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Can I use datamerge to produce variable QR codes from a spreadsheet?

Sep 11, 2012 5:21 PM

Tags: #data #merge #variable #2d #barcode #qr

I've done variable 3 of 9 barcodes through datamerge  and simply loading a barcode font, are there 2d barcode fonts that will perform the same way within InDesign? I need to add a 2d barcode to a variable mailer that is already produced through InDesign datamerge, and adding another variable would by far be easier than using a seperate application. Thanks in advance for any help offered!

 
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    Sep 12, 2012 12:40 AM   in reply to Laodamas

    I haven't done anything that required me to generate barcodes for a few years now, so maybe they are different than they used to be. I used to use a dedicated program where I would type in the barcode numbers, and it would output a vector image that I would place. I don't know if this way is better, worse, or just older than what you are doing, but if you want to use images as your barcode, you can place images with Data Merge by putting a link to the image in your data file.

     
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    Sep 12, 2012 1:24 AM   in reply to Michael Gianino

    3 of 9 barcodes are relatively simple because the barcode is simply a font with a start/stop tag. 2d barcodes such as the QR code are much more complicated and InDesign (straight off of the shelf) can't do this on-the-fly with datamerge. Using a third party plugin such as XMPie or teacup software, possibly... but they aren't free.

     

    Put simply, indesign's data merge plops the information onto a page as it appeared in the txt/csv file – it doesn't PARSE the information to program it to be a barcode, nor can it tell whether the data is a name, address, phone number, dollar value etc.

     

    A slow way would be to use a free QR code maker and make one at a time and then in the txt/csv file, put the filename of the QR code into the database and use data merge to bring the barcodes in as pictures. This is fine if there are a few records but for hundreds or thousands of records, doing this on-the-fly would be much better and a plug-in would be the way to go.

     
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    Sep 12, 2012 11:03 AM   in reply to Laodamas

    I don't think it's practical, and probably won't be helpful, either, but Jongware has a script to make anything you can draw into a custom font: http://www.indiscripts.com/post/2012/06/indyfont-build-opentype-fonts- from-within-indesign. The problem is that you'd need to make a glyph out of each code first, then you could assign them tot he various code points and just list the codepoints in the data file, but this is vastly differnt from parding a string and automatically generating the code image.

     
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    Sep 12, 2012 12:20 PM   in reply to Peter Spier

    It would be vastly easier to first create all of the QR codes as images, save them under a name that can be retrieved from the data merge, and have a short script swop name-for-image. Such scripts already exist.

     

    (Funny, I looked in to creating QR codes by scripting last year. I kind of abandoned it since there are tons of free utils already -- but, of course, none directly targeted at InDesign users.)

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 11:17 AM   in reply to Laodamas

    I have a related question. I also did a Data Merge with 3 of 9 barcode font. It worked great except that I had to save the file out as a PDF for the bar code to work. The Data Merge changes the bar code font and makes it unscannable as is. Saving as a PDF changes the font back to something usable. Is this normal? Any ideas on why or how to make the PDF part not necessary? It's not difficult to do, it's just one extra step and easy to miss if not paying closs attention to the way the code looks. And who really knows if  code is correct without scanning it? Thanks for any thoughts you might have.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 12:07 PM   in reply to Laodamas

    No, no errors. Everything goes real smooth. This first image, DataMerge.jpg is how the barcodes look in InDesign, after the merge. I'll upload another image, a PDF if I can, of how it looks after exported to PDF.

    DateMerge.jpg

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 12:10 PM   in reply to Daliah

    Have you tried printing the page from ID and scanning?

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 12:15 PM   in reply to Daliah

    Barcode.jpgOK, this is the file after exporting as a PDF. I had to reduce file size, so it's blurry. Where I notice the difference is the first part of the code, it the DataMarge file, there is a thick black line. In the PDF, there are multiple lines.

     

    Oh, and I printed it, I didn't scan on the screen. I suppose I could have tried that. I did use an iphone app.

     

    This particular font looked the closest to what the client sent us to match. I don't know how they were creating the barcodes or what font they were using.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 12:17 PM   in reply to Peter Spier

    Yes, that was the first thing I did, and since I was using an iphone app, I just thought the app didn't work, and that I needed an actual barcode scanner. Once I printed out the PDF, I had both prints to sample, and realized it wasn't the app, but the barcode.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 12:41 PM   in reply to Daliah

    On your screen capture, the human readable codes change, but the barcodes stay the same.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 12:52 PM   in reply to Jeffrey_Smith

    I know it looks that way, maybe the screen grab is too fuzy to tell. I think because so many of the numbers are the same, it appears that way. I did just open it to double check and if you look at maybe the 3rd or 4th to the left, they are changing, but true, not like the PDF, that's true. Something is hokey with it. It's odd, the PDF is from the DataMerge, they should be the same. Another interesting thing is that in Preview, before the merge, the codes look correct.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 1:15 PM   in reply to Laodamas

    I just did and some worked right out of ID and some did not. So that was a good experiment.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 1:31 PM   in reply to Daliah

    Daliah wrote:

     

    Another interesting thing is that in Preview, before the merge, the codes look correct.

    Do the merge without previewing. There's a bug that causes the wrong data to merge on multi-record merges if you preview.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 1:43 PM   in reply to Laodamas

    Started in CS5, I believe.

     

    There's no problem when you skip the preview, or if you "undo" to exit the preview. I don't know if it affects the merge direct to PDF, but it's quite possible it does not.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 2:15 PM   in reply to Peter Spier

    I always preview and it looks fine. I'll have to try without previewing and see how that works. Making the PDF is not a big problem for me, it's more remembering that it's a necessary step that I'm concerned about.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 2:28 PM   in reply to Daliah

    I won't say the bug hits every file, but we see enough reports of records scrambled or repeated that I wouldn't risk it. It isn't that big a deal to skip it. If the merge turns out wrong, just close the file without saving. Better than not knowing you have the wrong barcode.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 2:37 PM   in reply to Daliah

    I just tried and it didn't work any better. I'm thinking my problem might be a font issue, at least in this instance. I just tried with my original font, but in my previous test, where I did preview, I tried several fonts and a few worked and a few didn't.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 2:49 PM   in reply to Daliah

    I wasn't really suggesting the font issue would go away, but rather reacting to Jeffrey's observation and your comment that you previewed. A duplicated barcode isn't all that easily spotted.

     
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    Dec 7, 2012 2:58 PM   in reply to Peter Spier

    Oh, OK, that makes sense, and no, it isn't easy to spot. And I'm not going to test 9000 barcodes.

     
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