Automate business card creation using InDesign

InDesign offers powerful features to automate creation of content, where you can bring in data from external files and place them on your layout. For example, your client likes the new business card design and just ordered new business cards for every employee. And as is normal practice, has sent you an XLS with the employee details and an inflexible deadline.

You’ll need to jump right in!

We’ll use the layout as a template and place data from a CSV file into this layout. So save your XLS file as a CSV file.

Connect layout to data

  1. Open the layout in InDesign. The basic layout shows the elements as you’ve designed them.
  2. Choose Windows > Utilities > Datamerge.
  3. From the panel menu choose  Select Data Source and browse to the CSV file and click OK.

    Note that the first row in the CSV file is used as the column header, and they are displayed in the panel.
  4. Now drag and drop the elements from the Data Merge panel to the layout. Or select the text that you want to replace and then double-click on the element in the data merge panel. The result should look something like this.
  5. Save the file.

Preview the layout with actual data

You are now ready to preview the content.

  1. In the Datamerge panel, check Preview.
  2. Use the arrow buttons at the bottom to preview the data.
  3. Make any adjustment that might be required.
  4. Save the file.

Create merged document

After you have previewed all the records you can create the merged document.

  1. To create the merged document and generate the PDF choose Export to PDF from panel menu.
    • TIP: Choose Create Merged document , to create InDesign document.
  2. Select the options as they suit you. I’ll choose single record per page. After specifying the options click OK.
  3. Specify the PDF settings and click OK.
  4. A PDF is generated that contains the generated records.

Send the PDF for printing

Your printer (or you) should be able to use the generated PDF for printing.

Bonus tip

If required, you can use Acrobat and create a composite PDF that contains multiple business cards on each page. We’ll use Acrobat’s tile printing feature to create a combined PDF.

  1. Open the generated PDF in Acrobat.
  2. Choose File > Print and select the Adobe PDF printer.
  3. Under Page handling specify the following:
    • Page scaling: select multiple pages
    • Pages per sheet: specify what suits you
    • Page order : specify what suits you
  4. If you’re happy with the Preview Composite results, click OK. The PDF is generated.


In this small tutorial you learnt how to:

  • Use InDesign CS Data merge feature to automate data placement in the layout
  • Create a merge document or PDF
  • Use Acrobat tile printing feature to create a composite PDF.

Acrobat Shared Reviews & webdav

Acrobat makes reviewing really easy. You can let Acrobat set up and manage reviews. There are two types of reviews: e-mail and Shared.

E-mail reviews are typically off-line and manual, where you email the document to the reviewers and they can add annotations and then send them back to you. After receiving all the replies, you collate all the responses.

Shared reviews let everyone work on the file at the same time. If reviewers can connect to the review server, all comments are available real-time. (If reviewers are off-line, they can sync the comments next time they cone online). The core of a shared review, is what i call — for the lack of another name — the review server. You can use as a review server; it’s as easy as that. Acrobat and manage everything for you. Or you could set up your own internal review server. This is what all this fuss is all about!

The internal Review Server is basically a WebDAV server. When your reviewers open the document, Acrobat/Reader try to connect to this WebDAV server and read/write comments to this server.

Install a web server

The following instructions will let you set up a WebDAV server using Apache. I’ll use a package called XAMPP, which is an integrated Apache, MySQL, & PHP bundle. {The other components might come in handy if you want to build applications for reporting, auto-reminders etc}. Ok, so lets get our hands dirty.

  1. Download XAMPP from  Friends of Apache website.
  2. Follow the instructions and install. After the install, start Apache and verify that the server is running successfully.
  3. The default passwords are located in the file passwords.txt located at <install dir>. You’ll need these later.
  4. You should read the XAMPP documentation and and configure the server as required. But you can do this later.

Enable WebDAV

XAMPP comes with a default webdav module; it is enabled by default.

Open a browser and type http://localhost/webdav. If you don’t get any errors, skip this section. If you still want to know, how to do it, read on:

  1. Navigate to  the file <install-directory>/xampp/apache/conf/httpd.conf and open it.
  2. Ensure that the line Include “conf/extra/httpd-dav.conf” is uncommented. (does not have a # preceding it)
  3. Restart/start Apache.
  4. Verify: Open a browser and open http://localhost/webdav. A default page should open.

Checkpoint: Set up a review on WebDAV folder

By default, XAMPP/Apache do not give rights to everyone to write to the WebDAV folder. If you try set up a review, an authentication dialog box will pop up.

WebDAV authorization box when you try and set up a review

WebDAV authorization box when you try and set up a review

The same box will also pop-up everytime your reviewers try to connect to the review server. In this scenario, you’ll need to create/distribute Username and Passwords. If this is good for you, you can stop here.

Grant Universal Write Access to webdav

When most of your users are inside a firewall, and Acrobat/Reader already make it easy to identify users, this server authorization can be very cumbersome. This happens because in the default configuration, universal read access is provided, but write access is restricted to authorized users.

So lets grant write access to everyone.

  1. Open the file <install dir>\xampp\apache\conf\extra\httpd-dav.conf.
  2. Locate the following text, and comment it out. That is add the # marks before it.
    #<LimitExcept GET OPTIONS>

    #require valid-user

  3. Save the file and restart Apache.

All Set

You should be all set to go now. Your internal server is setup to handle reviews. Go ahead and set up reviews on your own internal server.

What Next?

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Coming Soon: Acrobat X

Adobe announced the next generation of your favorite software.

Some New Acrobat X Features

  • Automate multi-step tasks with new Actions Wizard and easily share them with coworkers and collaborators.
  • PDF Portfolios using new layouts, visual themes and color palettes.
  • Microsoft SharePoint integration. Check-in, check-out PDF files for reviewing and editing shared documents, using both Acrobat and the free Reader X.
  • Updated User Interface to organize the most used tools in one place

New in Adobe Reader X

  • Comment with Sticky Notes and Highlighter tools available to all users.
  • Protected Mode to for secure experience.

Ten cool features of Acrobat X Pro

See what PDF Portfolios, guided Actions, and SharePoint integration can do for you.