We have created an Indesign document for 450.000 letters we need to send. Included in this letter is a Datamatrix barcode. We are trying to merge the data, but it takes forever, we can only do batches of 1000 or Indesign starts choking (no hardware issue, there are low resources used). What kind of software can we use or buy to do this job based on our Indesign template, data and barcode image file with a (much) faster speed?

We are on a tight schedule so we are looking for a fast solution.

  • 1
    Word and excell? Even excell has a limited table capacity, so split the data. You also can try a server side script like php and use mysql for your data.
    – Rafael
    Apr 12, 2016 at 13:41
  • Depending on the complexity of the template, and if you can export the template to PDF, you can manipulate the PDF with PHP pretty easily. Or prehaps write a JS script to automate batches of 1000
    – Lex
    Apr 12, 2016 at 16:05

5 Answers 5


You can operate on the PDF file, there are software that can merge pages in a PDF. This is fast as its basically just a append operation to the PDF file. (you can do this with a text editor if you must). Off course you lose the features of inDesign.

On a similar note you can let the printer add the changes, or inject the change just before print, by including the data matrix in the PostScript file itself.

Making inDesign faster

The real question is could in design be made faster? Most probably the reason your merge gets slow is that you try to fit all in one pdf file. If you chunk the operation to about 250 letters per call then it would probably work out fast. So just chunk your data into pieces. Open each piece into a separately in inDesign export and move to next piece.

If you were to do this manually it would take ages. But even if you have not scripted before it takes less time to develop knowledge into scripting to get this done than doing it manually. It is after all not more than a for loop.

Other things to Consider

  • Your system does not have to be faster than the system you use to output the data with.
  • Once data is split consider using several machines in parallel each machine should roughly halve your speed. A competent it admin can run the script on may machines with not much problem. (annoying fact if you batch stuff in inDesign like this then the script must be run as admin or you need to have a server license of inDesign)

Anyway this is more of a question to Superuser.

PS: Might be a good idea to hire somebody who knows what they are doing though.

  • Agree. The main point here is to split the database.
    – Rafael
    Apr 12, 2016 at 13:40
  • maybe split by postal code presorts. 1,000kb is not large for a single page these days, and 450,000 pages = 450GB; a random quote off the interweb: "Architecturally there is only one limit in the PDF standard: the overall file size must be below ~10GB as the cross-reference tables which define the PDF structure use 10 bits."
    – Yorik
    Apr 12, 2016 at 14:23
  • @Yorik or one mail per pdf?
    – joojaa
    Apr 12, 2016 at 14:36

InDesign indeed is not performing enough with such huge documents. Once that said, you can think of a script that will generate documents one record at a time. But given the extensive amount of documents to produce, you may consider PDF/VT solutions like DesignMerge from Meadows Publishing, XMPie from Xerox, SmartStream designer from HP or Callas PDFChip. Generally it consists in having one PDF template and the data aside so the print engine is able to print all the customized files from the template. We have a great experience of such processes. Feel free to get in touch at ozalto.com


You are all wrong, the software is out there. I work for a bulk mail company and routinely export PDF files through a plug-in designed to interact with Indesign. I still have all Indesign capabilities and can attach lists that are up to 100,000 names in as many merge fields as i want. The software is called EngagIt. I can do everything from merge imagery, to merge text, even custom art for each person on my mailing list (i.e. Color changes, photo changes, background changes...ect.)

  • 831Estrada, can you provide more information on that plug-in?
    – user77137
    Sep 29, 2016 at 6:41

Word and excell? Even excell has a limited table capacity, so split the data.

You also can try a server side script like php and use mysql to store your data.

But I have the feeling that the Datamatrix barcode is the one that is slowing the process, if it is generated on the fly.


Use InDesign only to export a static document as pdf and then use a professional vdp tool such as PrintShop Mail (standalone software) to bring up your variable informations (images, text, barcodes, ...).

  • 1
    Can you provide more details on the vdp tools? We're searching for longer answers with some context
    – Luciano
    Jan 30, 2017 at 16:23

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