how can i replace access + publisher on a mac?

As part of my real job, I send around 6,000 Christmas cards and birthday cards each year. I design the cards in Microsoft Publisher, and then, using Publisher’s mail merge capabilites, I bring in the names and addresses from Access and print them onto the cards as I print out the cards themselves. I use a Xerox printer to do this.

Is there any software for Macs which will do this? Parallels doesn’t much like my Xerox printer. It will only run it with something called Bonjour, but then it seems to spool the page every fifty sheets or so, and will only access the top paper drawer and none of the printer’s peripherals. With good-sized runs, that’s too slow and too troublesome to be practical.

The Xerox is expensive, and it’s the best printer for doing this kind of work that I’ve ever owned. Replacing it is not an option.

What I need is a mac-native page layout program which will do mail merges with Filemaker Pro.

Any ideas?


PS: Publisher won’t merge with Filemaker. (boo!)

Filemaker Pro will handle graphics etc., so can you not just create your cards in that and print from that? It’s not something I’ve ever done …

My other thought is to use a label making application … There’s one called Label-maker Professional which I think allows you to use to use custom page sizes and design your own graphics. It looks good, but it seems only to like working with address lists for merge, so doesn’t suit the needs of my wife at all. She uses the free one from Avery, whose name I’ve forgotten and which I don’t seem to be able to locate at the moment.

There must be some sort of layout application that will work with a database or a CSV merge list …



I checked the Avery program, and it appears that it’s for windows. They say there will be a mac version released in “spring 2008.” If they are serious about that date, they’d better move it.

I did learn that Indesign has a “merge data” function, but try as I might, I couldn’t find a description that answered my questions. Do you–or anyone else–know anything about that? I can get it with an academic discount, so the price isn’t too terrible, especially not since this is my livelihood we’re talking about. But I’m afraid it will be a bear to learn & use. It was Pagemaker that originally made me learn to love Publisher. My worst software experiences are trying to write a book with Word and lay out a whole series of company publications on deadline with Pagemaker. I break out in hives when I think about either one of them.

So…how bad is Indesign to use for simple things? And does the “data merge” actually work as a mail merge? Will it make me crazy(er)?



Hi Rebecca,

Hmm … Avery seem to have withdrawn the one that I was referring to … Avery Mac Label Expert, I guess because it’s carbon, not cocoa, and the interface looks very dated. If you PM me with your email address and you can bear a 6.1MB attachment, I can send you the installer .sit. The fact that they’ve withdrawn it means I’d better make sure I don’t lose this one till they come up with a new version.

I use InDesign and really like it—or rather I did until I upgraded to Leopard and can’t afford the InDesign upgrade, but I have never tried to use it with mail-merge. I have an external boot disk with Tiger so I can go back to it if I really need.

I used to use Pagemaker and got on really well with that too, but haven’t used Word since OS-X first came out — again, unbearable upgrade cost and the only version of Word I liked anyway was 5.1 … it was downhill all the way after that as far as I was concerned! — but I don’t remember ever having any problems importing text from Word into PM.

Do check out Label-Maker Professional: … ional.html
My problem with it was that I couldn’t see how to set it up to work with a database that was not an address database, which was what my wife needed (producing conference badges and similar — if you try it and work that out, do let me know how). But since addresses are largely what you seem to need it might suit.

I’ve used InDesign since a year before release. Data merge works very nicely, and includes pulling in graphic tags, etc. Can’t think you’d need them, but there are also some very sophisticated third-party data merge plug-ins for building graphic boxes on the fly, formatting, etc.

That said, Xiam’s note that you could probably do the lot in FileMaker is worth considering. Graphics in FM were pretty buggy until the current release, but the version now seems to have ironed out format issues.

InDesign is, I think, very easy to learn, and the typographic controls are wonderful.


I ran merges using Pagemaker 7. Setting up the merge was a little tricky at first, but only because the instructions were a tad ambiguous, to put it mildly. But once I ran a couple, I enjoyed running merges in Pagemaker because it offered design advantages.

I am now using InDesign CS—not yet CS2 or CS3—but CS does not offer a merge capability. I could have purchased the Pagemaker Data Pack which would have added the merge function, but I drifted away from having to run merges. InDesign CS2 and CS3, however, have the merge function included. I took a quick look and it appears that the merge function in InDesign CS2 and CS3 is similar to what it was in Pagemaker. So my message is that you can run merges in InDesign, current version CS3, to create a series of Christmas cards and birthday cards. If I had to run a job like yours, I would use InDesign CS3.

