I find myself working on a lot more print projects these days, and while it's been a bit of an adjustment, I've loved getting back into some of the nitty-gritty InDesign features. I think, out of all the Adobe programs, InDesign is the nerdiest. Why?

  1. It requires a lot of technical knowledge, between GREP, how to create indexes, staying organized with styles.

  2. InDesign, as desktop publishing software is almost entirely built to serve print. With InDesign, I've designed books, ebooks, my college newspaper, white papers, resumes, business cards, conference programs. I feel like print is inherently nerdier than AfterEffects or Photoshop, as print is designed primarily to convey information rather than illustration, style etc.

Data Merge = Awesome

Anyway, the coolest, nerdiest thing I have learned about InDesign lately is the Data Merge. Basically, any time you need to place similarly laid out content, you can create a template and then use an excel sheet (technically, a CSV) to automate placement, and for multiple instances per page or just one per page. It even has the ability to place images if you’re meticulous about your naming conventions. Great for business cards, catalogues, conference programs

I used this tutorial, but I here’s a few more pro tips for anyone who uses this:

  1. If your content has commas, make sure to save your excel file as a tab separated values and that it’s a TSV

    If you made the mistake I did and import it as a CSV, every time there’s a comma in the description, the content after it will be bumped to the next text instance, and you’ll have the part of your description after the comma in the place of the title, for example.

  2. When you create your template, it can only be one page long.

    InDesign will default new documents to multiple pages, but if you don’t delete all but one page there will be some problems creating a merged document.

  3. There are going to be weird ASCII characters sometimes?

    You are supposed to be able to pick between Unicode and ASCII, but for some reason when you choose a TSV you can only use ASCII. This means that some special characters like an emdash or an upside down exclamation point will show up as 4 characters of gibberish, almost always starting with an “Ä”.