What kind of text variable that is ? If kind of running headers and in case you have a long story, InDesign might be browsing through the whole story to update the variables contents hence possibly explaining the issue.
Apart from that, if the content is "fixed" you can enter it onto the master page.
Thanks. That's the solution we're working with right now, but we were hoping to continue using the variables rather than manually inputting repeat data more than once. The variables read information from the cover and display it in the running headers - nice and convenient!
Is document length a common issue when working with text variables?
No I think the issue is the story length. I mean in every page, the variable loops through all the story to use the latest pertinent value so if the story threads across 300p then it can be time consuming.
The variables read information from the cover and display it in the running headers
I wonder if you could make this work with linked content rather than text variables. I do something like you describe using the Content Collector tool to "collect" a text frame containing model name/number from page 1, and place/link it on master page(s) so it shows in the footer of every applicable page. I see no performance hit at all doing this.
With technical manuals of this size, have you ever considered using Framemaker? It really is meant for these types of applications.
I'd have to see your exact layout, but perhaps cross references would be faster.
Other than that, you could try the following, keep your dynamic text variable text, but duplicate that master and release the variable for that version of the document.
Then, apply the master for released version.
If you need a new cover and variables, go back to the master you didn't use, duplicate it, etc.
Linking the text boxes worked well. Export times dropped significantly, and we didn't have to change the template much. Too bad the variables don't work as efficiently!
Thanks for all the suggestions!