InDesign Mail Merge

We recently worked on a project that required us to produce nearly 100 separate sales sheets. They were two sided, and 50 percent of the information was unique to each sheet. Once you move past the threshold of 25, creating the sheets by hand becomes cumbersome. There’s just too much information to keep organized. The approach that we used required Microsoft Excel, CSVed, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign.

Step 1: Prepare the data

If the information isn’t right, the entire project is lost. To keep things organized, we created a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Each row represented a product. Each column represented a separate piece of information. Thinking forward several steps, we labeled each column with image source information with the @ symbol (i.e., @featured-picture).

The key with this step is once you set your column names, don’t change them.

Step 2: Export the data

Once your spreadsheet is complete, use the Save As command and save it as a tab separated file (i.e., myfile.txt). To data merge, Adobe InDesign wants a comma separated file. Starting with a tab separated file, gets us part of the way there.

Updating the image source

Before closing this version, you need to update any image paths. In Windows 7, the easiest way to accomplish this is to click to the folder with your images. Look to the file path at the top of the window. Right mouse button clickCopy address as text. With this information, update any field with an image file name. Save. Close the file.

Although you could Save As to a comma separated file directly with Microsoft Excel, Excel doesn’t encapsulate your field data in quotation marks. To do that, we need an extra step.

Step 3: Create a CSV for Import

If you don’t have it already, download CSVed. It’s freeware for Windows. CSVed is designed to work with delimited files (tab, comma, semi-colon). Before doing anything else, update the CSVed preferences to add quotation marks around each field.

Change the CSVed delimiter to tab and open the file you saved from Excel.

The thing to look for is each piece of information lining up in neat columns. If something is out of place, review your original Excel file for tabs in the cells.

If all looks solid, change the delimiter to comma and Save As to filename.csv.