How to Data Merge in Indesign CS6 Tutorial

Tutorial Details

Difficulty: Advanced
Estimated Time : 15 minutes
Video Tutorial included


In this tutorial we’ll show you how to data merge from a spreadsheet (Numbers or Microsoft Excel) into a document using the data merge feature in Indesign CS6.

So what Is Data merging? Data merge is the ability to create fields in your document that automatically populates from a comma delimited file otherwise known as a CSV.

You can create the CSV using Microsoft excel or numbers for mac or export it from a number of other databases such as WordPress, SAGE, Joomla, Drupal etc.

So lets get started!

1. Data from a spreadsheet

In this example I am using Numbers on Mac; however, these steps should be similar to Microsoft Excel in Windows.

Add any data you’ll need in the InDesign document onto the spreadsheet. Make sure you have your headings across the top and records underneath as shown.

A sample CSV file for data merging in InDesign CS6

Export your data to a CSV format (comma delimited file, NOT tab delimited file). If you have multiple sheets of data try and consolidate them to one. If not the different sheets will be separate CSV files.

2 . Preparing the layout design in InDesign

Set up your design in indesign. You can use master pages for the layouts but the editable text needs to be on the main pages otherwise it won’t work.

3. Assign the CSV file to the InDesign document

Open up the data merge panel under Window – Utilities – Data Merge.

How to access data merge in indesign cs6

Now select the further options on that panel and click “Select Data Source…”

How to select data to merge in indesign cs6

Navigate to the place where you saved the CSV file. Once there click open

4. Assigning the data fields inside text boxes

Now that you have the CSV file linked with indesign you will see several data fields in the Data Merge panel.

data fields for data merging in indesign cs6

Go to the text boxes in your design where you wish these fields to show up and click on the field name once in the panel. For this example we’re using “<<First Name>>” and this should appear in the text box.

How to insert data fields into a text box in indesign cs6

Now repeat this action until you have all the fields you wish to show on your design.

5. Now for the data merging!

Once you’ve finished populating go back to the data merge panel, select further options and click “Create Merged Document”.

How to create the data merged document in Indesign CS6

Because this is a one data record per a design we will leave it as single record per page. Preview it to make sure everything is fine and then click ok.

How to merge a single record onto a page with data merge in indesign cs6

6. Finalising the document

A new indesign file will be create with multiple pages.

In the pages tab after data merging a single record in indesign cs6

A message will pop up letting you know if any text has been overset. From here you can export it to PDF, ebook or which ever format you require it.

An example of data merging in indesign cs6


In this tutorial we’ve learned:

  • How to use Data Merge in InDesign
  • How to merge a single record per a page
  • How to personalise an InDesign document

There are many more ways to use Data Merge especially with the multiple Records per a page which I will touch on in another tutorial.

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  1. Hi Im trying to merge my excel(even tried numbers) into indesign.
    It won’t give me a list of fields underneath each other. Instead I keep getting a row of all the fields on one line.
    Sorry Im new to adobe but could do with some help !
    Many thanks in advance

    1. I had the same problem, but found an answer 🙂
      Export your numbers file as a CSV. Open that CSV file withTextEditor (right click and select open with..). You’ll get a file that looks scary with lines and lines of text. Do you see the semicolons (= ;)? You’ll need to change that into commas. cmd+f opens the search box. Add ; to the search field, select replace(it’s a box you’ll need to tick) and in the replace field fill in ,
      Press replace all, save the file and now you’ll have a file that works.
      I hope this works for you.

  2. thanks! easy to follow tutorial. i was set up and ready to go in 5 minutes!

  3. Hello I am trying to use Data Merge a excel doc I have been sent by a client to put into a 96pp catalogue. There is about 4 entires on each page which I have set up. All in seperate text boxes. (There are some blank fields in the excel doc). I can get it into indesign Cs6 but when I want to create merged document a message comes up “There is at least one data place holder that cannot be found in the data source, Make sure all the placeholders correspond …” I am a complete duffer in Excel. I’ve got this far can you think what else it could be?

  4. I finally figured it out! Apparently using preview mode corrupts the file? I created a brand new document and set it up the exact same way, created the data merge WITHOUT ever touching the preview button and it worked like a charm. C’mon adobe – fix this bug.

  5. Has anyone had this issue:

    I’m following the instructions, multiple records for a simple catalogue, the data merge preview mode everything looks great, but then when I click OK to create the document I end up with ONE image per page, and images off the artboard. Help?

  6. Is there a lookup function in InDesign data merge? I have a catalog with 2000 different sku’s and would like to pull up the correct pricing from an excel file based on the product sku that is already on the page in InDesign. If not within Data merge, do you know of any 3rd party software that can accomplish this? Have been looking for months, any help would be appreciated.

  7. Is it possible to verify that my InDesign doc doesn’t have the particular record (or particular field) before merging data? In other words can this work with existing data and not duplicate. I have several use cases for this concept but can’t seem to find a solution.

    1. Hi Jeremy,

      If you hold ctrl F (CMD F on Mac) it will bring up the find function and if you do a search of the field/ record that your looking for throughout the document it should come back with results stating if its there or not.

      1. ok…
        How about if I have a spread sheet with, say 24,000 records, and want to and want to verify a particular field (say column A) for every single record in the spread sheet is not listed (or not listed) in the InDesign doc.

      2. By the sounds of it you would verify prior to data merging. So you would still bring up the find function and search for the particular placeholder (say column A) and search that document. Alternatively you can delete that field from the csv and name it with the file name that states that it excludes the particular field. If you want to verify the information is correct it’s better to verify it in the csv and before data merging.

  8. Thank you so so much! I’ve searched EVERYWHERE on how to accomplish data merging, and you were the only one to describe in such wonderful detail how to properly get it done.

    I seriously can’t thank you enough.

    Really, thank you.

  9. I have data with a Business Name and a Salutation. There is not info in every record – how do I deal with a blank field and not having a blank space on my merge document for that record.

    1. You can remove blank fields by going to “create merged document” – “option” and then checking the box called “remove blank lines for empty fields”.
      If you are talking about a space between the salutation and the name then you need to include the space in the CSV file so that if there is no salutation the space isn’t included.

      1. I have a record with some blank fields, and I have the option checked to “remove blank line” but inDesign gives me an error when I try to select the data source, it says the “the data source has one or more empty field names” What am I doing wrong?

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