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Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign

Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign

Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign


I have a pretty detailed question that I hope someone out there may take the time to read through and answer. If no one does I understand, because it is one of those problems that is specific to one shop, but if someone enjoys a challenge and wants to offer any advice they may have, it would be greatly appreciated. I am including a link to an example page of the file to show what I am talking about.

I am a graphic designer at a printing/production shop. One of the jobs I handle frequently is the layout of a folded booklet for a large gas station corporation. The booklets are intended for truck drivers to use while out on the road and contain a listing of all the fuel stops that the drivers are allowed to use while on the road. These booklets contain information about each fuel stop, such as the city the stop is in, directions, phone #, fax #, and amenities. These books are set up in InDesign CS3 and use tabbed text boxes to display the fuel stop info.

The customer wants a way to make the production of these books go by faster. Whenever they need a new guide, they typically send us a hard copy of a previous guide with the stops they want deleted "X'd" out, and the stops they want added written in. And different guides feature different fields of information for the stops -- for example, one fuel guide may have the Comdata code for each stop; another may not. There is little to no consistency from one book to another. So this requires a lot of editing to these text boxes and takes a long time.

I have considered the possibility of creating a database for them with ALL the fuel stops listed, and ALL fields of information, every field they could possibly want. Then it would just be a matter of doing a data merge into the InDesign document. However, after I started down this path I discovered that there is no way to display MULTIPLE RECORDS OF ONE SPREADSHEET in a SINGLE TEXT BOX in InDesign. It would defeat the purpose to feature one text box for every record from my spreadsheet.

I have read a bit on using XML documents to import data into InDesign, but don't know much about it. Would this be a viable solution to my dilemma? I would basically need a database that could be edited and then output to an XML file to import into a text box in InDesign. Also, the resulting text would have to be able to be styled in InDesign -- like making some text bold, some red, etc. Does anyone have experience in this type of thing? Specifically, I would like to know what program I would need to write an XML document, and if there are any programs out there that can format XML information in a spreadsheet-like format.

Any help/advice would be tremendously appreciated!


RE: Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign

...i've done stuff similar to what you need, however not using XML, but rather InData for Indesign and Xdata for quark, found here:


...i used to work at a prepress environment where i was lumbered with this task as I was the only one willing/able to apply myself to it...

...personally indata would by my way to go, working with an excel database, set up correctly, the database is key to this type of work...

...we never did buy the full version as we didn't need to, the demo does allow a 50 record import, so you can do it in batches anyway, which is less painful than any manual route...

...the most time consuming part is the indata setup in indesign, test after test to ensure your at a comfortable stage does take time...

...i feel your pain!!


RE: Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign

...to indicate how indata can be of assistance, i have spent some time setting up your layout in indesign, you can download the indesign CS3 and CS4 setup files here:


...also included are the InData plugins, you need to install (indesign plugins folder) to get the thing going (will be demo mode, 10 page limit in demo mode)...

...when the plugins are in place, launch indesign...

...then open either the CS3 or CS4 indesign file, whichever version you are running...

...in indesign you will see the INDATA menu, top of screen, if the plugin has installed correctly...

...choose indata > preferences >  data > choose "tab-delimited" if not already selected in the "basic format" drop down menu...

...click OK...

...on the very first page of the indesign document, you will see on the pasteboard, bottom right hand side, a box with MAGENTA code («fields c1, c2, c3 etc) click on that frame once with the select tool, (black or white arrow tool, there is no need to go inside that frame, just select it)...

...then choose menu INDATA > and ensure "Use story as prototype is selected (has a "tick" next to that option)...

....on the actual page 1, there is a text frame, bottom of page, click inside that text box bottom of that page 1 so you have the cursor inside flashing nicely...

...choose INDATA > Import from file...

...navigate to the folder "2. Import to Indesign as Tab Delimited" I have supplied and select that text file "Travel Test Data.txt"...

...click choose...

..you should have 49 records imported...

...this is a basic setup as I don't have the time to do everything, but hopefully you can get an idea eventually of indata and how it can hopefully save you time...



RE: Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign

...the fonts are also included, opentype format, so best have them installed as well...


RE: Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign

...essentially, that "prototype" text box, with magenta code, controls the formatting, so that box has two paragraph styles, one for the blue line, another for white...

...nested character styles are applied to those paragraph styles, controlling size and color, etc, etc...

...the paragraph style "blue' has the "rule below" value applied to create the blue line...

...elements on the master page are carried throughout the pages created...

...indata can also import images automatically when the code in the prototype is set up right...


RE: Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign

...with good planning, indata can be a great time saver, even just with the demo mode...


RE: Detailed question - XML vs. Data Merge in InDesign

...one thing you have to be aware of is that it helps to use the "Master Text Frame" when you create the setup indesign file (the option in a new document setup)...

...that master text frame is the first frame you need to flow the data into on page one...


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