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How to keep line breaks in CSV, TXT docs during Data Merge?

Community Beginner ,
Apr 07, 2009 Apr 07, 2009

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I have tried \r\n and <br> in a .csv and .txt file data merge. Is there an escape character that allows InDesign to read the formatting from the source doc? My source doc has hundreds of records each containing 7 fields, one of which is a list of procedures. These vary from 2 to 8 procedures. Is there an easy way to merge this data into ONE text field on my target doc so that Data Merge preserves the line breaks and my Paragraph Style formats the text in an appropriately numbered list?

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Community Beginner ,
Mar 21, 2011 Mar 21, 2011

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Whoa… not sure why this turned personal.

I know this isn’t the place to have this discussion, but there are things I’m not comfortable leaving out there to hang.

I don’t want to support my customers?  Where on earth did that come from?

That coffee example was lame; we serve our customers whatever they ask for.  Following that same theme, it’s more like the coffee supplier demanding that we buy a new coffee maker every year by changing the size of the coffee filters.

We have had CS5 for months, and it was obtained ENTIRELY for the convenience of our customers.

We are a service bureau/printer, and we need to print what our customers send.  As I said, asking them to save it down is an annoyance for them, and only having a single system with CS5 makes it a production bottleneck for us as more people move to CS5.

From a production perspective, there are absolutely no productivity increases for us that come with an upgrade, other than we save time by not needing to save down to earlier versions in order to move CS5 files into our perfectly functioning CS4 production environment.

I’m sure that CS5 has made some designers more productive, but it is really nothing more than an expensive file conversion utility for service bureaus.

The few files we have received in CS5 can be saved down to CS4 – or even CS3 – where they can be opened and printed on our production systems.  So, quite clearly, there is no technical reason to need CS5 from a production standpoint, excepting the new effects, which as I’ve said, we have not yet encountered.

In fact, for that very reason, I stand by my assertion that it is a needless expense, given that every file we have received can be saved down to earlier versions and work.  I could see if there was some advanced effect that would not work in earlier versions, but out of the hundreds of customers we service, we have yet to run into that.

At some point we will receive a file with some new CS5 effect, and THEN the upgrade will truly be necessary for our customers.  But for now, it is entirely for the benefit of Adobe.

These upgrades have nothing to do with whether the customers need us to have it… so far they don’t, at least not for any technical reason.  It’s all about maximizing Adobe profits; they cleverly tweaks their file formats so that that we are pressured to buy upgrades.

Look guys… I didn’t start this to pick a fight.  And, I apologized for my snarky comment.  But you couldn’t leave it at that, and instead needed to toss out insults about our commitment to our customers.

Don’t you see how it’s downright arrogant to suggest that Adobe is somehow entitled to upgrade dollars every 18 to 24 months, and we should be THANKFUL?

All of that aside, there are certainly cool new features in CS5.  Photoshop is indeed a leap forward, and would probably be worth every penny if we were graphic designers working with photographs.  And I’m happy to pay for one of our upgrades.  The CS5 version of Premier, with it’s integration with Nvidia GPU cards will be a tremendous boost for our video encoding work.

But don’t ask me to be happy to pay $600 for a file conversion utility.

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Community Expert ,
Mar 22, 2011 Mar 22, 2011

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I'm sorry you think this is personal. It's not.

When you reopen an old thread to rant about upgrades you have to expect some reaction. Some of us are a little tired of hearing the same nonsense about Adobe having some major conspiracy to extort money from users through forced upgrades. You upgrade because you either need to or find value in doing so, neither of which is under Adobe's control. Sounds like your clients find value and you have need. Adobe issues new versions of the programs because they are trying to offer new features or improvements (and not all new features or improvements are seen as valuable or better by all users -- there's plenty in CS5, for example, that I find totally useless because I don't do interactive publication, but I know that's the direction the industry is moving) and to make some money to pay their employees and stockholders. The business model is that you do that through paid upgrades. If they don't make some money from time to time, nothing will get any better and their customers will start to look elsewhere for what they want.

As a service bureau it's even more important for you to have the correct version of ID to print your customer's files than it would be if you were sharing for editing. If you've been backsaving through idml/inx and printing, I'd say you've been INCREDIBLY lucky. There are differences in the text engines from version to version that cause all text to recompose when an idml or inx file is opened in a previous version, and it's not at all unusual for that to result in different line endings and overset text -- not something you'd want to have going to press. I suspect it's cheaper to upgrade regularly, even if you don't like it, than it is to eat a job that came out wrong.

It's not just our industry that needs new tools on a regular basis. I think mechanics have the same complaint about needing to upgrade both equipment and repair databases every year, and I'm sure there are others. You obviously understand that failure to keep up in a service business is a quick road to downsizing the business. If you don't need to do any editing at all on these files, then maybe you wouldn't find any productivity enhancements, but then, if the files don't require any editing, why not ask the clients to provide PDF? With PDFs you wouldn't need ID at all.

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Contributor ,
Jul 29, 2013 Jul 29, 2013

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If you need line breaks in order to avoid empty lines taking up space - for example, if entries take up a line each and are sometimes blank, and these lines shouldn't show, one simpler workaround is to have the paragraph style set to have leading of 0, then add a GREP style matching \w that adds a character style that has leading.

This means that entries with no letters or numbers in them take up no space in your layout - useful for vertically aligned or auto sized text boxes.

This is no help for numbered paragraphs, unfortunately, but it's easier than find-change hackery for other uses.

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(off-topic: it's not just Kopy-Rite who is unhappy that much-discussed limitations like this exist for years and years and years without any attempt to improve or fix them. On other threads on this topic, you'll find many suggestions of other data merge tools that support line breaks and are genuinely professional quality, not just priced as if they were. Also, having regulars flame any criticism of Adobe just looks ugly, undignified and defensive: especially when they seem to deliberately miss the point ("don’t ask me to be happy to pay $600 for a file conversion utility"). The dismissive put-down about "nonsense about Adobe having some major conspiracy to extort money from users through forced upgrades. You upgrade because you either need to or find value in doing so, neither of which is under Adobe's control" looks pale and naive now that Adobe's entire business model for CS/CC applications has switched to rolling forced paid upgrades with monthly billing that is compulsory regardless of whether there are any new few features with need or value. Turns out it wasn't such an unreasonable concern after all)

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New Here ,
Mar 05, 2023 Mar 05, 2023

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Its crazy that this still doesn't work after 14 years.

Spreadsheets like Google Sheets do the right thing and put quotes around fields that contain newlines.  Spreadsheets like Numbers do the right thing and respect that if there's a newline within a field enclosed with quotes, then it's part of the data, not a new row.

InDesign isn't smart enough to do this, leading to hours of troubleshooting, followed by awkward workarounds.

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New Here ,
Mar 01, 2016 Mar 01, 2016

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2016, Indesign does not seem to support this yet, still sad.

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New Here ,
Mar 21, 2016 Mar 21, 2016

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Actually there is solution for this:

"...select Content Placement Options from the Data Merge panel menu and turn on the Remove Blank Lines for Empty Fields checkbox."

http://indesignsecrets.com/rid-empty-lines-data-merge.php

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New Here ,
Jun 01, 2017 Jun 01, 2017

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In case it ends up helping anyone– I recently discovered a workaround allowing you to break lines directly from the csv with a little tweaking:

https://indesignsecrets.com/controlling-line-breaks-with-data-merge.php

Of course it’s got some limitations, but you don’t have to run a find / replace or break the link to the source.

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