Preflight video and “Enforcer” Scripts

Adobe InDesign has a magnificient feature that displays a list of prepress issues that may be present in artwork, and updates this in real-time. It is the live preflight feature, and it’s certainly not a new feature in Adobe InDesign. That said, considering some of the files that I receive that are considered to be “finished art”, I wonder how many people know that this feature exists; or uses the feature before handing off their finished artwork to their printer or supplier.

To be fair, the live preflight feature is rather passive in Adobe InDesign. If the preflight panel isn’t loaded into your set of panels in your workspace, it is only visible at the bottom of the screen, and is less than 50 pixels in height. The default preflight that is performed on artwork only alerts on a handful of items, some of which have dedicated alerts to their absence anyway (such as overset text, missing fonts and missing links).

In this Colecandoo video, I demonstrate that the preflights can be much more powerful, the basic preflight can be replaced with far more powerful preflights, and I demonstrate some traps to look out for that are not detected with any preflight. The video also demonstrates two scripts that are designed to prevent users from printing or exporting their artwork until it passes the live preflight check. If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of this on-request script, head to the contact page and ask for the “preflight enforcer scripts”.

In a future video, I’ll elaborate on the demonstration file used in the video, as it contains dozens of prepress errors.

InDesign User Interface mods with Startup Scripts

In Episode 16 of my Youtube videos, I briefly showed a startup script that added several options to the contextual menu that allowed a frame to fit a given size. But it’s not the only way I’ve modified my user interface, so this episode of “Must-Haves” is dedicated to scripts that make minor modifications to the user interface.

The modifications mentioned in this article use javascripts that are installed into the startup scripts folder. Scripts put into this folder don’t have to be double-clicked from the scripts palette, instead they are run when InDesign starts up. So let’s have a look at what features these scripts add to the user interface.

goawaystartupscreen.jsx

Origin unknown

This is a one-line script that instead of adding functionality, actually takes it away… If you don’t like the startup screen showing up whenever no documents are open, add this script to the startup scripts and you’ll never see it again.

PalettenmenusinsHauptmenu.jsx

By Gerald Singelmann (Cuppascript)

This script adds a new main menu item that shows all panel menu items within the one menu.

TomaxxiLAYERS

by Marijan Tompa (Tomaxxi)

This script adds three options at the bottom of the layers panel that allow a layer set to be applied upon the creation of new documents. The layer sets are also customisable.

BookOpenAll.jsx

By Theunis de Jong (Jongware)

This script adds two options to an InDesign book palette – open all documents and close all documents.

FileCloseAll.js

By Marc Autret, Indiscripts

This script adds an item to the file menu, particularly close all.

AddPathOperationsToLayoutMenu.jsx

By Olav Martin Kvern, Silicon Publishing

This script adds the functionality of the pathfinder palette to the contextual menu. This is a great timesaver when working with shapes, so rather than having to click off of the object or objects being worked on to perform a command, simply right click to call up the desired command.

ConvertSwatchToGrayscale.jsx

By Gabe Harbs, In-Tools

This adds an option to the color palette that allows a color to be converted to greyscale based on formulas in the script.

ControlBackgroundExport.jsx

By Marijan Tompa (Tomaxxi)

This script adds a menu item to Adobe InDesign that allows the export PDF option in the background to be enabled or disabled. For whatever reason, I prefer to watch the progress bar of the PDF being created rather than let the task run in the background, so having this option is useful to me.

Unfortunately, this script is no longer available from Tomaxxi’s website, and it’s also not my script to give away. However, this link is an InDesignSecrets.com article where the script was conceived, and similar scripts are available in the comments section of the article.

SortFilesBeforePlace_startup.jsx

by Roland Dreger, Roland Dreger GrafikDesign

Adds the “Sort and Place…” item under the place item in the file menu. Once items are selected, a UI appears prompting for the method to be sorted for the place.

