Which DesignMerge print format should I use for best performance?

This article discusses how to select the best DesignMerge VDP print format to use for a particular job. The article provides specific recommendations to achieve the best possible performance (both on the desktop, and at the press) based on the type of VDP job you plan to run.


The first thing to do is determine which VDP file formats your digital print controller can accept (because this may limit your choices). The VDP formats that can be created by DesignMerge include PDF/VT, PPML, and Adobe PostScript.

As long as your printer supports it, the best choice is always PDF/VT. This output format is ideal for jobs like addressing, where you are overlaying a variable address block or other personalized text on top of the InDesign layout.

Most modern production printers support PDF/VT, but may not support PPML. You should check with your printer manufacturer to be sure (or you can just give it a try with each VDP format and see if it works!)

Once you know what your options are, we recommend the following basic guidelines:

  1. Adobe InDeign 2021 (or newer) Customers
    If you are using Adobe InDesign 2021 or newer, always use PDF/VT as the output format. There is no reason to choose any other output format, unless your press cannot support PDF/VT. Please have a look at the Performance settings for PDF/VT Output article for more details.
  2. Job has Variable Text Only (no Variable Graphic Images)
    Regardless of the InDesign version you are running, if your job uses Variable Text only (no variable pictures; no master page swapping), then use PDF/VT as well. For more information about the settings for a PDF/VT job, please have a look at the Performance settings for PDF/VT Output article.
  3. Job has Variable Images and/or Variable Text
    If your job uses any Variable Images, and you are running an older version of InDesign, then PPML is a good choice. PPML provides built-in image caching, and is appropriate for most jobs that utilize Variable Images.
  4. Printer does not support PDF, PDF/VT, or PPML
    If your printer does not support PDF, PDF/VT, or PPML, then use PostScript (and if your printer does not support PostScript, welcome to 1984!) PostScript jobs will tend to be very large and slow, so it is best to avoid this format if you can.
    If your job uses Variable Text that also has some type of InDesign transparency effect applied to it, then use PPML, or PDF/VT. We do not recommend PostScript for these types of jobs because it will be much slower than PDF due to the fact that each page will need to be flattened during output.
  5. Printer uses a Creo Systems Controller (or client requests VPS output)
    Many people are under the impression that on Creo systems, Creo VPS is the only VDP format supported. This is not true! We have confirmed with the Creo team that PDF/VT and PPML are both fully supported on Creo systems and run even more efficiently than VPS. And because the DesignMerge PDF/VT and PPML drivers provide performance features not available with VPS, we recommend to always use PDF/VT or PPML instead of Creo VPS.

For more details about each of these DesignMerge Print Drivers, including all of the options and features that they support, please see the Print Driver manuals, available on the Documentation Page of our web site.