I've been doing some preliminary research regarding data merging.

I have a client requesting layouts of essentially sales package components.

His current workflow is to use Word to data merge with Outlook then self-print the package pieces. The design of the pieces is, well, poor. So he wants better design. The trick is he doesn't have Indesign (not a surprise) and I don't expect him to get Indesign. And I refuse to use Microsoft Word for layout. I've already tried to dissuade him a bit explaining that if what he's doing is working, why complicate and change things.However, he's persistent.

So a bit of research tells me I can use Acrobat forms to data merge with an Excel file. This may work. But I'm having some difficulty configuring things in Indesign (using CS5.5 but can use CS6 or CC if needed).

I can easily designate form fields in Indesign by using underscores. Acrobat then will automatically read the underscores as a form field.

The problem occurs when I want the layout to be a bit dynamic. I want a form field to adjust to fit it's contained text and eliminate any underscores. Without underscores Acrobat doesn't see form fields. I can manually place fields in Acrobat, but this requires me to leave a big open space in the Indesign layout.

Are there any tips, links, or other information you can provide which can explain how to use dynamic form fields in Acrobat (if that is possible), and how to best configure an Indesign file for PDF Form output?

I have a suspicion that I am not going to be able to get the dynamic text flow from PDFs which he's getting from Word, or which I could achieve via data merge within Indesign. I do not want to be responsible for his data-merge though. I just want to configure things so he can do it without Indesign.

  • In PDF form you can adjust the text position in right place by right click the PDF and click "Edit with Adobe Acrobat" and choose "Edit Form Field" and now right click on the fields and choose properties , From their you can set the positions.
    – Bala
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 6:46
  • @Bala Thank you, however that doesn't really address my question.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 7:19
  • So do you wan to convert Word layout to PDF Form ? Sorry still I'm not understand what you are trying to achieve.
    – Bala
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 7:23
  • Please read the question.
    – Scott
    Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 7:25
  • 1
    @user568458 Yes. Think Creating in Indesign, delivery in PDF.. data merge in PDF. The question is more about PDF data merge than it is about Indesign. I realize Indesign could do this easily and elegantly. Unfortunately, the client isn't going to purchase Indesign.
    – Scott
    Commented Jul 9, 2013 at 20:47

1 Answer 1


I feel compelled to weigh in because I finished a slightly similar client project 2 weeks ago - a local promotional vendor, who has no experience with data-merge, needed 300 unique ID cards designed. Their client provided an Excel spreadsheet with employee names, addresses (apparently satellite offices), phone numbers and email addresses. The promo company wanted me to use Word for the layout so they would have a template for future use. I said "Nope." Word is for text editing. If you want me to help you I use Indesign. A week later they approved my proposal, paid the invoice and 2 days later I made a ZIP containing 300 EPS files for each employee ID card available for download. They don't have a Word template but they do have a local graphic artist who can bang out 300 uniquely designed ID cards in less than 3 days.

I have a degree in graphic design. Whoopee right? But one thing I was taught and never forgot was at some point you have to get firm while being polite. Let the (potential) client know why they reached out to you. Just like calling an electrician or plumber - the home owner did not have the tools or training. Let me help you, and most times not by providing something for your own consumption, but by doing the work in a more efficient manner. Or prepare to spend a whole lot of time finding someone else who wants to waste time doing it your way.

Clients are not always right. And with that mentioned...

And if you feel inclined to spend some money on the subject:

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