PlaceByContextv4.jsx

by Gerald Singelmann, Cuppascript

Adds a place… option to the contextual menu… but with a major difference. Selected frames will have the resulting images imported into the frames either in the order they were selected; or if marqueed at once, then from a left-to-right, top to bottom order. It effectively does away with the placegun and allows images to be placed directly into awaiting frames.

SwapImages.jsx

by Gerald Singelmann, Cuppascript

Adds three options towards the bottom of the contextual menu – swap images, swap places, and load image in placecursor. Certainly a go-to script and very handy for swapping images on the same page or spread; or swapping images between frames.

TomaxxiPLACE2

by Marijan Tompa (Tomaxxi)

Adds two options at the bottom of the object styles panel that applies a given object style to placed objects. Typically, object styles can only be applied once images have been placed.

выровнять фрейм.jsx

by Eugenyus Budantsev

Translated as align the frame, this script adds four options to the bottom of the contextual menu that allows a text frame or graphic frame to resize to the margin size, page size, bleed size or baseline. Images within a graphic frame will resize to fit the frame, but this can be adjusted by editing the script and replacing the words:

FitOptions.CONTENT_TO_FRAME

with

FitOptions.CENTER_CONTENT

Or another preferred option. See this link for the other options that can be chosen.

Lastly:

In a future Must-Haves video, I will demonstrate other user interface modifications that can be made that are installed in other ways.

EAN-13s on a budget

colcandoo

From time to time, there will be a need for any designer to add an ISBN barcode or EAN-13 to artwork that is being created. Typically, the customer supplies the number by itself and the barcode is created from that number and placed into the artwork. The question is… how does that number turn into a barcode?

This article isn’t going to be a long and technical article about how barcodes are generated and the math/programming that goes into it. Instead, it will point to some available resources for generating the odd barcode here and there, rather than fully developed software that can batch produce barcodes and integrate with databases.

Most of this post refers to EAN-13 or ISBN style barcodes, simply because since 1 January 2007, ISBNs are 13 digits long and use the EAN-13 barcode format for their barcode structure and appearance. What this in turn means is that a solution that can generate an ISBN can also generate an EAN-13, a standard used by most of the world for generating product barcodes… except if you live in the USA or Canada where UPC is used more often.

To my knowledge, no Adobe nor Quark product (nor any product from its latest rival, Affinity) ships with a barcode module as default, but Microsoft Windows users who use Corel Draw will know that it ships with a barcode module and has done so for the past 15 years (just a hint Adobe if you’re looking for ideas or innovations for the next upgrade to Creative Cloud). That’s well and good, but if you’re like me – a Mac user running the Adobe Creative Cloud, Corel Draw isn’t an option.

If you’re also not in the market for dedicated barcode software (as there are hundreds of products that are available) but would like to create a barcode with the minimum of fuss from your desktop or laptop, there are three alternatives that I would suggest:

Plug-ins

Many of the paid plug-ins that are substitutes for the Data Merge feature of Adobe InDesign typically come with a barcode module or add-on. For example:

But if you’re a designer that isn’t after an enterprise solution for making hundreds or thousands of barcodes, but just wants one barcode for a self-publishing client or a craft brewery for their bottles, then many of these products are probably overkill.

InDesign Scripts

Because I work in InDesign most of the time, having the ability to create a book cover and barcode in the same application has advantages for me. That said, here are three scripts that are worth a try:

BookBarcode by Indiscripts – a paid script for Adobe InDesign (€39). It offers lots of customisation and allows for batch creation of ISBN barcodes. If the pennies are tight, there is a “try” version that creates a “vanilla” EAN-13 barcode without the added features and bonuses that would be required from a book publisher or brand agency.

EAN Barcode generator by Konstantin Smorodsky – free script available from the Adobe Add-ons site. Does one ISBN barcode at a time and is intended for general purpose EAN-8 or EAN-13 barcodes, but since ISBN barcodes fall into this category, this still qualifies. Does not put the human-readable ISBN above the barcode though.

