Is it possible to build something like this in InDesign? A client is asking me, i already said its probably impossible and sounds like a website will work better, but wondering, how much of this is possible via PDF?

  • product catalogue imported via XLS with 5000+ products with photo, name, price, tax and similar columns (i know about this part)
  • then for each product have an editable field when the user can type in the quantity (sort of like an 'add to cart')
  • a total checkout for all quantities and prices is calculated on the last page and then an email is sent to the owner of the catalogue, like a checkout order

Note: yeah i know the email part is ridiculous, but what alternatives are there to pass a selection of products around? Can Google Docs somehow work with all the above?

1 Answer 1


It's possible yes. But it's not really an effective way to get orders. As you posted, a web site is much more feasible, in addition to being device/software agnostic in general.

I actually had a client want something similar.

To use InDesign you'd have to export to a PDF with form fields for the quantities. Then set up a javascript to calculate the totals. To email anything from the PDF you have to sign up for Adobe LiveCycle and pay for that. Otherwise the PDF won't email anything anywhere. Without LiveCycle, you have to somehow instruct the user to fill in the fields and save the PDF, then attach it to an email -- users will not do this correctly 99.5% of the time.

Then if you need to update anything.... rework the PDF forms, ensure the javascript is picking up everything, etc. Even if you use data merge to bring in the XLS product data, the form fields have to be configured.

In the end, it's just a LOT of effort for mediocre usage. Time is better spent on a web site, or even an app. Especially if the goal is just to send the order data and not run any type of payment gateway (which is impossible via the InDesign route anyway).

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