Importing Event Schedules and Speakers data into Adobe InDesign

When you host large events, it’s useful to make your event schedules and lists of speakers available to you attendees in various forms. While the Grenadine Event Software allows you to publish on Web and Mobile with very little effort, there can be circumstances when you need to hire graphics artists to produce and print paper programs.

An event paper program typically consists of several sections, such as:

  • The front and back covers
  • Intro text about your event
  • Information about the hotels, event rules, parking, etc.
  • Special pages for your main attractions
  • Sponsor and other advertising pages
  • A long section with event schedules and speaker profiles.

This last section (the event schedules and speaker profiles) is often the longest and most “mechanical” portion of the workload involved in producing the printed event guide. Your schedule constantly changes until the last minute and integrating texts and making sure they are up-to-date right up until printing time can be quite a chore.

This section explains how you can use two data exports from the Grenadine Event Planner to help you integrate data quickly and efficiently into an Adobe InDesign, one of the most popular software used for generating large printed documents.

Exporting text data for use in Adobe InDesign

There are two main data exports that you may want to use to help you integrate data into your printed event guide:

  • The program guide
  • The participants list

To get the program guide export, navigate to Publishing → Print → Program Guide and select “Save to Excel”. This will download a Microsoft Excel file to your computer. To get the event participants export (speakers and panelists), navigate to Publishing → Print → Participants and also select “Save to Excel”. This will also download a second file to your computer. Take a note of both downloaded files.

Reviewing the downloaded Excel program and speakers file

Once you’ve downloaded both the Program Guide and the Participants Excel files, take a moment to open the files in Microsoft Excel and briefly review them to see if the data is as you would expect. For example, make sure that you are not missing too much information (missing rooms or dates and times) and that you don’t have too many blank lines because you forgot to enter some data in your event plan. If you have too many blank fields and need to add that information, you’ll need to go back into the Grenadine Event Software and enter those missing information within your plan before you start a second export.

Also, pay attention to special codes or HTML tags that you might have included in fields like “Title” or “Description”. Because Adobe InDesign does not support integrating HTML syntax, you may need to remove those tags later on to clean up your printed document display.

Here’s an example of what the exported Program Guide might look like:

Saving your Excel files for use in Adobe InDesign

There are two ways to integrate external data into InDesign:

  • Using Data Merge
  • Using Import XML

This section describes preparing data to use the Data Merge method.

In order to prepare your data for import into Adobe InDesign, you’ll need to save the Excel file into a format supported by Adobe InDesign. To save your data file within Excel, select File → Save As and choose the Tab Delimited Text (.txt) format. You can also use Comma Separated Values (.csv) format in some cases, however this format can have issues if some of your descriptions and contents themselves contain commas. So for better compatibility, we recommend using Tab Delimited Text (.txt) as a safer option.

Give your file a name with the extension .txt and store it in a place you’ll remember on your computer.

Importing your file in Adobe InDesign

Once you have your .txt tab-delimited file, you’re ready to import it into Adobe InDesign using the Data Merge method. Instructions in this document are taken from the Adobe InDesign CC 2015 Mac Version, so depending on your version and platform things may be slightly different.

To start linking data, create a new InDesign document and select the menu Window → Utilities → Data Merge. This will display the Data Merge panel on your screen. From the Data Merge panel, select the panel drop-down menu and choose Select Data Source.

This will open a file picker window, from which you can go select one of the .txt tab-delimited file that you have exported in the previous steps. Answer questions about the data source format and proceed. In our example, we have chosen Delimiter:Tab, Encoding:ASCII, Platform:Macintosh as seen in the screenshot below:

Because there are several types of computers, operating systems, versions, etc., depending on what you are using you may need to experiment somewhat with these import choices to pick options that yield good results for you particular setup.


Once the file is linked, you can assign fields to your InDesign document as normally. You can see help on linking fields to a document from the Adobe web site here: InDesign Help – Data Merge.