ID Barcode by Nick Morgan and Bruno Herfst – free script that supports EAN-13, ISBN, ISSN, ISMN; some customisation of fonts, includes human-readable ISBN above the barcode, EAN-2 and EAN-5 supplemental barcode.

Websites

To my surprise, there are several websites that can create CMYK, text-as-curves, vector graphic barcodes that are worthy of consideration. Again, the internet has these sites in abundance, but of the sites that stood out were:

Terry Burton’s online barcode generator – This site creates a vast array of barcodes, yet alone EAN-13/ISBN. Options are limited per barcode, but if functionality is your thing, definitely a worthwhile website.

Bookow.com – Generates a vector PDF ISBN barcode. No customisation but contains human-readable ISBN above the barcode and all type is set in OCR-B. There are also other useful tools on the website for book publishers.

GS1 (EAN-13 barcode generator) – The Swiss site of the GS1 organization has a feature that creates EAN-13s. Again, no fancy bells or whistles but it does the job.

Free Barcode Generator – Another no-nonsense barcode creator with some options but without the fanciness of the scripts or plug-ins.

Free ≠ yours to do with what you will

The last 7 links have mentioned free resources, but remember that the creators of these resources have the same bills and overheads that you do. If their script has saved you time and effort, and their website has a way of making a donation, seriously consider making a payment to these developers who go out of their way to not only make these resources, but allow you to use them without charging a hefty sum.

 

 

Better Infographics for Data Merge with Chartwell Bars

While speaking at the 2016 PEPCON in San Diego along with Co-presenter David Creamer on the topic of Data Publishing, I presented an older tip that allows shapes to change size based on numerical values that appear in Data Merge. The tip requires the Chartwell typeface, particularly the Chartwell bars font. I’d mentioned at the time that while it was a novel tip, I didn’t have a practical purpose for it. I’d also mentioned in my presentation about using knockout groups in InDesign to hide information and had demonstrated it using my “Parkway Drive” demonstration where it is used to hide parts of a sign that changes size, but again felt there should be a better use of this tip.

However, it was on my 15 hour flight from Los Angeles to Melbourne where I thought of a new and much more practical purpose – creating infographics. I also thought about getting some sleep, but that was a fool’s errand!

Once I arrived home, I tested out the theories I had during the flight, and while the results were mixed, I was happy with what had been achieved.

Ultimately, I have created three techniques for anyone making infographics. In all instances, I’ve colored the chartwell bars font as black so that the technique can be demonstrated, but in application the type (and its spacer) would be given the color “none”:

1 – Infographics as scaleable shapes.

01image

This uses the method described in an earlier indesignsecrets.com article that I have written. Rather than rewrite the tip, the link to that article is here. The point of difference is that the shape being transformed into an infographic is what is being scaled.

There are some drawbacks to this method.

First, the shape has to allow the chartwell bars font to expand from the left to the right without getting caught on any part of the shape, so not every shape will work. Bottles that were used in the example were fine because they meet this criteria.

02image

Second, there is a lack of precision, especially concerning low numbers as the graphic scales. This appears to be because there is a minimum size that the graphic can shrink to.

03image

2 – Data that is pasted into a vector

04image

This method works the same way with the exception that the data is in a rectangular shaped textframe that is pasted into the target shape, and also given a 2mm spacer object to allow low figures to be presented. The 2mm spacer is a 2mm square that is an inline object before the figures in the chartwell font.

05image

For anyone wondering why such an odd technique was used to add 2mm to the frame, I had tried using a 2mm left align or a 2mm inset space in the shape itself but these presented issues.

3 – Hiding an image underneath

06image

This works the same way as method 2 with the exception that rather than being pasted into the graphic, it is pasted above the graphic. An additional anchored object that is larger than the infographic is then pasted after the figures in chartwell bars and given very specific values in the anchored object dialog box, along with being given the fill color of paper and a multiply effect of 0% from the effects panel. The frame with the values is then grouped with the infographic that is underneath and the “knockout group” checkbox is ticked.

