On the 12th March XMPie, a leading provider of software for personalised communications in print and digital media, announced the release of uMerge. For those that already know and use XMPie, this announcement was useless to them as it brought nothing new. For the rest of the potential audience, well they probably never saw it – as they wouldn’t have been watching. So what’s so important about uMerge?

uMerge, is essentially XMPie’s next step into the subscription-based licensing model and something that is probably 4-5 years late – but still perfectly valid. You see uMerge is focussed on the designers and the creative communities and brings to their desktops an extremely powerful tool for database publishing which has existing in form for over 14 years!

When XMPie first started in 2001 one of the first tools was uCreate, which was the native plugin to InDesign allowing database publishing with significant ease. Since then it has grown within the XMPie users community as part of a much bigger tool set and the users of that tool set have predominately been print-for-pay commercial printers – not designers.

uCreate has now morphed into uMerge and taken a step into the Mac filled offices of designers and creatives. Formally it was shut out, being too expensive, too complicated and favoured for smaller, cheaper tools – like Adobe’s ‘data merge’ already built with InDesign.  To be fair uMerge now enters the office, not as some immature; expensive suit wearing newbie but as a fashionable, bright shirt wearing, professional!

If you haven’t come across uMerge, or even XMPie before then I don’t blame you, but I would suggest that you take a good look at it now! Think of uMerge from XMPie as InDesign’s data merge tool but on serious steroids (and I don’t condone the use of steroids – but uMerge is ‘pumped’!). Not only can it do everything that data merge can do but a lot more – a serious load more!

  • Variable text,
  • Dynamic images,
  • Variable text files,
  • Variable character and object styles,
  • Variable layers and spreads and stock selection
  • Resizing and reflowing on the fly
  • Real-time proofing
  • Connectivity to csv and excel files directly
  • Inbuilt 2D and 1D barcode support
  • Dynamic ability to create your own business rules that effect the design.

Adobe’s data merge tool in InDesign does the first few bullet points, but then uMerge takes over and leaves it for dust! If things like variable layers and styles weren’t enough – the last point about creating your own rules if huge! Just huge!

In data merge (and most other tools!) what is in the source data is what you can place on the design, an image or some text. If you want something else, you have to go back into the data and add it. If you want to handle things like a salutation correctly then you have to seriously think because not always will you have a valid first name or surname and/or even a title.  How do you handle that? Well this ability of adding new ‘business rules’ is huge, because it means that I can handle this on-the-fly and in my design directly inside the uMerge palette and not have to touch the data. Woop!

Want a ‘business rule’ that only displays the ‘offer’ layer when the customer in the data is over a certain age or criteria? Simple, just add a rule and you are done!.

Yes, uMerge is $40 a month, but it’s exceptionally cheap if you actually looked at XMPie pricing (and why designers and creatives have invariably never looked at XMPie) as a whole.

Now is the time to look at uMerge and see what you, as a designer, can actually achieve by combining data with design – and I am not talking about things like business cards. I have seen countless, yes countless pieces of creative work from designers which  are essentially duplicated works – one design for the ‘yellow’ brand and another for the ‘red’ brand, one design for ‘this’ product and another for ‘that’ product! It’s painful at times as a consultant, but understandable.

Now it’s a lot easier …. ONE template, a simple csv file that contains two records, ‘red’ and ‘yellow’ and a uMerge ‘rule’ that states “use the ‘red’ layer for red and use the ‘yellow’ layer for yellow! Hey pesto, you have just simplified your work, reduced the maintenance time by half and got the job out quicker!

uMerge from XMPie can actually save you time and money in the long run and over the coming weeks I hope to be able to show you how!

Please, if you know a designer in need then help them out and send them this and tell them to look at uMerge.