Performance Tips for DesignMerge


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 large discrepancy between the two, 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 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 its performance. These are not requirements in order to use DesignMerge, but they can definitely enhance 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 poducing high-volume VDP work (5,000 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. As an example, setting 250 as the Page Sets per Job value (for a single page document, in this example) will result in 250 pages of variable data being created and saved in the PDF or PPML file. When the file is ready, it will automatically be sent to your printer, after which DesignMerge resumes the merge process for the next 250 records, and so on until all records have been processed. This will permit parallel processing - the printer gets started printing, while DesignMerge continues to merge 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 theĀ  Front - Moving frames that contain variable data to the front of the layout (Object > Arrange > Bring to Front) can help improve performance for PPML. TIP: DesignMerge provides a utility called Create Fixed and Variable Layers that can help to rearrange the content for you.

Consider Multi-up Imposition - For multi-up imposition jobs, consider where the job will be imposed. In some cases, performance may be enhanced by setting up the document as a single-up job to be imposed by the digital printer. In other cases, performance may be enhanced by setting up the document as multi-up job using the DesignMerge Sequencing feature. To set up a document as a multi-up job, use the DesignMerge Sequencing feature which is described in Tutorial #3 (ID Badges) in the DesignMerge Tutorial Manual. To find out whether your RIP unit provides imposition software, please contact the service representative for your printer.

Consider Transparency - 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.

Minimize GroupPicture Usage - If you are using the Meadows GroupPicture module, you may notice that these require more processing time. If possible, instead of variable GroupPictures, use a Page Rule to Apply a Master Page. You can also try enabling the Master Page Mode for GroupPicture, which can improve overall processing times by pulling content from named master pages rather than from GroupPicture files.

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. For more information about Rules, see the Rules Module Manual in the DesignMerge product folder.

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.