07image

To make the effect more impressive, an “after” graphic is added that is the same size as the infographic but has different properties to make the difference in the values clear to the reader.

Moving forward

By itself, these techniques aren’t that impressive if creating one-off graphics, but if preparing infographics for variable data (whether for a catalogue or direct mail) I’m sure that readers will find these methods quite useful. These are not the only infographics tricks I have recently discovered, so watch this space.

Next Beta Script: Data Merge Cut and Stack Assistant

As a regular user of Data Merge, I often have to assemble projects that require cut and stack impositions. Most of the time, I prepare my files one-up at the correct size and output to PDF, knowing that the RIP of the digital printer has imposition software that has the ability to prepare cut and stack style impositions.

If cut and stack is an unfamiliar term, it is a style of page imposition where the subsequent pages appear on the sheets below until the end of a stack, and then begin again at the top of the sheet in this continuous pattern.

Unlike bookwork that may have a maximum page count of under 1000 pages, cut and stack impositions can deal with page counts in the hundreds of thousands… enough to make any imposition program buckle.

Another way of handling cut and stack impositions is to prepare the imposed base in Adobe InDesign, and then manipulate the data so that rather than being one long list, the list is split into columns based on the amount of pages-to-view on an imposed sheet. This is a quicker method as there are less pages to process and no imposition software to use, but there is the time taken to split the data appropriately, and will suffer any human error that went into manually making the revised database.

Frustrated with this situation, I decided to create a script that would take a large database and repurpose it for a cut and stack imposition. On that note, I present to you my latest script.

UItoexplainlaststacks
The imposed base is created in Adobe InDesign with text frames in place for the data merge placeholders. The script is then run and prompts the user for the original data. An interface appears asking the user for:

  • The records to process;
  • The amount of records in a set;
  • The amount of sets in a stack;
  • How to process last records (in case the stack sizes are uneven); and
  • Any other identifiers visible in the database.

Once OK is clicked, the script creates a duplicate of the original database and arranges the data appropriately, and launches the Data Merge palette so that the imposed base placeholders can be populated.

basewithfieldcodes

If you would like this script, please go to the Scripts page and look for the Data Merge Cut and Stack Assistant script.

Bonus script for the Holidays: Draw arrows around an object

UPDATE 2016-02-22: The script has now been updated to v1.07 and contains some new features. See the video below:

From time to time, one of the boring and repetitive tasks that prepress operators or designers have to do is draw lines that indicate the height and width of the artwork on a proof. For example:

proof form1For some sizes, a template probably exists so that the sizes that are regularly used don’t have to be drawn manually. But there are occasions where the artwork is a unique size and the arrows have to be drawn. It doesn’t take a long time to do the task, but if you’re doing this several times a day, every working day, it gets a little boring.

proof form2

That’s why this year, I’ve released a beta version of the Draw arrows around an object script. It works like this:

In this instance, I would like to apply the measurement arrows around this business card. There is a .25pt keyline that is on the frame, so I have set the stroke to align to the inside edge. Click on the object that you would like to draw the measurement lines around and then run the script from the scripts panel.

proof form3

The script will run, and moments later will return the measurements and the lines.

proof form4

The default font used is Minion, but it can be changed as it has a style associated with it called labelmeasures, so let’s change it to something that matches the style.

proof form5

And we’re done. Some things worth mentioning about the script:

  • It applies the measurements to one object or grouped selection at a time. If several ungrouped objects are selected, the script will add rulers to the object that was placed on the page first.
  • If the object being measured has a keyline applied to it, be sure to set the keyline to the inside edge.
  • It works beyond millimetres, including centimetres, pixels, points and inches.
  • It is a beta, so there is still room for improvement and suggestions. Any feedback about this script (or any others on Colecandoo) can be made on the contact page.

That said, the script is my Holiday gift to readers and followers. Enjoy!

Now you see it, now you don’t… why?

