How To Mail-Merge Presorted List in InDesign

Creating a mail-merge mailing from a Presorted mailing list is not as difficult as you’d think.

Let’s say you have a mailing of, say, 500 pieces, and you want to mail it the most efficient way, but you want to have control over the addressing.

The first thing you need is a Presorted list. This is your basic spreadsheet mailing list that has been run through the Postal Systems software to correct address, fix ZIP codes, etc. It will also add the Option Endorsement line and the Intelligent Barcode. These are important for Automated mailing and yields the lowest cost. Typically, this function is performed by a professional mailing house.

Start with the Database

Once you get the list back from the mail house, you will see a bunch of files that look like this:

Files from Mail House
Files from Mail House

 

I found the best way to open and use the database file (PxALL2.CSV) was with LibreOffice and not Excel.

First, get rid of all columns you don’t need. I left Addressee, Salutation, City State Zip, Endorsement and Barcode (Column G).

Presorted .CSV Mail List Opened in LibreOffice
Presorted .CSV Mail List Opened in LibreOffice

Now that I have the list ready to go, I want to perform the mail-merge in Adobe InDesign. This works just like it does in Microsoft Word.

Make Addresses in Adobe InDesign

In InDesign, the mail-merge functions are found under Window>>Utilities.

First, select the .CSV database and the Data Merge window will display all the field headers you added to your .CSV file. Then, simply drag each item into place on your document, select your font and size and then onto the hard part.

In order to get the barcode to look like a barcode you need the right font. The font can found at the Post Office website, found at:

https://ribbs.usps.gov/onecodesolution/download.cfm

Select:

uspsFontsNonAFP-1.4.0.zip

In here you will find the TrueType fonts. I used the “Standard” version.

On a Mac, you can add the font using FontBook.

Now, back in InDesign, create the Merged document. Try it with one record first.

Mail-Merge Document in Adobe InDesign (Mac)
Mail-Merge Document in Adobe InDesign (Mac)

Now, you have an addressed piece with all the necessary mailing stuff.

Merged Document with all the Postal Marks in InDesign
Merged Document with all the Postal Marks in InDesign

 

That line of upper and lower case letters is the barcode!

Highlight that line and apply the USPS font and you’ll see it turn into some lines.

Apply the USPS font to the Intelligent Barcode
Apply the USPS font to the Intelligent Barcode

If you turn on “Show Hidden Characters” you’ll see that this isn’t quite right yet.

USPS Font with Show Hidden Characters Selected
USPS Font with Show Hidden Characters Selected

Simple, change the case of the font to UPPERCASE, by going to Type>>Change Case>>Uppercase, while the line is highlighted. Turn off Hidden Characters and you will see:

Proper Presorted Mailing Address with Intelligent Barcode and Option Endorsement Line
Proper Presorted Mailing Address with Intelligent Barcode and Option Endorsement Line

To apply the correct barcode style to all your labels, create a Paragraph Style and apply it to your base mail-merge template document. I created a style called “barcode” and selected the USPS font and case as All Caps.

Paragraph Style to Automatically Apply the Proper Barcode Style
Paragraph Style to Automatically Apply the Proper Barcode Style

After I did my “Create Merged Document…” I got exactly what I needed and was ready to go. The Post Office confirmed that my barcodes worked as intended. Always confirm!

Presorted Mailing Label Properly Configured and Ready to Mail
Presorted Mailing Label Properly Configured and Ready to Mail

 

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Edit InDesign with Scribus, Open Source Tools

Scribus and Open Source can be used to open and edit InDesign documents.

One suggestion: create an .EPS from InDesign and open it as an editable file in Scribus. That did not work.

Alternative:

Another suggestion was to create an .IDML (an InDesign file that can be read by a previous version) document from InDesign and open that in Scribus. That worked much better. Here’s what I did and the result:

Business Card designed in Adobe InDesign CC

InDesign .IDML file opened in Scribus

Business Card File:

This worked fairly well. The only issue I had was that the tracking (space between letters) was a bit off and the upside-down “J” I used to create the lower-case “f” in “Jeff” got flipped over. Otherwise, the styles and colors were all intact.

InDesign document

Book layout in InDesign

InDesign .IDML file of book opened in Scribus

Paginated Book File:

The book conversion didn’t go as well. The main body of the text was OK, but the TOC, some drop caps and footers got messed up. Still, it is an editable document. One thing was, though, is that my blockquotes defaulted to Arial. It seems that in some cases there was a character style on top of the paragraph style that carried over from the original Word file. A simple fix, however.

Command-A in the Scribus file

This was interesting. I placed the cursor in the text and hit Command-A to select the entire text string. It highlighted one page. However, that wasn’t really true.

Deleted text in Scribus

When I deleted the highlighted text, it seems that the entire text string really was highlighted, as the whole thing got deleted. Then something even more interesting happened…

Command-Z in Scribus

I hit Command-Z to undo the delete. The text came back, but the formatting was now messed up.

Edit Scribus File in Text Editor

If you open a Scribus file in a text editor and open an InDesign file in a text editor, you will see that Scribus is very readable whereas, InDesign is not. You can make changes in both and save the file, but the results are quite different. Editing an InDesign file in a text editor (TextEdit on a Mac) renders the file useless.

InDesign error message

Editing a Scribus file produces better results. I edited a Scribus document on a Mac using TextEdit. This rendered the file useless, just like Adobe. But, then I tried it on my Linux Ubuntu machine, using Gedit, which I launched from the Command Line and, voilà, the file opens and the changes I made in Gedit were retained. How can this be useful? Say you are a printer and you receive a Scribus file. The client calls and says there is a small typo. Instead of getting a new file, open the Scribus file in Gedit and you should be good to go.

