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RDBoon
Currently Being Moderated

InDesign Data Merge Issues...

Feb 21, 2012 7:28 AM

Hey all, I'm relatively new to using InDesign, I've used it previously for basic artwork layouts etc, and I'm familiar with Illustrator and Photoshop, but InDesign is something I'm still getting to grips with.

 

I run a mailing company and we have an ongoing requirement for variable data merging. Software designed for variable data work when dealing with PDFs and high res images is incredibly expensive, and so I figured I could try and make use of InDesign's own data merging feature.

 

Now I'm fully aware of some of the irritating little issues surrounding this tool, such as the way if you've got two blank fields it only removes one of them, and I also know it used to have an issue where it would pull data through from the next record to replace blanks, but I don't see that happening any more.

 

There are lots of webpages and forums discussing the blank fields problem, but my problem is currently something else.

 

I've noticed that some of the fields often don't like to display anything other than the header row, the field name.  You drop the field onto the page and create your merge, but when you preview it or publish it whilst most of the fields do as expected and change to show the data, some of the fields do not, they just continue to show <contact> for instance, rather than a name.

 

I'm at a loss to explain this really, it's not even particularly consistent.

 

As an example of my problem, I laid out the following address block

 

<Contact>

<Add1>

<Add2>

<Add3>

<Add4>

<Add5>

<Postcode>

 

What I get sometimes is this...

 

<Contact>

123 Sample Street

Sample Town

Sample County

Sample Postcode

 

Or...

 

Mr AB Sample

123 Sample Street

Sample Town

<Add3>

Sample Postcode

 

If you add the same field again beneath the one that is playing up, the new field will work, but the one beneath it will then play up, so where in the example above it is <Add3> that isn't merging, if I added another <add3> beneath it, I could almost guarantee that <Add4> would then play up.

 

I just don't understand it, and it's frustrating me immensely.

 

Ironically I know a local professional printers who are using InDesign for all their digital variable print runs, without issue, so I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. They are using Macs whereas I am using a PC with Windows 7 Ultimate x 64bit, but I've had the same problem on other Windows version, so is it a Windows related problem, or are Mac users just not spotting this??

 

Anyone who has ever experienced something similar and perhaps found a solution, please help!!!!!

 

Best Regards

Richard

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 21, 2012 9:17 AM   in reply to RDBoon

    It looks like some of your data source is not complete. The missing <add3> are less of a concern that the <contact> as if you mail something out to someone with no name, its obviously spam. You can go through your data source, find the empty <contact> fields and input a default name - Customer/Current Ocuupant etc. Someone on here might know if you can set a default fall back for that kind of thing but I have never seen one.

     

    In terms of your fields showing, you should be able to select 'Remove blank fields' and they will stop showing if there is no data in those fields. See attachment.

     

    placement_options.jpg

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 21, 2012 9:41 AM   in reply to RDBoon

    Data Merge in CS5 (and very likely CS5.5) has a new bug, which might be what you are seeing, where you unpredictable results in a merged file if you preview the merge first on a multiple records per page merge. In all my testing, it has worked fine if you either do NOT preview, and go straight to merge, or if you Undo the preview step, then merge.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 22, 2012 1:46 AM   in reply to RDBoon

    My next thought would be data corruption in the source file, then. Open it in a plain text editor and look for odd characters or the wrong number of fields in a record.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 22, 2012 1:51 AM   in reply to RDBoon

    Have you tried re-saving the data file from a plain text editor? And rebuilding the template?

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 22, 2012 2:14 AM   in reply to RDBoon

    Fpr what it's worth, which is not much, I saw a data file back in CS4 that behaved in a manner similar to what you describe, but worked OK in CS3, though I was never able to reproduce the problem with any other data source or locate what the issue was.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 22, 2012 2:37 AM   in reply to RDBoon

    You could download the trial of CS5.5....

     

    If you have CS3, you might try the merge there, too.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 22, 2012 2:52 AM   in reply to Peter Spier

    I use InDesign CS5.5 (Mac) after upgrading directly from CS3, and found few issues with the Data Merge, and I really push DM to do things it wasn't intended to do! Did have problems during CS5 as Peter reported in an earlier post, but can't fault it lately.

     

    Haven't experienced the error that the OP is experiencing though... ever.

     

    What I will say is that good data = good merges. Data that contains soft returns or other characters which shouldn't be there often ruin mail merges, and this has happened a few times.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 24, 2012 6:41 AM   in reply to RDBoon

    RDBoon wrote:

     

    I don't really want to use multiple record layout as I want more control myself as to how it is all laid out, but is the only option for me at present, the moment I try and have multiple placeholders referencing multiple fields it fails.

    OK, now I'm confused. Data Merge has two options, one set of placeholders and you do a multiple records per page merge, or duplicated sets of placeholders and you duplicate the same record multiple times on the same page.

     

    Just what do you mean by "multiple placeholders referencing multiple fields"?

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Feb 24, 2012 6:56 AM   in reply to RDBoon

    And now it's Friday. Bonus!

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 25, 2012 11:26 PM   in reply to RDBoon

    Hi Everyone,

     

    I encountered this problem, or one eerily similar, myself today (merge fields jumbled up for seemingly no reason), and found the problem to be my datasheet.

     

    My datasheet was full of information for business cards (Name, Mobile, Address, etc) but after exporting to CSV and performing a data merge in CS5.5 the fields were jumbled up seemingly at random.

     

    The issue was that my address field used line breaks (alt + enter in Excel) to separate street addresses from cities.

     

    By removing the line breaks and setting each element of the address into a seperate column (Excel) and corresponding merge field (InDesign) the issue was resolved.

     

    My guess is that either InDesign's Data Merge does not handle line breaks very well, or when converted to CSV the data formatting can't handle line breaks.

     

    I hope this helps!

     
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