Making Mailing Labels in InDesign CS2

One of the cool features of Adobe InDesign CS2 is the built-in ability to data merge from a comma-separated text or CSV file. Although similar options have been available within Microsoft Word and other applications, this is new to InDesign as an integrated feature.

Making Mailing LabelsMaking Mailing Lables in InDesign CS2

In previous versions of InDesign you’d need to add a plug-in such as Adobe PageMaker plug-in pack or one from a third-party like InData from Em Software. There are also a number of catalog plug-ins, like 65bit Software’s EZCatalog, that would do the job but they’re much too powerful for a job as straightforward as setting up mailing labels to print on the kind of pre-glued and cut label paper you’d find at your local stationery or office supply store.

The first step to making your mailing labels in InDesign CS2 is determining what type of label you want to use. A quick scan online or in-store will show numerous sizes and colors to pick from. For this tutorial, I’m going with a commonly available 1″ x 2-5/8″ label, keeping it plain, simple, and easy to explain. Many major office product manufacturers provide templates for their label papers for download. If you’ve got a ubiquitous enough brand, they may even provide InDesign templates for you to use. Let’s assume you’re Gung-Ho, like me, and decide to create your own label template.

Create a New DocumentAlthough you can adjust margins after creating the document, save your self some time by doing it when you first create the new file.

To set-up a template for a letter-size page, determine how many columns and what margins you’ll need. Our label will fit nicely in a 3-column format with 1/2″ margins top and bottom, and 1/4″ margins on the sides. Make sure you leave the gutters at 0, because most pre-fab labels butt-up against each other to save space. Click OK after you’ve entered your dimensions.

Add a Text BoxAll you need is one Text Box if your columns and margins are set-up correctly.

Create one Text Box at the size of the label, in this case 1″ x 2 5/8″, and position it so that it fits within the first column. Assuming you’ve set-up your CSV correctly with a header for each column, click on Window>Automation>Data Merge. With the Data Merge palette open, click on the fly-out menu and select “Select Data Source;” navigate to your data source, select it and click Open. The headers from your CSV will populate the Date Merge Palette and you’re now ready to build your mailing labels.

Do the Data MergeWindow>Automation>Data Merge

Find your FileUse the fly-out menu to browse for your CSV file.

Either drag each header into the Text Box you’ve created or insert the Text Tool cursor into the Text Box, then click the header you want to place there. Repeat this step for each field you want to merge, adding punctuation where appropriate.

Populate the Text BoxPopulate your Text Box by either dragging fields into it or by placing a Text Tool cursor in the Text Box then clicking a field name.

Select Multiple RecordsSelect Multiple Records so that all your addresses can flow into multiple Text Boxes, then click Preview to see InDesign CS2 in action.

Once your Text Box is populated with the fields you want to merge, either click on the fly-out menu and select “Create Merged Document” or click the Create Merged Documents icon at the bottom of the Data Merge palette. In the Create Merged Documents pop-up window, select Multiple Records next to Records per Document Page. At this point you can Preview your Merged Document by clicking the checkbox called Preview Multiple Record Layout. When your document looks the way you expect it to, click OK. InDesign CS2 will create a second Untitled document with 3 columns and 10 rows of labels, adding additional pages as needed.

22 thoughts on “Making Mailing Labels in InDesign CS2”

  1. wondering if there is a plug-in available so that inDesign can do a mail merge onto a postcard that is 2-up on a page. What happens now is the same address merges onto both postcards and then a new address on the next page but same address on both postcards. I’m getting 2 postcards to the same person. Any suggestions?

  2. I hadn’t been able to find a plug-in that I really liked for InDesign’s Data Merge function.

    Sounds like you’ve set-up two text boxes with the same headers in each — one text box for each postcard. You should be able to just set-up one text box on your 2-up postcard layout, set your margins, then let ID do the rest of the work for you.

    The data merge function only follows columns and margins, not guides, so once you have your finished layout ready for the data merge, you’ll need to change modify your margins and columns settings to fit the info properly.

  3. I have a pretty decent knowledge about data mergin in InDesign, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to print the USPS mailing barcode for bulk mailings, say, on a postcard.

    Do I need a plug-in for this or how does one go about getting the information that goes in the barcode?

  4. A quick Google search for “generate barcode” brought a number of links that could help lead to an online generator or a stand-alone application. Barcode Writer in Pure Postscript is an open source application that’ll let you generate your own barcodes or you can use it’s web-based front end to generate small numbers of barcodes online — it even generates the barcode in PS, EPS, JPEG, PNG and BMP file formats! If you’re looking for a plug-in for InDesign or Quark, try The Worldwide Power Company. There are a nunmber of plug-ins there, though they’ll cost you some $$$.

  5. Well…my problem is not generating the barcode. I’m wondering how you get the postal office information that goes into the mailing barcode. Any ideas?

  6. Hi,

    Thanks for this tutorial. I find that most of the mailing lists come in an Excel format. Knowing nothing about databases, and even less about the Windows world, I wonder if you have any advice in how to get a mailing list in Excel into InDesign to print the labels? I don’t have Excel, but do have a Mac program called Mesa that apparently opens Excel files. Am working on a MacIntel Dual Core Mini with InDesign CS2. Thank you!

