Document DDF versus Named DDF, which one to use?

This article describes the difference between using a DesignMerge Document DDF and using a Named DDF. The Document DDF is the default configuration for DesignMerge Pro, and the Named DDF is the default for DesignMerge Catalog software. This article explains the difference, and when you might consider using one method over the other.


A Data Source Definition (or DDF for short) is a file that holds all of the DesignMerge settings for your variable data job. This includes all of your data setup information (field names, etc) as well as all of your Variable Link and Rule definitions. DDF's can be exported for backup purposes, and can be imported for jobs that use similar settings. DesignMerge uses two different methods for managing DDF settings, the Document DDF and the Named DDF. Each are described below.


DesignMerge Pro software utilizes a special kind of DDF that is called the Document DDF. The Document DDF was introduced for InDesign CC 2014 and newer versions. When this option is enabled, all of the DDF settings are stored and travel with the InDesign document.

The Document DDF automatically loads the DDF settings that were last used on a document when you open that document. This ensures you are using the latest settings that were applied to that document the last time it was saved. If you open a different document, the settings automatically change to match those stored with that one. This allows each document to have it's own set of unique DDF settings.

The advantage of using a Document DDF for variable data jobs is that all of the settings are stored with the document. You just open the document, and everything is ready to go. You can also import the DDF settings from an existing document to save time on setup. The only disadvantage to this approach is if you need to change the same DDF setting across many documents (such as a catalog workflow, where all of the documents are related and share common DDF settings). If you have many documents that all share identical settings, then using a Named DDF may be a better option.


DesignMerge Catalog software utilizes the original DDF format, which we refer to as a Named or Global DDF. The Named DDF provides a way to share a common set of DDF settings across many documents. This feature works well for applications like catalogs, where all of the InDesign documents that comprise the catalog generally need to share common DDF settings.

You can create up to 100 Named DDF's, and choose one to use by selecting it in the DDF dropdown menu. The DDF's are stored locally on your workstation, but the entire DDF Set can be exported and imported onto other workstations. This is required in order to sync the Named DDF settings across multiple workstations.

The advantage of using a Named DDF is that if you need to change any of the settings, you do so only to the Named DDF. All other documents automatically pick up the settings stored with the Named DDF when they are opened for processing. Contrast this to a Document DDF, where you would need to change the settings for every single document instead.


There is a DesignMerge Preference checkbox item titled Always Use Doc DDF. When this checkbox is enabled (default for DesignMerge Pro), then you are using the Document DDF by default. If this checkbox is unchecked (default for DesignMerge Catalog), then you are using the Named DDF feature.


The steps required to create a Named DDF are identical to those for creating a Document DDF. The only difference is that you enter a specific name for the DDF you wish to create instead of using Document as the name. To create a Named DDF, follow the steps below:

  1. First, be sure to uncheck the DesignMerge preference item Always Use Doc DDF.
  2. Select DesignMerge > Setup > Data Source Definitions...
  3. Click the New button and enter a name for your DDF.
  4. Click OK to create the DDF.
  5. Now you are ready to run Setup on your newly created DDF.

When operating with a Named DDF, as soon as you open a document the name of the DDF last stored with the document will be selected as the Current DDF. The document automatically imports the settings from the Named DDF and makes those available for immediate use.


You can import/export a Single DDF, or an entire DDF Set. Here is how to do it.

Export a Single DDF

To export a single DDF, just save an InDesign document while the DDF settings that you want are active. This is true for both Document DDF and Named DDF. The document will always store a copy of the DDF that was in effect when the document was saved.

Import a Single DDF

To import a Single DDF from another document, follow these steps:

  1. Select DesignMerge > Setup > Data Source Definitions...
  2. Click the Import DDF. button.
  3. Navigate to and select the InDesign document that has the settings you wish to import confirm the import.

Your document will now have access to all of the same settings as the selected document.

Export a DDF Set

If you are using Named DDF's, then often you will have several of them defined. To make it easy to export these DDF's for backup or for syncing with another workstation, you can export the entire DDF Set.

  1. Select DesignMerge > Utilities > Data Source > Export DDF Set...
  2. You will be prompted to save a file.
  3. Save the file anywhere you would like (we recommend using a .ddf filename extension).

Import a DDF Set

To import a DDF Set backup from a file, please follow these steps.

  1. Select DesignMerge > Utilities > Data Source > Import DDF Set...
  2. You will be prompted to select a file.
  3. Navigate to and select a DDF Set file that you previously saved.
  4. The entire set of DDF's will be imported, replacing the existing set on your workstation.