One word of caution. I’m running InDesign CS on OS 10.4.11 (Tiger) and I haven’t run into any problems. I don’t know how CS3 runs on Tiger. CS3 and Leopard, however, produce a few glitches according to users. Since merges are your business, I would contact Adobe and ask if the merge function in CS3 runs smoothly on Tiger or Leopard, whichever OS you’re using.

Very briefly: when running merges in Pagemaker (and it looks the same in InDesign), I placed the graphic or graphics common to all the pages on the master page. Then I formatted the page that would recur, sometimes a single letter size page, sometimes a four-, six- or eight-up page. The data had to be in csv format, usually from excel. Whenever the graphics on the master page changed, I had to run another merge. For example, if I were sending out 1,000 Christmas cards using one graphic and 1000 cards using a second graphic, I would have to run two different merges containing 1000 cards each. I never had to run a job where the merge placed a different graphic on each page, much like placing a different name, address or text on each page. I think it can be done, but the merged document would be huge.

I successfully avoided Publisher all these years until about six months ago. I’m doing some work for an organization that is equipped with Windows XP and owns no software other than what comes with Office 2003. I have to create documents in Publisher so that the organization can make edits down the line. While Publisher may be serviceable when creating a simple document, it lacks many features that I rely on in InDesign (and lacks features that I relied on in Pagemaker). I would urge not to let your experience with Pagemaker deter you from exploring InDesign.

One comment about your experience with Pagemaker and books. I avoided creating large documents in Pagemaker. Instead, I used Pagemaker to create chapters or sections—that is, smaller parts—then compiled the end document, sometimes quite large, over 1000 pages, in a pdf. This might not allow sufficient flexibility for high end production. But a pdf was more stable than a Pagemaker document, and printers I used were happy to work from a pdf document.


First, I want to think all of you for your replies, especially Mark.

Second, I want to let you know that I’ve decided to make do with Word (Yes. I own it.) for now. It’s terribly klutzy for designing anything, but it does mail merges very well. (duh) I was facing the possibility of an onslaught of page layout work earlier this week. But…I got lucky, and that crisis passed me by. This will let me do simple things in Word until I get the time to learn a new software like Indesign.

I think that’s what I’m ultimately going to do. I have too much work to do right now to fool with it. But, when I get my head above water, I’ll buy Indesign and see if I can teach myself how to use it.

Again, thanks for your help.


Hello Rebecca

I know you have a path, but just to let you know …

There is a suite called “SOHO Organizer” which you might look at in future for just this kind of stuff. It incorporates three elements: a calendar & address book (front ending iCal and Address Book), SOHO Notes, a note-taking and storing database app. as the name implies, and SOHO Print Essentials, which is everything from labels to DTP of the office kind, with mail merge as its raison d’etre.

It is pretty sophisticated. It can interface with databases in Organizer, Address Book, Entourage and the usual tab separated text.

A caveat – I haven’t actually used the current version, v.7, of this software. It runs on Leopard only – the v.6.5 runs on Tiger. I have to say I am still on OS X.4.11 and I am still using Personal Organizer 4.5, the Carbonised predecessor of SOHO Organizer, which is hanging on by the skin of its teeth but still giving me great service.

Now, on my machines running OS X.4.11, SOHO Organizer 6.5 is disappointingly slow. I do believe v.7 on OS X.5.x is significantly faster. I hope so. It looks as though lots of wanted features are there and most certainly it would do exactly what you want to do.

I would suggest it is worth a look for you against future need. :mrgreen:

Avery have just released version 1 of Design Pro for the Mac. I’m downloading it at this minute … Upside? It’s free? Downside (at moment) its 262 MB! I guess it comes with huge libraries of clip art and “professionally designed templates” that I will want to have nothing to do with. I’ll let you know how I get on!


Hello Everyone!

I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply. I’ve been traveling.

Thanks again for all your very good advice and generous help. I am going to forge on with a combination of Word and the Avery software for the next few weeks. Then, I’ll move to InDesign when I have time to spend a few days going through tutorials and such.

My design work isn’t all that complicated, but the targeting for the mailings is pretty precise. I save a lot of money by printing some (certainly not all) of my mailings on the Xerox; plus there are times when the speed of just doing it myself is critical. I hope that once I get conversant with InDesign it will allow me to do this kind of “down and dirty” work with the speed that I need.

Again, thanks much for your help, especially Mark.