If you have landed on this page, it is because you know Adobe InDesign software well enough that you wonder if there is third-party software that can help you speed up the creation of catalogs and price lists. In this article, we will talk about what the InDesign catalog plugins are, what are their characteristics, which are the most used, and which one to choose according to our needs.
Table of Contents
- What is an InDesign catalog plugin?
- Why do I need an InDesign catalog plugin?
- What are the features of an InDesign catalog plugin?
- What are the disadvantages of an InDesign catalog plugin?
- Best InDesign Catalog Plugins
- Cacidi LiveMerge CC – Cacidi
- EasyCatalog – 65bit
- DesignMerge Catalog – Meadows
- Datalinker – Teacup Software
- InCatalog and InCatalog Pro – Em Data
What is an InDesign catalog plugin?
An InDesign catalog plug-in is software that powers Adobe InDesign to more easily create catalogs and price lists. The plugins add a whole series of automatic features that we do not find in the Adobe InDesign software and that make our work much easier such as importing product data and arranging them in the document following precise grouping logic chosen by the user.
Why do I need an InDesign catalog plugin?
The InDesign catalog plugins are used to improve the work of graphic designers or marketing or sales departments by speeding up the process of importing product information into InDesign files.
More specifically, they allow, following work of preparing the InDesign template (which can also be very complicated), to connect one or more data sources to it and make sure that these data populate the document following very specific criteria.
Below you will find some of the reasons why it is worth inquiring about InDesign Catalog plugins or cloud catalog automation services.
- Publish a big catalog per year (more than 100 pages) or a catalog with complex layouts
- Publish several catalogs per year
- Create catalogs in different languages (one version per language or a version with two or more languages) or currencies
- Make client-specific catalogs (product assortments or pricing)
- Improve business processes by keeping the roles and functions of the people involved in the creation of catalogs well separated: sales managers, marketing managers, product managers, and designers. This way they don’t step on each other’s toes and each is responsible only for their own tasks.
What are the features of an InDesign catalog plugin?
Below you will find a list of the features most common to all InDesign catalog plugins. But let’s remember that each plugin has its own specific characteristics. An InDesign catalog plugin should provide you these features:
- Keep documents up-to-date thanks to the automatic import of text and images in the placeholders you define. Images are automatically resized and aligned to fit their respective image boxes.
- To be able to work on other projects, as document creation times are considerably reduced, from days/months to minutes.
- To reduce the number of errors in documents to zero.
- To eliminate review processes.
- To import different types of data such as Excel, CSV, TXT, XML files or to use ODBC connectors.
- To filter or query the spreadsheet directly within InDesign without having to open and close program windows.
Some plugins allow, following a development work carried out by an IT specialist, to connect directly to a cloud data management software such as ERP, PIM, DAM, e-commerce, etc. In this way, it will be sufficient to select the articles in the web interface of your data management tool and start the automatic layout of your catalog.
What are the disadvantages of an InDesign catalog plugin?
The main disadvantages of the InDesign catalog plugins are:
- They cannot be used for any type of document. Some documents in fact require to be paginated by hand as they do not have a certain regularity of the product layouts.
- To get the result you want, you often have to make major changes to the data file that can take a long time. For example, add fields (categories/families, layouts, translations, etc.) or diversify existing data as they cannot be used for automatic pagination.
- The cost is for licenses which therefore corresponds to the possibility of installing the plugin on a single device. In addition, whenever the InDesign version changes, it is required to make another payment for the plugin update.
- If you want to make a change / modification to the catalog you are obliged to ask the graphic designer who is the only one who knows how to use the plugin.
- The computers on which to install the plugins must have minimum system requirements.
- Hard to learn. Most of the plugins we find on the market require many hours of training and often fail to achieve the desired results. This, therefore, leads to having to review the general layout of the document and therefore wasting additional time that we had hoped to save.
- Customer service is (very often) not included.
- If the product assortment changes (adding or removing items), the changes made by hand on the InDesign file will be deleted.
- They bring the RAM close to 100%. InDesign catalog plugins, when used to automatically layout a document, no longer allow you to work on Adobe InDesign and often use all the RAM available to your computer. This entails not only not being able to continue working with InDesign, perhaps on another project, but also not being able to use other design software such as Photoshop or Illustrator and not even working on your browser.
