Data Merging – Part 3

It’s been much longer than I expected finishing this three-part tutorial on InDesign’s Data Merge feature, but it’s been a very busy period for me. You’ll find part 1 here, and part 2 here. When I left you, I had created a reminder card layout in InDesign CS2, and created text and graphic frame placeholders. I selected the data source and linked the data fields with the placeholder frames. Finally, I previewed the result.

ReminderCardLayout

Now, it’s time to create the new data merge document. Click the Create Merged Document button (circled above), or choose Create Merged Document from the palette menu. This opens a three-tabbed-panel dialog box. The most important panel?Records?is where you select which records you want to include in your merged document. But equally important, you need to choose the number of records per document page. (This choice has tripped many people up.)

Select records

The layout we’re creating is a Single Record. That is, it creates exactly one physical page for each record in the merged document. (Remember, from our first posting, that a record is the complete set of fields that extend across the row of data. We’ll show you a Multiple Record layout next.) There are also options to generate a report if text gets overset in the process, or to generate an alert when images are missing.

You also want to click on the Options tab. Here you have choices for how to fit images in your graphic placeholder frames. (I prefer to presize my images to exact size ahead of time by running an action on the images in Photoshop.) You can also remove blank lines for empty fields or set a maximum number of records in a document. When you’re finished, click OK.

InDesign starts thinking about what to do. For a large data merge, this can take quite a while. Finally, it generates a new document containing the records you selected. As you can see in the illustration below, there was no overset text, and seven pages was generated in my simple example.
New Document Generated

Multiple Record Layouts. Now let’s show you an example of a Multiple Record layout. This is an imaginary examination certificate which will be printed 4-up on a page.

Certificate

I find it helpful to create guides to help me figure out how to position the 4-up layout. When you create the Multiple Record layout, you only place boilerplate and placeholders on the layout once. You’ll position the other records using the Create Merged Document dialog box. (You can also place data-field placeholders on a master page.) When you click the Preview, you’ll only see a preview of the first record. Click the Create Merged Document button to open the dialog box.

This time, in the Create Merged Document dialog, choose Multiple Records in the Records per Document Page popup menu. Now the Preview Multiple Record Layout becomes available at the bottom of the dialog box. Don’t worry if things aren’t lined up the way you want. Click on the Multiple Record Layout tab to fix that.

Multiple Record Layout

Here is where you position the other instances of records which will appear on the same page. You’ll need to tweak the controls in the Layout of Records section to position the other records. This is where having the guides on the page helps you to position the elements more precisely. When finished, click OK to generate your new merged document.

There are a lot of other fine points which could be added here, but this blog entry is long enough already. Continue to leave your comments here on your experiences using Data Merge. It’s not a perfect solution for all data needs, but it’s helpful for simpler layouts. And it’s free!

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Comments

67 Comments on “Data Merging – Part 3

  1. hi,

    I am mathews.. I saw the Data Merge video (EPISODE 43) it was great i could automate text.
    thanks for that..

    when i do a data merge for certificate which is A4 size…. i will get 14 pages in single pdf file…
    since i have to do 14 certificates…

    I have two questions on this…
    1) I need to create separate pdf
    2) I need to name the individual pdf as the name given in the field…

    I need to save the pdf to individual names..

    thanks…
    Regards
    Mathews

  2. The document you wish to merge needs to be one page only otherwise the Single/Multiple Record option in greyed out…

  3. Hey All,

    I have just discovered Data Merge and am loving it. I have had several successes, however, there is one document that is giving me trouble.

    It is a multiple record per page merge, the preview looks great, and I am amped. However, when I finalize it, the new .indd generated populates the same record throughout. I have ‘All records’ selected from the dialogue box and have tried just about every type formatting scenario. My frame is right up against the margins and occupies the right amount of space. I have even tried creating a new document and just starting over, as well as relinking the .csv, the only thing remaining is for me to try it from a computer with CS5.5. (Currently running CS5).

    Any suggestions would be extremely helpful, apologize for the wordy paragraph.

  4. @Wyatt: If you need more folks answering, I would encourage you to write this up in the Forums, rather than on a blog post. This sounds odd, though. I would first make sure it works when the Preview checkbox is turned on. And check the Import settings; maybe you have it set to just one record?

  5. Had a similar problem to several other commenters: multiple records per page didn’t take. I had some crop marks on a hidden layer. As soon as I deleted the layers it worked like a charm.

  6. I was wondering if anyone answered Hans question. I am having the same issue…

    Thanks
    Yaritza

    Hi,

    This tutorial was really helpful, thanks for that.

    I have been experiencing some problems though.
    When adding pictures to a frame, keeps giving me following warning:

    ? The data source references one or more missing images. The missing images cannot be previewed or merged. ??

    I can take another picture, in the same folder (same path), with a different name. Some pictures work, some don?t. (actually most of them don?t work)

    path:
    :Users:wannes:Desktop:2.jpg works just fine
    :Users:wannes:Desktop:1.jpg gives error

    and i am sure files are in this folder, carrying the right name.

    Can you help me on this topic please?

    Hans from belgium

  7. I didn’t see this question scanning through comments: Does this create a large file?

    I have someone else’s ID file that only has vector art and one merge field (not sure how many names were merged.

    The file is 200 MB… that seems weird!
    Any thoughts?

  8. Im writing to see if anybody answered
    John Durels question about the printing 1 on top and 2 after and 3 after that. All for he postcard and post office regulations

    John DurelsAugust 18th, 2009 ? 3:25 pm

  9. @Amy: I’m not entirely sure what you and John mean… is it just that you want to reverse the order of the data merge (do the last one first, then 2nd to last, etc.)? InDesign cannot sort, filter, or change the order. You’d have to set that up in the database/spreadsheet first.

  10. Issue: have created a page doc to enable a 4 up mail merge, but when I select multiple record layout and then preview it does it, but sends it way left corner of the pasteboard for all pages. Any assistance would be appreciated!

  11. David,

    Thanks for all you do. I have learned a lot from your site. I love Data Merge. I design high school football & basketball programs, sales cards and such and use it every chance I get. I have used it for placing barcodes & images plus countless variable text. My advise: Anyone who has to flow variable data needs to use it.

  12. Hi, i’m miguel from philippines, i’ve been working id cards for quite a year now, i use regular id size in my lay-out, there are 10 id’s in each page and my only problem is when i print the back id of the cards. i’ve been using select and rotating process so that my back id lay-out will fit into the front id lay-out. sorry for my bad english :)

    so my question is, is there a way to reverse the data merge automation so that my back canvas will mirror the front canvas? :) tnx

  13. The best solution I’ve found for this (as someone who works with variable data in a print shop) is to plan ahead of time and to break your data up into X sets of columns, were X is the number of items you’ll have on a page. It’s a bit of pre-work, but it’ll save a lot of time on long jobs. What you then do is a single item merge and plot items accordingly:

    Side 1:
    DATA1 | DATA2
    DATA3 | DATA4

    Side 2:
    DATA2 | DATA1
    DATA4 | DATA3

    For instance, if you’re doing a mail merge with 100 addresses you’d break your sets up into 4 parallel column sets whose titles are appended with a number (say ADDRESS1-4, UNIT1-4, COMPANY1-4, NAME1-4, etc.) and then the merge will run through the stacks, keeping your order sequential in stacking order (descending through the pile for each quadrant), which is preferable for when you go to cut the items anyway.

    This is often applied for things like sequentially ordered tickets, as well. It’s a useful trick if you don’t have something better to impose and do data merges with when you must have variable data on two sides of a product.

    Hope this helps.

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