  7. In the Data Merge palette to the far right of each field that has been selected there is a number “1.” If a second window is set up, the “1” changes to “1,1.” Every time an additional text window is set up, another “1” is added to the numbers. I believe those numbers refer to the record number being accessed. I am trying to use a letter-size sheet of 80 labels to generate 480 VERY TINY labels (6 per actual label — I will manually cut). The 80 labels are in four columns of 20 rows. There is a border between columns, but not between rows. I have been successful in getting 240 tiny labels, but each is generated twice because I set up the target document with two tiny labels side-by-side. They each take the same record number. I need to find a way to make the first entry use record 1 and the second entry use record 2. [Sorry that this is so complex!] So that you fully understand the issue, picture a grid of 80 labels as I have described above — with a border between columns, but NO border between rows. Now divide EACH physical label into six tiny labels — two across by three down — and NO borders anywhere within this 6-label format. With two labels across, I can get three different records DOWN, but the same record across in each physical label. If you can follow this, I am already grateful. I believe there is some way to change those numbers in the data palette from multiple “1s” to “1,2,3…” so that in the format I have just described, I can get 6 unique records in six spaces, not three sets of 2. I will appreciate ANY help, suggestions, advice, guidance, prayers, mantras, whatever to help me in this matter. Thanks. VERY MUCH!!

  8. Hi,
    My questions is:

    I am merging .csv file to an inDesign document. One csv column is a category name. I would like to apply a different font, depending on category. Is it possible?

    Thank you,

  9. I am trying to merge Multiple names to one 8.5 x 11 sheet. I have tried several different ways, but with little success. I keep getting the same name all the way down the page. I have one text box with the name on the 4 x 3 labels. I click on the multiple labels option, but still get one namer per page and I need on name per label

  10. argh I’m having the same problem as some of you – trying to do mailing labels with multiple records on one page, but it keeps repeating the same record! So frustrating! I thought the same as Gary about the 1,1,1,1 thing, but how the hell do I change to 1,2,3,4??? Help please!!!!

  11. Hi

    I’m having some problem usign CSV files. When I select the file usign Select Data Source, all I get is one unique header that inludes all the real headers existing in the CSV file. (Like this >.
    If I use a comma-separated text It works ok. But I would like to use a CSV file so I can make corrections later and that’s much easier in an excel file than in a txt file.

  12. I did it. I had the same problem as everyone else with the same record showing multiple times.

    Just create a new document. Set up your margins. Create only 1 text box and make it the correct height and width and put it in position.

    Then merge your document.

    Just create 1 text box. That’s the key.

  13. Hi,
    just want to ask, how to resize same value of length and width in series photos using Indesign CS2? . Is there any Action like photoshop do?

  14. how to make barcode. . like u did mailing lable . . like that i want make barcode for bulk data. .using indesign cs2. . could u please help me . . .

  15. Thanks for this tutorial! Very enlightening.

    Is there a way to create a merged document with multiple addresses on the same page (two-up) AND have two sides? I’m working on a two sided postcard and would like to have two postcards per Letter size page. InDesign doesn’t seem to let you select “Multiple Records” under “Records per Document Page” unless the document has no more than ONE page.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks in advance.

  16. Jeremy,

    This is a late response, but I did a project like this awhile back and realized that the reason is because the sides wouldn’t match up with each other on each side. You have to manually move the columns/rows to be opposites so the proper records line up with each other. Does that make sense? I think I ended up doing two merged documents and then printing the sides separately (or at least inserting the pages from one to the other document, alternating their placement, of course).

  17. I am trying to data merge product information into an InDesign CS2 table for future ease in editing long documents. I keep getting the same info repeated with each row in the table, similar to people above mentioning above with their mailing labels. The difference is that I want to data merge into an InDesign table rather than into a simple text box.

    I can get it to work properly if I define one text box at the top of the chart, but then I end up with a ton of separate text boxes. I’d rather have them end up in the cells of the ID table. That way, I can navigate within the final document’s table, rather than a bunch of small text boxes.

    Is this possible or am I making ID think beyond it’s capabilities?

  18. I am trying to data merge product information into an InDesign CS2 table for future ease in editing long documents. I keep getting the same info repeated with each row in the table, similar to people above mentioning above with their mailing labels. The difference is that I want to data merge into an InDesign table rather than into a simple text box.

    I can get it to work properly if I define one text box at the top of the chart, but then I end up with a ton of separate text boxes. I’d rather have them end up in the cells of the ID table. That way, I can navigate within the final document’s table, rather than a bunch of small text boxes.

    Is this possible or am I making ID think beyond it’s capabilities?

  19. P.S. So far, the only way i’ve been able to merge the files into a table is to create a document which creates a new page for each new record. Then I cut and paste the table rows from each separate page back into one table. Not very efficient whatsoever, so won’t be doing that.

    What am I missing in the thinking process?

  20. Thank you! I’ve read a ton of tutorials on the data merge for mail labels…and just could not get it to work without one label on each document…start to finish with your tutorial and the job is DONE!!! there was one little glitch with what I was doing that I could not get past! But, starting from scratch this way without the label template WORKED!

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