4 ways and tutorials from Excel to InDesign

The pagination of Excel data into InDesign is one of the most requested types of workflow.
There are four widely adopted approaches to link Excel with InDesign.


Limited flexibility
Flat pricelist,
product datasheets


Data Merge

Best effort-to-result
Save Excel as .txt/.csv
Single product style,
flat catalog, certificates

document merged page1

XML Import

Extensible layout
Steepy to learn
Calendar, pricelist, and catalogs



Fast, flexible, effective
Free trial
Pricelist, catalogs,
very large documents


In this page, we want to give an introduction to each of these approaches and refer to the related tutorials we have conducted. Each tutorial comes with a downloadable package, which should give you a working foundation that we hope will accelerate your learning and your ability to paginate your own documents.
Today Place command options is the only official integration between InDesign and Excel or at least this is the only one that explicitly cites Excel in the official Adobe documentation. The other two integrations can still fluently paginate Excel data in InDesign with very small workarounds (like our Export as Unicode free Excel add-in).

For more downloads, see our Free InDesign Catalog Templates.

Place Command Options

The Place command is a method of importing data from Excel to an InDesign document. It can be used with Excel and InDesign tables to paginate documents such as simple price lists and business cards. However, Place command options are best used in the population and updating of product sheet tables, since one of the features that this method offers is the creation and maintenance of the links between spreadsheet files and the InDesign document.

The Place command has a relatively limited feature set. This restricts its application to projects with only the most simple requirements.

Pagination combines the Place command’s ease of use with a much broader range of possibilities. Plan your project and check out the tutorial: “Excel to InDesign with Pagination”.

Check out the tutorials:

  1. “Price Lists with the InDesign Place Command”
  2. “Product Sheets with the InDesign Place Command”

price list_formatted_indesign_result


Data Merge

InDesign’s Data Merge tool is a standard method for paginating spreadsheets into business card batches, yearbooks, certificates, price lists and product sheets.

One of Data Merge’s main weaknesses is the need to prepare spreadsheets to InDesign’s exact import specifications. Only .csv and .txt files can be imported, and the conversion process can be daunting, complex, and prone to errors.

Pagination offers solutions that eliminate the need for conversion and significantly extend the Data Merge tool’s overall feature set. Plan your project and check out the tutorial: “Excel to InDesign with Pagination”.

Check out the tutorial: “Data Merge Indesign Tutorial”.

document merged page1


XML Import

Importing XML files into InDesign enables you to automate almost any kind of layout. Text, graphics, attributes and tables can all be used to create complex documents such as calendars, multi-hierarchy price lists and technical catalogs. Pairing an XML import with JavaScript provides even more layout and automation possibilities.

XML requires a steep learning curve, and a dedicated team can be required to establish, maintain and troubleshoot the logic behind even relatively simple operations. This high barrier to entry and long-term resource commitment should be considered before using XML on any challenging database publishing or variable data printing project.

Pagination offers the same high customization levels as XML but with far greater ease of use. Our streamlined solutions save time, improve accuracy and simplify even the most complex publishing projects. Plan your project and check out the tutorial: “Excel to InDesign with Pagination”.

Check out the tutorial: “How to make a Catalog with XML Import”.