3 Replies Latest reply on Aug 28, 2012 9:51 AM by benpatient

    Complex data merge in InDesign possible?




      I would be very grateful if an InDesign guru could help me with a bit of advice on data merge so I can put a case to the Finance Director for spending some money on InDesign!


      We are producing a catalogue with lots of prices and product information taken from a database and wanted to know if InDesign CS6 could help. I don't have the programme yet so I can't really tell if it is worth getting the company to buy it!


      What we want to do...

      1. We have an Access database with prices and product information on over 1000 products
      2. We want to use this to update all the price and product descriptions in our catalogue so that it is much faster to reprint accurately
      3. We want to do this via a summary sheet which is easier to proof read against, and also issue as an addendum to customers when we have price changes between print runs of the main catalogue


      What I think is possible from looking at the InDesign CS6 product description....

      1. Create a "Price and Product Information Summary" document that lists all the product information and prices that we want to merge
      2. Data Merge from the Access database to the above document
      3. Use Link & Place feature to link each bit of information to its correct place in the print catalogue (which will be produced in InDesign as well)

      So we run the merge on the Summary document and, when this data has changed, we can open up the main print catalogue and all the prices will be updated.


      My estimate is that this will save us over US$2000 per year in wasted time, so you can imagine that the budget approver would be pretty happy to invest!




        • 1. Re: Complex data merge in InDesign possible?
          Peter Spier Most Valuable Participant (Moderator)

          http://forums.adobe.com/people/cdflash (Colin Flashman) is our resident Data Merge expert and has a lot of information on his blog. I think what you are suggesting is probably doable, but you may find it worthwhile to also invest in one of the cmmercial catalog plugins. It would probably be worth the time to set up a machine with a trial of ID CS6 and also trials of the catalog plugins to see what they can do.

          • 2. Re: Complex data merge in InDesign possible?
            Colin Flashman Adobe Community Professional



            aw, shucks...




            InDesign's Data Merge works only with .txt or .csv files so an export from the access database has to ultimately be done. The feature will also only populate the placeholder fields placed into InDesign, and it can't interpret the data (e.g. tell that it is a dollar value, an address, needs to be title case, etc). At some point the file has to go from "template" to "merge" and it is normally once a catalogue is merged that proof-reading can begin and the errors revealed. From here, the question is then "do we do the alterations in the database or indesign", and how do we maintain versions? Data Merge is probably not the feature i'd use to accomplish this kind of catalogue work.


            HOWEVER, InDesign does support the import of XML code, so if access can export an XML file then I'd pursue this option. I have only used XML to produce real-world products on a few occasions so I would suggest purchasing the book "A Designer's Guide to Adobe InDesign and XML" by James Maivald. There are tutorials in the book which I think the OP would find useful.


            Otherwise there are plug-ins which can be purchased in addition to InDesign but I do not use them myself and could not recommend one over the other. Perhaps other posters who use such plug-ins may be of some assistance.


            Data merge is great for one record-one/many page output such as direct mail campaigns, raffle tickets etc, but IMHO other solutions work better for producing catalogues.


            Data Merge is also not a query return window (e.g. not a solution for producing utility invoices with many entries which differ from client to client).

            • 3. Re: Complex data merge in InDesign possible?
              benpatient Level 1

              Thanks, Colin.


              I'll take a look into it. Thanks for your recommendations.


              And thank you Peter for linking Mr Flash to this question. I'll report back!