Several posts ago I wrote a piece concerning Acrobat XI and its ability to undock the comments panel so that it could be moved away from the right hand side of the screen. This had advantages when scrolling the list of comments, as to get to the comments further down the list you have to use the slider (that can sometimes miss comments if scrolled too far) or single-click the arrow at the bottom of the scrollbar, and this can inadvertently:

  • Invoke my Dock to pop up on my mac;
  • Invoke a “hot corner” action on my mac that is set to the bottom right of the screen;
  • Inadvertently open an email alert that pops up via Microsoft Outlook (alerts pop up on the bottom right of the screen).

Read the full article here.

The solution was to click on a button within the commenting panel that would allow the list to be undocked. Here is how it used to look in Acrobat XI:

trackalts2However, in Acrobat DC, the “Undock Comment List” is no more!

wherediditgo

There is no ability to change this in the Commenting Preferences either.

This might seem like a rather obscure feature, but when working with marked-up PDFs as a workflow it is a handy feature to have that will save lots of time.

Fortunately, the ability to view comments that were unchecked does remain… for now!

However, I am less than impressed so far with Acrobat DC, and this is largely due to the way it was released. When the product was made live via Creative Cloud, Acrobat DC appeared as an upgrade, but what wasn’t apparent is that uninstalled the existing version of Acrobat! Luckily there were other users that experienced this before me and had tweeted about it:

taketh3For most users, this may not have been a problem, but my version of Acrobat was also running a paid plug-in and had several scripts that had modified the user interface menus, such as the ability to reverse the page order or collate another PDF into the currently opened PDF. So installing Acrobat DC would have completely deleted these enhancements, and meant putting them back on… and in the case of the plug-in, would have meant purchasing the new version (there was no free update to work with Acrobat DC), and waiting until it was available!

To be fair to Adobe, they have now amended the installation process and introduced a checkbox that is ticked on by default that says “Remove old versions”. I’m glad we’re now given a warning and an option, however I think the default of that option should be ticked OFF.

That said, Adobe have received the message loud and clear not to do it again. I say that as an attendee of the PEPCON 2015 Conference in Philadelphia, where attendees met the Adobe InDesign engineers on day three for a general questions and answers session, where this (and many other suggestions) were passed directly onto the team.

Unfortunately, it came a little too late for the find font panel in CC2015. Mike Rankin at indesignsecrets.com posted this piece on the sudden disappearance of icons in the find font menu of Adobe InDesign that many in prepress find invaluable.

See it at the final size… finally!

Two previous Colecandoo articles (part one and part two) discussed the inability of InDesign to control the view size and appearance of PDFs that were exported using the Adobe PDF export function from the file menu.

Since the June release of Adobe InDesign CC 2015, this is no longer an issue. As part of the PDF export dialog box, a new “viewing” portion has been added to the interface that allows for the view size and the layout.

exportpdf1It is worth noting though that the compatibility dropdown of the PDF export options must be set to Acrobat 6 (PDF 1.5) before this feature will fully display all options in the layout dropdown field. If the compatibility dropdown is set to Acrobat 5 (PDF 1.4) or lower, then two of the layout options – Two-Up (Facing) and Two-Up (Cover Page) – will be greyed out.

exportpdf2It is great that this feature has been added to the PDF export interface. Let us see if future releases of InDesign CC can also incorporate other PDF export features such as:

  • Ability to create and export PDF comments directly in an InDesign file; and
  • More support for PDF forms.

Just to find fault however, I have noticed that the Pages portion of the PDF export Dialog box has NOT incorporated a change that was made to the print dialog box, and that was the inclusion of the option for “current page”.

Variable QR codes? Sort of possible…

splash

UPDATE 2014-07-22: Since the release of Adobe InDesign CC 2014, variable QR codes via Data Merge is now possible. A post will be written about this feature once it has been thoroughly tested, but in the meantime this article has been edited to reflect the update.

