I have a spreadsheet of people's info for business cards including name, title, phone, mobile and email that I want to use as the input file for an InDesign data merge. The phone, mobile and email lines are prepended with "T", "M" and "E", respectively. Example:



The problem is that some people don't have a value for every field (e.g. many don't have a value for mobile) and this makes a data merge more complicated; if a row doesn't have a value for a particular field, not only does the value need to not show (which I have managed to do — data merge can hide the line if the value is omitted as long as it's the only thing on that line) but the letter prepended to the line needs to not show too.

Is it possible and, if so, how?

EDIT: Also the prefixes are a different colour than the values.

  • InDesigns data merge is sometimes really a pain to deal with. If you're on Mac I recommend check out MyDataMerge(mydatamerge.com) - it solves all of the mentioned stuff dynamically on the fly. Check this video (almost matches your case) youtu.be/r2hgHIB1fjQ Edit: oh I see the post is quit old. Nevertheless it's worth a look.
    – Pat_Morita
    Mar 21, 2019 at 23:19

3 Answers 3


You can assign an individual Paragraph Style for each line/placeholder (Phone, Mobile, E-Mail) in which you define the Bullets and Numbering as the associated Character (T, M, E).


Make sure to Remove Blank Lines for Empty Fields when merging the document, so the empty cell wont result in an empty paragraph.

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This way the prefixes shouldn't show.

  • Thanks, this works really well! How could I export this from one page per card in InDesign to one PDF file per card? Ideally with the person's name as the filename. Is this possible?
    – Rich Jenks
    Nov 28, 2014 at 12:11
  • Single page PDF export isn't an option unfortunately. But you can open your multipage PDF in Acrobat Pro and extract the pages (Or maybe you'll find an InDesign script solution somewhere online).
    – theyve
    Nov 28, 2014 at 13:44
  • Splitting on Acrobat is an option, but not that convenient as I'm managing a large number of cards with frequent changes and additions, so it's difficult to a) find the right page in InDesign, and b) select the right PDF file. Is there any way to make the split PDF files take their filenames from the InDesign document? Something with bookmarking, perhaps?
    – Rich Jenks
    Nov 28, 2014 at 14:36
  • There was once an InDesign script called "PDF Export Cropper" which had the functionality of exporting single page PDFs and naming them according to a text variable. But it seems it is in an updating progress at the moment (ozalto.com/en/script-debugging-call-files). Besides that, I think there's no easy solution. You have to script something by yourself.
    – theyve
    Nov 28, 2014 at 15:27
  • I had a look around and couldn't find anything quite as smooth as that script promises, so for now I think the best solution is to keep records sorted alphabetically, export as one PDF, find correct page in PDF and export as single document. Not perfect, but will do the job. Thanks for your help, much appreciated!
    – Rich Jenks
    Nov 28, 2014 at 16:11

I think you might be over thinking this.. hopefully this easy solution works for you:


Find what: M^p
Change to: (leave empty)
Search: Document

Repeat for Find T^p and E^p

If there's other text this might get messy but being business cards I don't suspect there's much for this to affect outside of the Find/Change. If that is the case then the easiest solution would probably be to change your T/M/E in the .csv file to be Telephone / Mobile / Email (if these full words appear elsewhere then you could even use code like Tango / Mike / Echo). Then do the Find/Change with Tango^p to (empty) then Tango to T. Then same thing for the other ones.


I found an easy fix for this. Try creating another excel column to the left of the column that contains the number. Call this new column "telephone label".

Then put the label, i.e. 'T', in every cell that is next to a cell with the telephone number in it.

Then in InDesign, when assigning each part of the mail merge, highlight the T on your example and assign this the credential of "telephone label" and go from there.

I hope that helps.

  • Welcome to GD.SE! Can you show us an image/screenshot what you did? I think then your answer would be clearer ... (Just add the image without the leading !, one with more reputation can activate your image then ...)
    – Mensch
    May 15, 2015 at 13:40

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