Performance Benchmark and Troubleshooting for DesignMerge

This article provides information for improving the overall performance of DesignMerge variable data processing, as well as a list of known issues that we have encountered in actual use cases. In addition, the article provides details for downloading and running the DesignMerge benchmark test job, which can be used to assess the overall performance of your current system.


DesignMerge performance is primarily influenced by the hardware capabilities of your system (faster processor, faster hard disk drive, etc.). When your hardware is faster, DesignMerge works faster!

In order to assess the performance of your DesignMerge system, we first recommend that you run our benchmark performance job. The benchmark performance job may be downloaded from the following web page:

To compare your system, please download the performance job to your local hard disk drive. Open the document, and start up a PDF/VT merge session, saving the output to the local hard disk drive as well (full specs and instructions for this can be found on the performance page as well). You can then compare the output times that you receive on your system to the output times posted on the performance web page.

If there is a discrepancy between the times by a factor of less than 3x, this is likely due to hardware differences between your system and the system that we used to create the benchmarks, so you may need to consider a system upgrade. The performance page provides some detail about the type of hardware we use on our benchmark systems. If your system is slower than 3x, please continue reading as it is likely that something else is causing the slowdown.


Sometimes we will hear of a customer with ridiculously long processing time. As an example, a customer reported a VDP job that was taking 7+ hours to run on their system, yet when the job was sent to our team for review the total processing was only around 10 minutes.

These issues are rare, but when they do occur it is almost always related to some other third-party software product, or system configuration. We maintain a list of these items below, which we will keep updated for future reference. If you are looking to generally increase performance, please proceed to the Tips section below.

Conflict with FontAgent Software
11-26-2021: Customer reported a job that utilized GroupPicture software to import the front/back of a custom postcard. The job was taking 7.5 hours to process on their system, yet total processing time on our own benchmark system was less than 10 minutes. The problem was traced to the FontAgent plug-in module, which is utilized for automatic font activation. When the plug-in was remove the customer achieved the same speed as our benchmark systems. As a workaround, the customer ensured that all fonts required for the job (including the fonts used by the GroupPicture files) were stored in the local Document fonts folder that was at the same folder level as the main InDesign document. This seemed to resolve the issue as well. If possible, we recommend installing all fonts into the system where they can be shared by multiple users.


If the benchmark performance of your system is comparable to the posted benchmark information, then you may be able to improve overall performance by making changes to your VDP job or workflow. Following is a list of things you can do when working with a VDP job that may also improve performance. The items listed below are in order of priority, with print driver selection and job location (desktop vs server) being the most important consideration.

Select the Appropriate Print Driver

Certain DesignMerge print drivers provide different built-in performance features. For example, PDF/VT is best for jobs with variable text personalization, while PPML would be best to use for jobs that utilize variable graphics. More about selecting the appropriate print driver can be found on the performance page link listed above.

Keep VDP Job Files on Local File System (Not on Server)

For best performance, move all of your job's documents and other assets to your local file system (e.g., place it on the Desktop). If you are merging files from a server volume, this can have a dramatic impact on overall processing times because all of the files (documents, graphics, etc.) must be read over the network, which is much slower than reading from the local file system. Want an easy way to gather up all of the assets required for a VDP job and move them to your local desktop? Please check out the VDP Packager, which is a standard DesignMerge feature!

Save Print Output on Local File System (Not on Server)

When you are prompted to choose an output location for merged VDP files such as PDF/VT or PPML, select a location that is on your local file system. This ensures that as the file is being created, all of the reading and writing of the file will be very fast. After the job is finished, you can then copy the file to your server or printer hot folder. As an alternative, you may use the Copy to Specified Folder option, which is available for both PDF/VT and PPML. With this option the files are initially created on the local disk (for best performance), but then automatically transferred to the folder you specify when complete.

Break Up the Job

If you are producing high-volume VDP work (10,000 records and above, for example), you should definitely consider splitting the job up into more manageable PDF or PPML files. I mean, imagine InDesign trying to create a 10,000 page PDF file - that's going to take a lot of memory and CPU time, which can slow things down dramatically. The good news is that each of the DesignMerge print drivers provide a built-in feature called Page Sets per Job. This feature allows you to break the output up into a series of smaller VDP output files, and allows those files to be sent to the press while DesignMerge continues processing the remaining records. Please see the Page Sets per Job page for more details about this feature.

Keep Variable Pictures Small

If your job contains variable graphics, you can try saving them to the smallest file size possible for the required printing quality. Also, if possible, use the EPS graphic file format or any other format that contains an image preview. This allows the graphic preview to be merged (instead of having to read in the entire image content), which can improve overall merge performance.

Reduce Document Frame Count

The fewer objects (frames) you have in your document, the faster it will process. Start by removing all non-printing frames from your document, and also unlock all objects.

Bring Variable Content to the Front

Moving frames that contain variable data to the front of the layout (Object > Arrange > Bring to Front) can help improve performance for PPML.

DesignMerge provides a utility called Create Fixed and Variable Layers that can help to rearrange the content for you. This option is available under the DesignMerge >Utilities > Create Fixed and Variable Layers... menu.

Consider Transparency for PostScript

If you are printing PostScript, and if your job uses any transparent images, or if you have applied any transparency effects to content in the document, this content will need to be flattened. Flattening can dramatically affect printing performance, so in such case we recommend using one of the alternative print drivers such as PDF/VT or PPML. Generally, for PDF/VT the output does not need to be flattened, however, please be aware of the Compatibility option you select on the Export Adobe PDF dialog window as this may affect this option. For PPML, one of the print driver options allows you to specify the transparency flattening options to use for the output.

Consider Tagged Data

DesignMerge supports the use of MPS Tags and InDesign Tags in variable data. These tags can be used to control styling in variable data as it is merged. If you are incorporating large amounts of tagged data, this can have an impact on performance. Instead, consider using a DesignMerge Rule to modify the styling of data during a merge session.

Keep Build Document Jobs Small

If you are doing a Build Document merge (that creates a multi-page InDesign document with variable content on every page), do so only for limited ranges of records. The Build Document feature is appropriate only for small ranges of records, such as for proofing or short-run job output.