Since the invention of QR codes, a burning question has been “how to incorporate these barcodes into a Data Merge?” There are lots of ways to generate one-off QR codes such as:

  • QR code generating websites;
  • An InDesign Javascript written by Jongware that is suitable for CS4-6;
  • Built into InDesign CC and above; and
  • Third party plug-ins that offer one-off creation as a “taster”.

But what if there are 30, 300, 3,000 or 30,000+ codes that need to be made as a direct mail campaign? Creating 30,000 QR codes is not a task that anyone would want to do individually.

So can Adobe InDesign, fresh from the shelf, create a Data Merge with variable QR codes? Apart from the latest release of Adobe InDesign CC 2014, no – not without the use of a third party plug-in. However, this workaround does the next best thing: Creates lots of QR codes all at once, export them as uniquely named PDFs for reference in a Data Merge, and then use the built-in Data Merge feature from InDesign.

The following example is a business card for fictional clothing manufacturer “Mean Jeans”. The client would like QRcodes that feature the staff member’s email address, and if no email address appears then no QR code needs to appear. The client has supplied the database in Microsoft Excel.

There is a way to automate this task thanks to three scripts

  • QRcode.jsxbin by Jongware (as previously mentioned). When this script is used on its own, a user interface appears asking the user for the text to be coded and then a level of error correction. Jongware did allow other scripts to call upon the QRcode script, and that leads into the next script;
  • A slight modification of a script supplied by an Adobe Forums user by the handle of sergemca. The original script (found in the same Adobe Forum link as Jongware’s QRcode.jsxbin) by sergemca searched an open InDesign document for any textboxes that contained the starting words MECARD: and would then convert the contents of the complete textbox into a QR code and then apply formatting such as scaling and rotation. As this example is creating QRcodes from email addresses, the modification in this example searches an open InDesign document for any textboxes that contain the starting word mailto: . Modifications to this script are best dealt with by the scripting forum of the Adobe InDesign forum.
  • PDFStyleExporter.jsxbin by Loic Aigon. This script has featured on Colecandoo before and it is used to split a large InDesign file into single page PDFs with unique names. While researching this story I have noticed that Loic will update this script in due course, so stay tuned.

To create variable QR codes:

  1. Open the Excel file and create two fields in the database in addition to the other fields that need to appear: order, and ‘@QRcode (the ‘ will disappear in Excel after it is typed, this is intentional). In the order column, use the autofill function of Excel to add sequential numbers to this column. Leave the contents of the @QRcode field for now.1qr
  2. Save the Excel file but also save it as a “Windows Formatted Text .txt” file, and give it a name that reflects that this database is purely for the QRcoding only e.g. forcodingonly.txt2qr
  3. In Adobe InDesign, create a new file that will be used to create the QR codes first. In this example, a file that is business card size has been created (90x55mm). Once open, go to the Data Merge panel and select the data source as the recently created txt file. Once the data is available in the Data Merge panel, create two text boxes. One with the word mailto: followed by the <email> field, and another text box with the <order> field. The document should look like this3qr
  4. The order text will provide the filename in a later script, but it also must appear in the file but not get in the way of the QRcode graphic that will appear later. To make sure that this text will be live but not output in the resulting QRcode, select the textbox containing the <order> field, give the text a paragraph style called “order” – the only change is that it has no fill and stroke. Also, align the text box to be in the centre of the page. The document should now look like this4qr
  5. From the Data Merge panel, select “Create Merged Document” and merge to a new single page document.5qr
  6. This will create a large document that will contain one mailto: address per page. It is important at this stage that any mailto: addresses that don’t have email addresses in the text boxes be deleted (or else the QRcode script will make QRcodes that contain the word “mailto:” only and clearly won’t work). To delete these addresses open the Find/Change dialog box and in the GREP panel type in the word mailto:$ , leave the change field blank (as well as the formatting fields) and click Change All.6qr
  7. The document is ready to have the QR codes applied. To do this, the altered version of sergemca’s script needs to be run.
var _d = app.documents[0];
var _allStories = _d.stories;
for(var nx=_allStories.length-1;nx>=0;nx--){
    var _storyAllTextFrames = _allStories[nx].textContainers;
    for(var mx=_storyAllTextFrames.length-1;mx>=0;mx--){
         _storyAllTextFrames[mx].select(); // change page
         if(_storyAllTextFrames[mx].contents.indexOf('mailto:')==0){
             var obj = app.doScript(new File(app.activeScript.path+'/qrcode.jsxbin'), ScriptLanguage.JAVASCRIPT, [_storyAllTextFrames[mx].contents, 3], UndoModes.ENTIRE_SCRIPT);
             _storyAllTextFrames[mx].contents = "";
         };
    };
};

