Why is DesignMerge asking me to locate a file for a variable picture or variable article?

When merging a variable picture or variable article, DesignMerge will search for the file that is specified by the variable link's data (either the data that a field is providing, or the data that a link rule is setting). This data may consist of either the full path for the file or just the filename. If the full path is not specified and only the filename is provided, then DesignMerge will search for the file in the locations that are indicated by your DesignMerge preferences and the document's DDF.

If DesignMerge cannot locate a file for a variable picture or variable article, the merge session has encountered a Missing Asset error condition, and DesignMerge by default will interrupt the session to prompt you to locate the missing file (or select another file to use). Once you have indicated which file to use, the merge session will continue. Also, if the current session requires this particular missing file again, DesignMerge will automatically use the file that you selected. Please note that you may change the manner in which DesignMerge handles a Missing Asset error condition by changing your DesignMerge preferences. 


To determine why DesignMerge is not able to locate a file for a variable picture or variable article, first confirm the file that is specified by the data does actually exist. In the other words, confirm the filename or full path that is being provided as data for the variable link exactly matches the filename or full path of the actual file. For example, consider whether the filename should include a filename extension. If the data is providing a full path, confirm you can access this path from your system and then confirm the full path has been specified according to DesignMerge External File Path Specifications.

Also, confirm your user account has sufficient permissions granted to access the files and the folder that contains these files. If the files are located on another computer, confirm your computer has a current connection to the files' folder on that other computer.

If the first record in your database file contains field names, confirm you have turned on the Skip header row option for the current merge session. Otherwise, DesignMerge will merge this first record and prompt you to locate the file whose filename matches the field name provided for that variable picture or article link. 

Once you have confirmed the data is accurate, confirm you have set up DesignMerge Search Paths that will allow DesignMerge to locate these files. There are two types of Search Paths that you can set up:

  • Global Search Paths are a component of your DesignMerge preferences. Your installation of DesignMerge will search within your Global Search Paths when merging any document. By default, your Global Search Paths are the document's folder, the data file's folder, and any subfolders inside these two folders. 
  • A DDF Search Path is a component of a DDF. If a DDF specifies a DDF Search Path, then all installations of DesignMerge will search this location when merging a document that uses this DDF. By default, a new DDF will not be set up to use a DDF Search Path.


To set up your Global Search Paths, do the following:

  1. Open the DesignMerge menu and choose Preferences to open the DesignMerge Preferences dialog.
  2. Click the Search button on the Preferences dialog to open the Global Search Paths dialog.
  3. Make any changes you wish that will allow your installation of DesignMerge to locate files for variable pictures and variable articles when merging any document. 
  4. When ready, click the OK button to return to the Preferences dialog.
  5. Then, click the OK button to close the Preferences dialog.


To set up a DDF Search Path, do the following:

  1. Open the DesignMerge menu and choose Setup > Data Source Definitions.
  2. Confirm the appropriate DDF is selected in the Current DDF pop-up menu, and then click the Edit button.
  3. Select the Enable DDF Search Path check box, and then click the Change Path button
  4. On the DDF Search Path dialog, you will see the Current Path that has been specified.
  5. To change the path, click the Change Path button and choose the folder that you wish DesignMerge to search.
  6. Select the Search subfolders check box if you would like DesignMerge to search any subfolders inside the Current Path.
  7. Click the OK button to return to the Edit Data Source Definition dialog.
  8. Confirm the Enable DDF Search Path check box is checked. (If this option is unchecked, the DDF will instruct DesignMerge to ignore searching the specified DDF Search Path.)
  9. Click OK on Edit Data Source Definition dialog, and then click OK to close the Data Source Definitions (DDF) dialog.


You can specify how a variable link will handle a missing asset condition. Available options are as follows:

  • Error: This option reports the missing asset as an error and also places an error graphic in the frame that indicates the name of the missing file.
  • Ignore: This option ignores the missing asset and leaves the current asset in the frame (or leaves the frame empty if no placeholder graphic was already placed in the frame).
  • Delete: This option deletes the entire frame.
  • Substitute: This option allows the user to specify the name of an asset to substitute. Enter the asset name only (do not enter the full path). The software will search for the substitute graphic in the same fashion as any other variable graphic (searches in the document folder, data folder, global search paths, etc.).


Below are some additional tips to assist you in resolving a Missing Asset error condition:

Missing Asset Warning: When DesignMerge warns you a file cannot be found, the message will indicate the data naming the file (for example, the filename) that DesignMerge cannot locate.

Preflight Report (a VDP feature): Before using DesignMerge to produce the variable data output for a document, you can run a Preflight Report merge session to determine the status of the external files for variable links in the document. When you run a Preflight Report, DesignMerge analyzes which external graphic files and text files will be needed and searches for these files to make sure that they are available. Then, DesignMerge will display a report that lists all of the required external files, the full path to each of these files, and their current status. 

Data Preview (a VDP feature): A Data Preview merge session can also assist you in seeing the data that is being provided to a variable link. 

Rules Test: If you are using a Link Rule to change the data for a variable picture or variable article, a Rules Test can help you test the Rule. 

For accurate results: When the data for a variable link does not provide the full path, be careful that you do not set up paths that would allow DesignMerge to locate multiple files that share the same file name. 

For best performance: Consider the number of locations in your DesignMerge search paths, and the sequence in which DesignMerge will search these locations. By default, DesignMerge will search for a file in the following locations, sequentially:

1) The folder containing the document and any subfolders inside this folder (if enabled as a Global Search Path)

2) The folder containing the data file and any subfolders inside this folder (if enabled as a Global Search Path)

3) The DDF Search Path (if enabled for the Current DDF)

4) Custom Global Search Paths, in the order in which these are listed (if you added any as Global Search Paths)