Information herein is ©2000, Graphic Dimensions, Pittsford, NY. All rights reserved.

Personalizationis the process of adding one or more elements of variable information, which
pertain to an individual, business enterprise, or organization, into a printed or graphically
displayed document. This variable data minimally consists of the recipient’s name, and
may include certain other details that serve to confirm that the composition was produced
for one, and only one, person or entity. Personalization is used to produce mundane things
such as billing statements and insurance policies, and sophisticated things such as targeted
marketing materials, including city guides and shopping catalogs.

Personalization has its roots in the mail-merge functions that remain a part of virtually all
word processing programs. A user of one of these programs can define variables within a
document that will be replaced with data from an auxiliary file during the print-out opera-
tion. The auxiliary file, which must be prepared in a compatible format, contains the data
that will be merged with the fixed composition contained within the template document.
Documents that are used for this purpose are often called “boilerplate,” because they are
reproduced with the bulk of the information remaining constant, but with significant
variable information added to each copy.

Unlike simple mail merge functions, personalization, in the form ofvariable data printing,
requires a degree of sophistication, both in the manner in which the variable information is
composed within the template document, and the way in which it is output for printing.
The process of variable data printing requires that:

• The template, containing the elements that are common to all pages in a given document,
can accommodate variability in the length of text associated with any of the database fields.
For example, a database field might contain a product description composed of just a few
lines in one case, but several paragraphs in another. There must be some means of having
the layout self-adjust so that copy is never cut off or overrun, or so that large empty spaces
are not introduced.
• Graphics and photographs are properly positioned, and resized, on-the-fly, so that they
occupy the amount of space allotted by the designer.

Personalization is a form ofdatabase publishing.Database publishing is a process that com-
bines variable data derived from a database, with an electronic document template that has
been composed in a page layout application. It merges the power and flexibility of the two:

• The database serves as a repository of one or more sets of information, from which spe-
cific contents, both textual and graphic, can be extracted at any given time. The database
has the strength of data selection and organization.

• The page layout program contains the document design and the fixed text and graphics
that will be common to all of the output for a given job. The page layout program has the
strength of design and presentation control.

DataMerge: The Management of Variable Data Printing

The automated high-speed printing that is possible with print on-demand technologyis a
natural partner for the personalization process.

In order for database information to reach a page layout program,and to be integrated
intelligently into a template, some intermediary or middleware software must be used.
Such programs,which reside within the host page layout application, are usually in the
form of an addition, plug-in, or programextension. This middleware adds new features to
the host, and essentially becomes a part of it. A good example of such middleware is
*Meadows Information Systems, 1305 RemingtonRoad, Suite G, Schaumburg, IL 60173, 847 882-8202,http:/
/,, fax: 847 882-9494. DataMergesupports all
PostScript printers, and has special features for variabledata digitalprinters, including the Xeikon
PrintStreamer and Xerox VIPP. Thesespecial drivers areavailableseparately and at extra cost.

DataMerge. According to the DataMerge manual, “The product allows you to link any text
range or any picture box in a Quark document to any external database of information.
Information is read from the database records and used to populate the individual fields to
create customized QuarkXPress layouts and perform advanced assembly of virtually any
type oftemplatedlayout.”*
DataMerge:The Variable-Data Xtensionfor QuarkXPress UserManual,Meadows Information Systems, Inc.,
1998, Schaumburg, IL.

DataMerge works with tab or comma-delimited ASCII text files that are generated from
virtually any kind of database or spreadsheet application originating on a Macintosh, PC or
UNIX system. No special preparation or modification of the file is necessary.

The main objective of DataMerge is to serve as an intermediary, linking the contents of the
database file to particular layout elements in the QuarkXPress document. This is accom-
plished through the use of a Database Definition (DDF). The Database Definition provides
details on how the database file is constructed, including the number of fields, the delimit-
ing character, and the field names. The DDF is defined by selecting
DataMerge>Setup>Database Definitions (FIG. 1). The definition is given a name, and is
then linked to the actual database file as a consequence of selecting Quick Setup. After this
is done, the user can see, and verify, the field names, the field delimiter, and the type of
computer system that created it (FIG. 2). This information is determined automatically by
DataMerge, although it can be modified by the user if necessary.

FIG. 1: After the DDF has beennamed, the user selects Quick Setup to have the
software interrogate the database file automatically. (Screen capture courtesy of
Meadows Information Systems)

IMAGE DataMerge.pm01.gif
IMAGE DataMerge.pm02.gif

FIG. 2: DataMergeexamines the contents of the database file and displays the field
names, field delimiter,and file origin automatically. This setup established the
VariableLinks that will connect certain database fields with elements in the
QuarkXPress layout. (Screen capture courtesy of Meadows Information Systems)

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