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Currently, we design print booklets in Adobe InDesign. We create hundreds of these booklets a year, the design and layout is mostly the same, some content and images are swapped out on each.

We would like to find a software that allows "templates" of these booklets to be created, and content/images easily swapped out with other "template" pieces. Example: I want a booklet with product 1, product 2, and product 3 in it. Then I want a booklet with product 4, product 2, and product 7. This should automatically create the booklet with the products I have chosen.

Generated files still need to be of high print quality.

The software must be extremely user friendly - any employee with no design experience or knowledge should be able to easily generate their own custom booklets. That said, the design of the "template" pieces should still allow a high degree of customization by a professional designer.

  • This is not a job board, but to give some sort of reply you can still use InDesign in a combination with XLS/Data Merge to automatically generate files based on an InDesign template and some raw data any employee could dump in XLS (product description, etc). Custom Javascript code could also be added to further automate things in InDesign. – Lucian Jun 10 '17 at 6:59
  • Appreciate the response. Really just trying to find the best solution, but I value peoples time. Unfortunately, your recommendation would require every employee to have InDesign installed on their machine, and would not exactly be user friendly or easy to understand for most. – Acataleptic Jun 10 '17 at 7:23
  • If you don't want to bother employees with learning anything already existing, which can be complicated, the best thing here is probably getting a custom software built to only resolve this issue with minimal hassle and extra options. But that could be expensive and certainly.. this is not a job board. – Lucian Jun 10 '17 at 7:42
  • If installing InDesign on every computer is not practical because of the cost, perhaps you could use Open Source software such as Scribus(dot)net? – Billy Kerr Jun 10 '17 at 9:40
  • Scribus does indeed have a variable data function via an add-on script , the learning curve is not too steep, once you have a directory of all the images and text you can easily update the csv file to locate it. Not as nice and clean as InDesign's interface for variable data, but works just as well. – Sewesakehout Jun 10 '17 at 20:47
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An alternative to acrobat would be: Make a web application that concatenates the pages for you. There are several benefit of this approach.

  • The template pages are centrally managed. This means that less work is spent on managing and keeping the templates up to date.

  • Acrobat is easyish to use but not exactly user friendly in all possible scenarios.

  • It can be tailored to your workflow.

Merging PDF pages is a pretty trivial thing. I mean you could do it in notepad though is wouldn't like to calculate the offsets in the prolog. Programatically merging in your backend can be done with

  • Node.JS
  • Python
    • pypdf2
  • C#
    • PDFSharp
  • ...

So merging is actually inbuilt into any language you might deem usable for your backend now all it needs is just pages and a gui for what to merge.

Because i do not want to leave you empty handed let us make a python script that:

  • Lists all pdf files in same folder as the script
  • Merges any highlighted pdf files into one once you press merge
  • Demonstrates how easy this stuff really is

And here is the code:

#!/usr/bin/python
# -*- coding: utf-8 -*-

from Tkinter import *
from glob import glob
from PyPDF2 import PdfFileMerger, PdfFileReader

def merge():
    sel = listbox.curselection()
    merger = PdfFileMerger()
    for item in sel:
        fn = listbox.get(item)
        merger.append(PdfFileReader(file(fn, 'rb')))

    merger.write("last-merged.pdf")


master = Tk()

listbox = Listbox(master, selectmode=EXTENDED)
listbox.pack()
button = Button(master, command=merge, text="Merge")
button.pack()


for item in glob("*.pdf"):
    listbox.insert(END, item)

mainloop()
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If you save out all of the individual product pages / sections as PDFs then individual users could use Adobe Acrobat to combine them in whatever permutation they need. You could include a default front cover, intro, contacts page, etc to keep things nice and consistent and corporate.

If the PDFs were saved in a central repository then it would be straight forward to add new products or update existing files and know that everyone was using the same, correct, current documents.

Acrobat is relatively inexpensive (if your staff don't already have it) and it has a nice gentle learning curve. You could even include a tutorial PDF explaining how to build a booklet in the same folder as all the other content.

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