Scribus edited in Gedit on Linux

Scribus opens after Gedit changes

I converted an InDesign document to an .IDML so that I could plop in some PDFs. It seems Scribus is not as easy for this function like InDesign. However, after it failed, I simply converted my PDF imports to JPGs and imported them into Scribus. That worked great. I exported my document as a PDF but noticed that the files size was rather large. I’ll have to investigate that later.

Here is another great article on using InDesign. Click this link to read about presorted mailing lists!

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How To Create 3-Sided Boxes in InDesign

InDesign Forms: Three-Sided Boxes

Creating forms is, I think, the most difficult and mundane task a graphic designer ever faces.

EVERYTHING HAS TO BE EXACT. There will always be changes and when the forms are created with a mix of text and rules and symbols, it can become a real mess. Creating forms in InDesign is no picnic. Excel works better, but, hey, that’s life. It may even work better in Scribus; I’ll try that next.

The biggest problem I faced in creating this form is that I needed to create “fill-in-the-blank” boxes for the contractor to write in the customer info. Usually, these boxes are four-sided boxes. In this case, I needed to created a three-sided box — a “topless” box.

You would think this is an easy thing to do. Nahhh. I could have created them with boxes and white lines, or a series of upper-case Is with an underscore, or some other cludge.

Going Topless

HERE’S HOW I DID IT. I was able to create the boxes as “text” in the Character Styles (pull-down TYPE>>CHARACTER STYLES) palette using the Apple Symbols Glyph (TYPE>>GLYPHS) for a four-sided box, and then simply copied and pasted the number of boxes I needed for each entry. It worked for me; it may work for you.

Below are screen shots of the steps I took to “go topless.” This is InDesign CC (2015) Mac. I believe these functions are common in all versions, though.

Steps to Create a Topless Set of Boxes in InDesign

BASIC CHARACTER FORMATS

ADVANCED CHARACTER FORMATS

STRIKETHROUGH OPTIONS

APPLE SYMBOLS GLYPH

THE TOPLESS BOXES

THE TOPLESS BOXES

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Open Source Graphic Design

open source graphic designI have been experimenting with Open Source Graphics alternatives to Adobe software. This post will detail my experiences and opinions.

 The Setup

I am using the following Open Source Graphics tools on a Linux laptop:
Asus laptop.
Replaced Windows7 with Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
Intel® Pentium(R) CPU B970 @ 2.30GHz × 2
Scribus Version 1.4.6
GIMP 2.8.16

For comparison, I timed the app launch time on my late 2012 MacBookPro, running El Capitan.
Adobe InDesign CC: 6min 16sec
Adobe Photoshop CC: 1min 10sec
Scribus (Version 1.5.1): 1min 16sec
GIMP: 1min 11sec

Launch time on Ubuntu (Open Source only):
Scribus: 4.3sec
GIMP: 2.7sec

I downloaded Blender. Blender is “a free and open source 3D creation suite.” I am going to try moving from the 2D world of Open Source Graphics Design to the 3D world. They have many tutorials on their site, which I am about to embark on. I installed it on my Mac, but will add it to my collection on Ubuntu as well. OK, here we go!

Opening an InDesign document in Scribus

I read a few blogs on this and tried one suggestion: create an .EPS from InDesign and open it as an editable file in Scribus. That did not work.

Another suggestion was to create an .IDML (an InDesign file that can be read by a previous version) document from InDesign and open that in Scribus. That worked much better. Here’s what I did and the result:

Business Card designed in Adobe InDesign CC

InDesign .IDML file opened in Scribus

Business Card File

This worked fairly well. The only issue I had was that the tracking (space between letters) was a bit off and the upside-down “J” I used to create the lower-case “f” in “Jeff” got flipped over. Otherwise, the styles and colors were all intact.

Book layout in InDesign

InDesign .IDML file of book opened in Scribus

Paginated Book File

The book conversion didn’t go as well. The main body of the text was OK, but the TOC, some drop caps and footers got messed up. Still, it is an editable document. One thing was, though, is that my blockquotes defaulted to Arial. It seems that in some cases there was a character style on top of the paragraph style that carried over from the original Word file. A simple fix, however.

Command-A in the Scribus file

This was interesting. I placed the cursor in the text and hit Command-A to select the entire text string. It highlighted one page. However, that wasn’t really true.

Deleted text in Scribus

When I deleted the highlighted text, it seems that the entire text string really was highlighted, as the whole thing got deleted. Then something even more interesting happened…

Command-Z in Scribus

I hit Command-Z to undo the delete. The text came back, but the formatting was now messed up.

Edit Scribus File in Text Editor

If you open a Scribus file in a text editor and open an InDesign file in a text editor, you will see that Scribus is very readable whereas, InDesign is not. You can make changes in both and save the file, but the results are quite different. Editing an InDesign file in a text editor (TextEdit on a Mac) renders the file useless.

InDesign error message

Editing a Scribus file produces better results. I edited a Scribus document on a Mac using TextEdit. This rendered the file useless, just like InDesign. But, then I tried it on my Linux Ubuntu machine, using Gedit, which I launched from the Command Line and, voilà, the file opens and the changes I made in Gedit were retained. How can this be useful? Say you are a printer and you receive a Scribus file. The client calls and says there is a small typo. Instead of getting a new file, open the Scribus file in Gedit and you should be good to go.

Scribus edited in Gedit on Linux

Scribus opens after Gedit changes

PDF Import in Scribus

I converted an InDesign doc to an .IDML so that I could plop in some PDFs. It seems Scribus is not as easy for this function like InDesign. However, after it failed, I simply converted my PDF imports to JPGs and imported them into Scribus. That worked great. I exported my document as a PDF but noticed that the files size was rather large. I’ll have to investigate that later.

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