There are a few ways. It could be that you could get something to work
with InDesign built-in data merge (it can add images), but it's got very
basic functionality, so that's unlikely. Still, worth investigating
first, perhaps. It may do the trick.
The other options are to use a script: there are a number of commercial
scripts available (don't have the names off-hand), or you comission (or
write yourself) a custom script to pull the info from the database and
create the InDesign pages that way.
The most sophisticated way, is perhaps, to build IDML outside of
InDesign which you can then open in InDesign. The advantages there are
that you can use the programming environment of your choice to access
your database and create the IDML files. Some languages have very
powerful database features (the .NET LINQ library, for instance). The
other advantage would be speed -- your can create your IDML files very
quickly. However, this is probably the most complex way, initially, of
doing this, unless you anticipate having to regenerate the catalogue
with different data every month or so.
Thanks, I've done very little with indesign and writing even a simple script is way beyond my cababilities right now. I will investigate the data merge feature, as my needs are pretty basic, like you say, it may do the trick.
I would want to update the guide, once a year, it would be nice if this could be done with a few clicks as it re-reads the database and publishes the new info. Maybe this will necesitate buy a script. Thanks again, I appreciate your swift response.
You can use the simple datamerge as suggested. What you will need to do is to make sure the frame that contains all the fields that will be repeated is large enough for the record that is the largest one.
Then, when all done with the merge, you can (and likely should) stitch all the record frames together so it is one continuous story. There is a free script to do this with here:
This way the merged document is more flexible in the sense of removing extra lines, snugging records that have various amounts of data up to each other, etc., without having to deal with, in your case, 500 individual frames.
French scripter Loic Aigon has a few articles on his blog that are food for thought.
The first article is whether to use an XML based approach as opposed to data merge. XML to InDesign publishing works but there are few resources around and the learning curve is steep, but the rewards are worth it. See his article here: http://www.loicaigon.com/en/how-to-choose-between-xml-import-and-datamerge/
Otherwise, he provides a script that removes the need to stitch all stories together after a merge as explained by MW design. http://www.loicaigon.com/en/indesignsecrets-presents-our-inlinemerge-script/
It is also worth noting that textstitch has a free alternative produced by ajar productions: http://ajarproductions.com/blog/2008/11/28/merge-textframes-extension-for-adobe-indesign/
If I was standing in the OPs place and given this task, I would explore the possibility of an XML solution (given the ability to change the database year to year). Best resource i've found is a book by James Maivald on the topic: http://www.amazon.com/Designers-Guide-Adobe-InDesign-XML/dp/0321503554
Ultimately, we need to know what file format the database is. Is this an off the shelf spreadsheet such as excel or access; or custom software? What are the export facilities of the database - is it txt/csv only, or is xml export possible?