So I have to generate flyers for 10 different laptops (and more in the future). I decided to set up variables. I've created an XML Map for MS-Excel which allows me to save the 'XML Data' type file. I have to make small amendments to the XML File, e.g. rename 'v_sampleDataSets' to 'v:sampleDataSets' for the file to be valid in Illustrator. Once that's done, I use the Variables menu from Illustrator to load the variables.

It was working fine... I loaded, changed and reloaded the variables file (generated from MS-Excel) several times without any problems. Then I started to update the Illustrator layout. I had to move some images, re-size some text boxes and reduce some font sizes. At some point during these changes, the variables got an error:

The filter cannot complete because of an unknown error.

At that point, only 1 image file link wasn't being dynamically changed, however all of the text was still changing according to the variables.

I've taken these steps to try to resolve the issue:

  1. Deleted the images, deleted image variable, replaced the image, relinked to a new variable, reset variable name to same as XML structure had previously. Reloaded the variables file. (Same error)
  2. Unlinked ALL variables. Deleted all variables. Started over. (Same error)
  3. Delete Illustrator CS6 Settings folder (preferences folder). Tried to load again... (Same error)

Nothing I tried worked; in fact now the problem is worse because the text is not updating.

What should I do now? I don't think reinstalling Illustrator would do any good since I've already cleared the settings file and had the same problem.

If there is no solution, is there an alternative solution to dynamically created these files? I have to get them done by tomorrow morning :/

  • I chose the right dataset in the dropdown menu under variables and loaded the variables, but nothing changed. I wanted to automate this with a action, but the "next data set" was not running under actions, and only the manual way was working. I had to break down the type, create outlines, unite, and save all as compound path. This part worked as a action, but the import didn't work. This once again shows that adobe is not able to fix bugs even in 2n or 3rd generation of the software.
    – user10619
    Mar 12, 2013 at 16:03
  • I've always had issues with variable data in Illustrator, and help / tutorials are hard to find. Do you have access to InDesign by any chance? What you are trying to do is a cake wlak in ID.
    – TunaMaxx
    Nov 27, 2013 at 21:17
  • This is not a direct answer, but after many headaches I made this tutorial on converting data to xml, maybe some tips there help? monolinea.com/using-variables-illustrator
    – spiral
    Dec 3, 2014 at 19:47

1 Answer 1


I encountered the same issue though mine was not related specifically to images. I isolated it to the fact that I was referencing a single variable multiple times in my report.

For example, I had the variable "ReportTitle" and linked it to a text box at the top of three different pages. I would see this in the variables panel:

Variables Objects
--------- -------
ReportTitle MY TITLE
ReportTitle MY TITLE
ReportTitle MY TITLE

I would receive the error any time I tried to load an updated variable library XML file.

The only way I could avoid the error was to create a unique variable for every instance in the report. Now I see this in the variable panel:

Variables Objects
--------- -------
ReportTitle1 MY TITLE
ReportTitle2 MY TITLE
ReportTitle3 MY TITLE

  • That is right, it is possible to have multiple same-name variables when working in a document, but it will not accept an XML file containing multiple same-named variables.
    – Silly-V
    Dec 7, 2016 at 22:11

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