Merging into a repeating layout

In a standard mail merge approach you print your publication multiple times, inserting text or picture data from one database record at a time into each output copy. Using this method, each placeholder field in your publication is assigned to a particular field in a particular data source.

But suppose you have a set of images and a database that lists them, i.e. with a set of records that point to the images (as discussed in the previous topic). Each record might also have a photo caption or other descriptive data. Now suppose you want to produce a single publication like a catalog or photo album where your images (and accompanying text) are laid out across one or more pages. You’re in luck! With PagePlus, you can quickly create a repeating layout that arranges placeholder fields in a grid, generating a new document with as many pages as needed and populating the fields with images or text from a specified data source.

PagePlus merge3 Merging into a repeating layout

A repeating layout starts with a repeating area—basically a single cell whose unit size determines how many can tile across and down on a page. Within the repeating area, you can place any elements, such as:

  • One or more picture fields where you want merged picture(s) from a particular data record to appear

  • One or more text fields with data drawn from the same record

  • Other objects such as artistic text, QuickShapes… anything you want!

You take care of creating the repeating area and placing the fields (or other elements), while PagePlus takes care of replicating them into a repeating grid layout and merging pictures from your data source into a new publication. Comparing this to conventional mail merge, one might say that in effect, each repeating area is “printed” multiple times within the new publication, with data from a different record appearing in each “printout”.

To create a repeating layout:

  1. Open any suitable data source—typically, one that includes either pictures or references to pictures (i.e. valid path names).
    – or -
    Have PagePlus create a data source for a set of images in a folder. You can easily edit the data—for example, adding a new field to store descriptive information or captions.

  2. Click the PagePlus tbr mailphotomerge repeatingarea Merging into a repeating layout Create or Modify Repeating Area button on the Mail and Photo Merge toolbar.
    – or -
    Choose Mail and Photo Merge from the Tools menu and select Repeating Area… from the submenu.

The Repeating Area Tile Setup dialog appears, showing a page layout that initially consists of a 1×4 tiling grid: one repeating area across the page, and four down. The preview region at the right reflects the current dialog settings.

  1. You can either set precise properties for the repeating area (the basic unit) in the dialog, or close the dialog and use direct dragging to establish the area’s size and shape. Or you can use a combined approach, reopening the dialog as often as needed.

  • Using the dialog, specify the grid Layout as the number of repeating areas you want to appear Across and Down. Other settings you can change include the Left and Top Position on the page, the repeating area’s Width and Height, and optional horizontal or vertical Gaps between repeating areas.

  • On the page, you can drag the repeating area object to move it, or drag a handle to resize it.

  1. To reopen the dialog at any time, click the toolbar’s Repeating Area button, or right-click the repeating area and choose Repeating Area Layout….

  1. With the Tile Setup dialog closed and the repeating area object deselected, you can insert picture and/or text fields. For example, to insert a picture field, click the toolbar’s Insert Picture Field button or choose Mail and Photo Merge from the Tools menu and select Insert Picture Field… from the submenu. From the scrolling list in the dialog, double-click a field that stores an image reference (or select it and click Insert). In a Serif Database (*.SDB) file, this field will be “Path Name.” Click Close.

  2. Drag each field you want repeated so it’s positioned entirely within the repeating area. There’s a subtle “locking moment” (with Snapping either on or off) when the field attaches to the repeat area. The field’s contents turn shaded and subsequently, dragging the repeat area object also drags its contents.

Before merging to a new publication, you may wish to double-check the preview shown in the Tile Setup dialog, and make some final layout adjustments to the placement, size, or other properties of the objects within.

  • To set default display properties such as picture size and alignment within a picture field, right-click the field and choose Properties>Frame Properties…. (You’ll be able to adjust settings in the merged publication for individual picture fields.)

  • To preview merged data, select the View Data button on the Mail and Photo Merge toolbar, or choose Mail and Photo Merge from the Tools menu and select View Data on the submenu. (Deselecting either item switches out of preview mode.)

With your repeating area set up, a suitable data source open, and your merge list selected, you’re ready to merge data into a new publication.

To merge into a new publication:

  • Choose Mail and Photo Merge from the Tools menu and select Merge Repeating Area to New Publication from the submenu.

PagePlus now generates a new publication in a separate window, replicating the basic repeating area as many times as there are records in the data. The layout uses the grid arrangement you specified, with each unique cell including data from a single record, following the order of records in the merge list. PagePlus inserts new pages as needed to include all the records. Note that the repeating area is no longer present; it’s been converted to a grid layout using merged data rather than placeholder fields. Merged pictures reside in picture frames, and merged text in text frames.

The original publication remains open in its own window. Don’t forget to save it in case you need to repeat the merge process with another data set! If you’re not happy with the resulting publication, simply return to the original
, make adjustments, and repeat the merge process.


  • Pages inserted during the merge process use the same master page and layer structure as the original page containing the repeating layout. Aside from these inserted pages, the rest of the merged publication is a clone of the original.

  • Each publication supports a maximum of one repeating area. However, because the repeating area is no longer present after merging, you can start over again if necessary—creating a new repeating area, merging, and so on.

Merging into a repeating layout