DesignMerge Performance

Performance stats plus tips to help you attain optimal VDP speed!

This page serves to provide a benchmark set of test results that can be used to evaluate DesignMerge output speeds for PDF/VT. In addition, this page also provides some very useful tips for maximizing overall performance for your DesignMerge system. In addition, we have provided the complete list of the hardware and software that we used for our benchmark systems.

First off, it is important to understand that the overall performance for any particular VDP job will be relative to the complexity of the design. Many things affect overall performance, including the use of large and/or variable graphics, complex design elements, or advanced Rules (see the Performance Tips section below for more details).

To demonstrate this, and also to create a performance benchmark for DesignMerge, we put together a simple VDP job, which is a single-page personalized letter from a bank (click for preview). The job consists of a background PDF image, and includes basic variable text information overlayed on top. All of the PDF output files for this test were produced with PDF/VT caching enabled, and the PDF Preset utilized was the Adobe InDesign standard [High Quality Print]. The table below presents the overall output times for producing PDF/VT files.

Record Count DesignMerge Pro Output Time (PDF/VT)
500 5 sec
1000 10 sec
5,000 44 sec
7,500 1 min 6 sec
10,000 1 min 30 sec
15,000 2 min 15 sec
20,000 3 min 9 sec
25,000 3 min 53 sec

All PDF files were saved to the local hard disk drive on the benchmark systems. We do not recommend saving files directly to server volumes or printer hot folders as this will dramatically decrease overall performance. If you want to print to a hot folder, we recommend using the PDF Driver Post-Processing option called “Move to Specified Folder”. With this option, you save the PDF file on your local disk in a temporary folder that you create. Then when it is done, DesignMerge automatically moves it to the hot folder you selected. This ensures maximum overall performance. For more details, please see page 10 of the DesignMerge PDF Driver manual, which can be downloaded here.


Benchmark Your Own System

A full copy of the benchmark job can be downloaded here if you would like to run these tests on your own system. When you run the test, please do the following:

  1. Download and save the benchmark folder to the local desktop of your computer (try to avoid downloading to a file server volume because having to read and process everything off of a server can slow things down).
  2. Open the benchmark InDesign document (named benchmark-job.indd), and start up a DesignMerge PDF/VT session. For the correct settings to use for PDF/VT, please select the preset named Standard that is available in the PDF/VT driver dialog window. (Note: for even more details about the correct settings to use for PDF/VT, please visit the PDF/VT page from our support knowledgebase).
  3. Select the [High Quality Print] PDF preset when prompted, and most importantly save the PDF to a folder to your local drive (for best performance, do not save the file directly to a server drive).

You can use any of the provided sample data files. The total output time will be presented in the summary window at the end of the DesignMerge VDP session. Compare the times for your system to the benchmarks provided above. If your times are much slower, you may need to consider a hardware upgrade.


Macintosh vs Windows Performance

The benchmark file was also run on both a Macintosh and a Windows system to assess any performance differences between those two operating systems. The table below presents the overall output times for producing PDF/VT files, comparing the performance of DesignMerge Pro on our Macintosh and Windows benchmark systems.

Record Count DesignMerge Pro (Macintosh) DesignMerge Pro (Windows)
1,000 10 sec 9 sec
5,000 44 sec 40 sec
10,000 1 min 30 sec 1 min 20 sec
25,000 3 min 53 sec 3 min 25 sec

As you can see, there is not much difference between the operating systems with respect to performance. Whatever difference you do see is likely due to differences in the hardware specifications used for each (for a complete list of the hardware and software specifications that we used for our benchmark systems, please click here). These times represent the best possible output speed achievable at the time of testing because the systems utilized had sufficient memory, fast CPU’s, and solid state hard disk drives, all of which contribute to maximizing the overall performance of any VDP system.


Performance Tips

Document and workflow suggestions

Please see the Performance Tips Page in our online knowledgebase for a number of helplful tips related to document setup and workflow modifications that can really improve overall processing times.

Hardware suggestions for maximized output speed

Following are a few suggestions for your computer system that will be sure to maximize the performance of your DesignMerge software. The suggestions below are listed in order of importance (e.g. your hard disk speed is more important than the amount of memory you have installed in your system). Please click here to view the specs for our own benchmark systems.

Faster Hard Disk Speed

Printed output from DesignMerge can be very disk-intensive, and therefore the faster the hard disk that you can provide, the faster your overall output speeds will be. We recommend using a solid-state hard disk (SSD) for the best possible performance, however, if SSD is not an option, please be sure to select a drive that has a speed of at least 7,200 RPM.

Beware of Server Disks

The print processes for DesignMerge are very disk intensive. When creating VDP output files, we recommend not printing directly to server volumes (such as a printer hot folder) as this can slow the process down dramatically. If you want to print to a hot folder, we recommend using the Post-Processing option “Move to Specified Folder” that was described earlier. In addition, you should try to ensure that all files (InDesign document, fixed graphics, variable graphics and database files) are run from the local hard disk drive as well.

Faster CPU Speed

As DesignMerge performs merging operations inside of InDesign, it takes advantage of the speed of the computer’s CPU. The faster the CPU, the faster DesignMerge will merge data. Because the CPU speeds on the market change so frequently, our only recommendation is to purchase a computer with the fastest CPU that you can find for your budget.

More Memory

DesignMerge by itself does not require a significant amount of extra memory in order to achieve good performance. In fact, if you have sufficient memory to run Adobe InDesign, and to open and edit your documents without noticeable latency issues, then your system should work well with DesignMerge. However, more memory allows you to run other applications, and may even improve overall system performance, so we always recommend using as much memory on your system as your budget will allow.

How to select the best VDP print format to use for a particular job

So you have a job, and you are wondering which DesignMerge print driver format to use to obtain the best possible performance (both on the desktop, and at the printer). The first thing to do is to determine which VDP file formats your digital print controller can accept (because this will limit your choices). The VDP formats that can be created by DesignMerge include PDF and PDF/VT, Adobe PostScript, and PPML.

Just about every printer supports PostScript, so that’s always a good choice for text-only jobs. However, for better performance you many want to consider one of the optimized VDP formats. Most modern production printers support PDF and PDF/VT, but may not support PPML or VPS. You should check with your printer manufacturer to be sure (or you can just give it a try with each VDP format and see if it works!).

Once you know what your options are, we recommend the following basic guidelines:

  1. Job has Variable Text Only
    If your job uses Variable Text only (no variable pictures; no master page swapping), then use PDF/VT as the output format.
  2. Job has Variable Images and/or Variable Text
    If your job uses any Variable Images, then PPML is the best choice. PPML provides built-in image caching, and is appropriate for most jobs that utilize Variable Images.
  3. Printer does not support PDF, PDF/VT, or PPML
    If your printer does not support PDF, PDF/VT, or PPML, then use PostScript (and if your printer does not support PostScript, welcome to 1984!)
  4. Job has Variable Text with Transparency
    If your job uses Variable Text that also has some type of InDesign transparency effect applied to it, then use PPML or PDF/VT (PostScript will also work, but it will be much slower because each page will need to be “flattened” due to the transparency effects).
  5. Printer uses a Creo Systems Controller
    Many people are still under the impression that on Creo systems, Creo VPS is the only VDP format supported. This is not true, and in fact we have confirmed with the Creo team that PPML is not only fully supported on Creo systems, but it runs just as efficiently as VPS, and the PPML driver provides performance features not available with VPS (so in short, always use PPML instead of Creo VPS).