7qr

If done successfully, the InDesign file should now contain QRcodes in place of the text that contained the email addresses.

To export these QRcodes with their unique names

  1. Run the script PDFStyleExporter.jsxbin (called PDFExportCropper.jsxbin on my machine)8qr
  2. In the user interface that appears, select the paragraph style “order” and leave the rest of the dialog box as it is. In the PDF options dropdown field, select the destination to save the resulting PDFs. Once done, click the Export button.9qr

Again, if done successfully, the resulting PDF QR codes should now save to the nominated directory.

There are other ways to export single page PDFs but Loic’s script is used in the example in case a reference other than a sequential number is to be used, such as a person’s name, phone number, etc.

To incorporate these QR codes into the data merge:

  1. Return to the Excel file and in the @QRcode field, use the CONCATENATE function to take the order number and apply the .pdf suffix to it. The formula to use is: =CONCATENATE(A2,”.pdf”)10qr
  2. Save the Excel file and again, also save it as a “Windows Formatted Text .txt” file, and give it a name that reflects that this database has been qrcoded QRcoding only e.g. qrcoded.txt
  3. In Adobe InDesign, create (or open) the card that needs the QRcodes applied. Once ready for the data, go to the Data Merge panel and select the data source as the newly created txt file. Place the name, address references etc as necessary, and create a frame for the QR codes to appear.11qr
  4. Apply the qrcode field to this frame and go to the Data Merge panel and select Content Placement Options. In the dropdown field “Image Placement” select the fitting “Fill frames proportionally”.12qr
  5. Instead of using the “preview” function, go to the Data Merge panel and select the Export to PDF function and export one record only. In the example, page 7 was chosen at random.13qr
  6. Once satisfied that the merge looks like it will work, again use the Export to PDF function to export the entire merge to a PDF.

For the barcodes to fit the image, the PDFs need to import PDFs based on the bounding box. If the images are not fitting the frame properly, an additional script originally by Dave Saunders (but improved upon by Marc Autret) will allow the import option to change. The script is available from this forum and once loaded and run into InDesign, the option to select is “Content All Layers”

14qr

So there it is. It is worth noting that this is a workaround and not a direct live Data Merge solution. There are limitations to this solution:

  • Resulting codes can’t be colorised on-the-fly;
  • If the database changes, this will mean repeating the entire process, rather than simply updating the data in the data merge file once, and removing all  QRcodes created previously.
  • Because the codes are not human readable without a decoder, there is added emphasis to check, recheck and check again to make sure the merge is behaving properly.

While this is a workaround, there is no doubt that a turnkey solution is preferable. There are enough third party providers making variable barcode solutions for Adobe InDesign. The full list is available here. From memory here is a list of third party providers that provide variable QR codes as part of a complete VDP package:

  • Rorohiko’s Tada QR;
  • XMPie’s uDirect;
  • Meadows Publishing Software
  • Cacidi LiveMerge;
  • Teacup Software’s BarcodeMaker;
  • DirectSmile;
  • Objectif Lune’s Printshop Mail;

Several edits since this was first published:

  • Added a list of third party providers who provide variable QR codes and moved a reference to an individual one earlier on in the article into that list;
  • Fixed type within field chevrons that did not appear when the article was published;
  • Acknowledged that variable QR codes via Data Merge are now possible in Adobe InDesign CC 2014
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