EasyPost, and FedEx Ship Manager.

Printing companies in the commercial sector may also manage their own delivery fleet and can integrate software such as BigChange JobWatch into their print MIS software to streamline this process.

Read more about the software applications used by commercial printers for managing courier shipments.

Accounts software for commercial printers

A print MIS solution does come with some financial functionality, namely the production of financial documents such as Purchase Orders and Sales Invoices, etc, but commercial printers typically use some other type of software to manage their financial accounts. And they often integrate the two together to provide synchronization of financial activity between the accounts package and the MIS software.

Examples of this software include Sage, Xero, Quickbooks, and Business Central.

Learn more about how commercial printers use accounts software and integrate them with their MIS software.

Financial automation software for commercial printers

In addition to the accounting software mentioned above, commercial printers also use financial automation software to streamline the administration of their financial functions. This involves the digital processing of documents such as invoices, and subsequent reconciliation of these invoices with those in the core MIS software. Integration into the MIS software needs to be carried out to achieve this. Examples of this type of software include V1 Automation, Paperless Europe, and Avalara Avatax.

Learn more about the financial automation software used by companies in the commercial print sector.

Marketing automation software for commercial printers

Commercial printers can also use marketing software to help them create targeted marketing campaigns for their printed products. By integrating this type of software into their core print MIS solution, they are able to target prospects and customers based on past estimates and orders. So they know exactly what type of commercial products these companies are interested in.

Examples of this type of software include Hubspot, Pardot, and Infusionsoft.

Learn more about how commercial printers integrate their MIS with marketing automation software.

Stock and substrate ordering software for commercial printers

Paper merchants such as Premier Papers and Antalis have online catalogs that their customers can use to check prices and order stock. Commercial printers can integrate their print MIS solution with these online catalogs, so that material stock levels and prices are checked at the estimating phase, and orders for required materials can be placed from within the MIS system.

Integrating with the Zaikio platform also offers the ability to interface multiple paper merchants into the MIS, allowing orders to be placed and availability to be checked as well as pricing.

Read more about how commercial printers integrate their MIS software with paper merchants.

How about Digital Printing software?

The software listed in the above sections covers all types of commercial printing, and so is most definitely relevant for digital printing companies who use equipment such as HP Indigo Presses. For information about digital print production software, and digital print workflow software, please see our information about ‘workflow software’.

How about Offset Printing software?

If you’re looking for info about software for offset printers, the above sections are all totally relevant and cover all types of commercial printing.

Technology Guide for Printers


See a comprehensive guide to the key software applications that are used in the printing, packaging, and label industries.

Go to Guide