- Not all plugins import data of any type or from any source.
- Bidirectionality is both the ability to update an InDesign file by editing the data file and to update data by directly editing the InDesign file. The changes made to the InDesign file, as they are made by graphic designers and not by product managers, can lead to serious errors that also affect e-commerce or the website and more generally on all platforms that use the same source of data.
Best InDesign Catalog Plugins
In this section, we will examine which are the most popular plugins to streamline the catalog creation process, how much they cost per single license, and what are their peculiar features. We chose to analyze those plugins that can be linked to any type of data source and not just specific software. For example, if you are using Epicor Prophet 21 ERP, you might be interested in the solution provided by B2Sell.
Cacidi LiveMerge CC – Cacidi
Price per device
$479 per seat / per year
Cacidi LiveMerge allows you to create and reuse product layouts and receive a live feed of data (both text and images). Select the products you need and drag and drop the design from the library palette onto the page layout. Cacidi LiveMerge works on both Mac and Windows operating systems.
- Automatic software-controlled updating
The plug-in automatically polls the data file for changes and updates the document.
- Direct integration with other company tools
- Direct connection to a database or text file
Connect directly to a MySQL database, to databases using ODBC connections (an ODBC drive is required and it is sold by a third party), to an XML or flat CSV, comma, or semicolon-separated file. Each project has its own settings and definitions for database and querying.
- Built-in data grouping
Set up preferences for product group selections.
- Custom data feed
The feature’s custom data feed affects the import of data into the plug-in. A developer can create a script that extracts data from Web services (using XMLHttpRequest – part of Web 2.0 and AJAX).
- Automatic Data validation methods
It also includes the automatic removal of empty data lines and the deletion of empty image frames.
EasyCatalog – 65bit
Price per device
$ 1,898 per seat + $ 379.60 for the upgrade of a new version of InDesign
EasyCatalog is probably the best-known and most popular InDesign catalog plugin. Allows you to speed up the document creation process by reducing the chance of making mistakes to zero. EasyCatalog works on both macOS and Windows.
- Direct connection to a database via ODBC or data files such as Excel, CSV, TXT or XML
- Filter or query the spreadsheet directly within InDesign without having to open and close program windows.
- Data Bi-directionality
- Automatic check of data errors inside InDesign.
Fields in the document and panel that are different from those in the data source are highlighted.
DesignMerge Catalog – Meadows
DesignMerge Catalog is an InDesign Catalog plugin that allows you to easily update prices on catalogs or any type of information that has a unique key value as a reference. It works with retail flyers, business directories, timetables, financial publications, food labels, and more.
- It’s easy to assign placeholders to text or images in an InDesign file and link them to the related key values
- Advanced features for processing, error checking, and reporting.
- Creation of report for every item that has been updated
- Batch Processing to update different separate documents at a time
Datalinker – Teacup Software
Price per device
$149 / year
Datalinker is an InDesign catalog plugin that helps you in your data-driven publication processes. Like the other plugins, it can be used in Windows or macOS.
- Integration with BarcodeMaker ($99 USD / year) to create barcodes automatically
- Connectivity with CSV and ODBC data sources
- Apply GREP find/change formatting to currency, percentage, etc.
- XML Scripting (for IT developer)
InCatalog and InCatalog Pro – Em Data
Price per device:
- InCatalog – $ 800
- InCatalog Pro – $ 1,200
InCatalog and InCatalog Pro are InDesign catalog plugins for Adobe InDesign.The Pro version allows you to connect your online databases to your InDesign file via ODBC. They both work with Windows and macOS.
- Easy-to-use InDesign panels
- Bi-directional updates between InDesign and your data source
- Use different data file formats such as CSV, FileMaker Pro (and Runtime) databases online, and SQL databases online such as PostgreSQL, MySQL,e, SQL Server, Oracl, and Access, using ODBC (only available with the Pro license).
- Batch updating for all linked documents
- Work with different documents and data sources at the same time
- Scripting to automate your workflow
- Use the Full Unicode character set in various encodings, for all data files and ODBC connections.