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Finding the Full Potential of Variable-Data Printing

(October 2015) posted on Tue Oct 20, 2015

Personalized and printable, Big Data isn’t just for the tech geeks.


click an image below to view slideshow

By Mark A. Coudray

The data file I needed to turn the graphic into a VDP document is shown below. It’s simply an Excel spreadsheet saved as a comma saved value (.csv) file.

Each row of data represents all of the data for that particular runner. The columns have each piece of variable data in the graphic. Note that columns with an “@” sign designate the fields with graphic images. There are rules as to how images are accessed; as you’ll see above, each image is referenced by the file path to where it is located.

When you set up the target template in InDesign, you’ll define how you want the data to be rendered. You can define the fonts, type size, colors, styles (bold, italic, etc.), and location areas where the data will print. Once your variable-data template is completed and saved, you’ll link it to the data set. InDesign provides all the necessary tools in:



>Window>Utilities>Data Merge

Once you have set up the data merge to the correct data file, save it as an InDesign document (not a template). The document will be tailored for this specific data set, with InDesign rendering one page for each record. So if there were 250 runners in this race, the InDesign file would be 250 pages. InDesign allows you to preview and edit the document before you print in case you need to fix anything, and then you simply specify whether to print a page, range of pages, or the entire file to your output device.

To improve the processing speed and file size, you can convert the merged document to PDF/VT, a variant of PDF/X designed to facilitate data exchange. If you are outputting large banners with variable data, for example, this is a much better way to go. The software RIPs the static portions of the image once and caches it. Variable text and images are then merged dynamically and combined with the cached static image, saving enormous disk space as well as the time necessary to RIP each image over and over. Files created this way can be sent to any RIP that supports PostScript and PDF. With PDF/VX, there will be very little difference between a file with 100 records and one with 1000.


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