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Variable Data Publishing Resource Center

In depth

How VDP works for you


Imagine shooting 1 or 100,000 arrows from a single bow simultaneously and having each one hit its intended, separate target — right in the bull's-eye. That’s the idea behind Variable Data Publishing (VDP), and why so many people believe in its power to create marketing campaigns that produce excellent results.

VDP automates the creation of customized materials by merging recurring content from a page layout template with variable data imported from a database and digital asset repository. Dynamic design software assembles each unique document according to a set of rules defined by the user, and an advanced digital publishing system produces a final piece in which text, graphics, and imagery are as individual as each recipient.

Elements of a VDP workflow

Adobe plays a key role throughout the VDP workflow, which consists of three elements that work together to automate the creation of high-impact, personalized communications: digital databases, dynamic design and publishing software, and digital output systems.

VDP Workflow

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  • Databases

    Effective demographic targeting and personalization require accurate databases. Demographic data may be as simple as a name and address, or as complex as a key customer's purchasing history. Reliable storage and flexible retrieval of graphical elements within databases are essential.

  • VDP design and publishing software

    Adobe® Creative Suite® software is a fundamental layout and publishing tool for print and the web. When combined with Adobe InDesign® Server plug-in software from DirectSmile, Document Sciences, Em Software, Finite Matters, HP, Kodak Print On-Demand Solutions (PODS), Meadows Publishing, Objectif Lune, Pageflex, Printable Technologies, Sansui Software, or XMPie, these tools become VDP-enabled design and composition solutions, which perform the key role of assembling unique pages for output.

    A layout template identifies fields for the fixed and variable elements on each page. Variable elements are tagged to describe the rules that determine which elements are imported from the demographics or graphics databases. These tags or rules use the demographic database to make decisions about what each page will look like.

  • Digital publishing systems

    VDP publishing systems are flexible and can output to both print and the web. The speed, reliability, and quality of digital printing from Adobe OEM partners have improved to the point where the print quality is comparable to traditional offset printing. Solutions from partners such as EFI, Kodak NexPress, Print On-Demand Solutions (PODS), and Xerox all combine a high degree of quality, reliability, and speed to help ensure that communications are produced on time and within budget.

VDP standard languages

To achieve optimum results, VDP suppliers — from database, to design, to output — must integrate their technologies with highly collaborative workflows. The key to integrating these solutions is the availability of VDP products and technologies that are based on industry standards, including Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), Adobe PostScript®, Extensible Markup Language (XML), and Job Definition Format (JDF). This helps ensure the broadest possible set of options to the end user and the most flexible basis of collaboration for providers.

  • JDF: Adobe is the first to tie JDF from desktop to output with Creative Suite, improving workflow automation, speed, and predictability.

  • PDF: A worldwide industry-standard file format developed by Adobe.

  • PostScript: A worldwide industry-standard page description language developed by Adobe.

  • Personalized Print Markup Language (PPML): An XML-based markup language for variable data printing.

  • XML: A markup language for creating documents that specifies a standard way to organize, tag, and deliver content.

VDP downloads

To download free trial versions of these VDP authoring tools, please fill out this form.

  • DirectSmile Designer
  • Atlas PrintShop Mail for Macintosh
  • Atlas PrintShop Mail for Windows®
  • Finite Matters PatternStream
  • Kodak Print On-Demand Solutions (PODS) DARWIN VI for Macintosh
  • Printable Technologies FusionPro Desktop for Macintosh
  • Printable Technologies FusionPro Desktop for Windows
  • XMPie uDirect for Macintosh (Creative Suite 2 compatible)
  • XMPie uDirect for Windows (Creative Suite 2 compatible)

Next steps