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Use Mail Merge to Create and Print Letters and Other Documents

You use mail merge when you want to create a set of documents, such as a form letter that is sent to many customers. Each letter has the same kind of information, yet the content is unique. For example, in letters to your customers, each letter can be personalized to address each customer by name. The unique information in each letter comes from entries in a data source.

The mail merge process entails the following overall steps:

  1. Set up the main document. The main document contains the text and graphics that are the same for each version of the merged document — for example, the return address or salutation in a form letter.
  2. Connect the document to a data source. A data source is a file that contains the information to be merged into a document. For example, the names and addresses of the recipients of a letter.
  3. Refine the list of recipients or items. Microsoft Office Word generates a copy of the main document for each item, or record, in your data file. If your data file is a mailing list, these items are probably recipients of your mailing. If you want to generate copies for only certain items in your data file, you can choose which items (records) to include.
  4. Add placeholders, called mail merge fields, to the document. When you perform the mail merge, the mail merge fields are filled with information from your data file.
  5. Preview and complete the merge. You can preview each copy of the document before you print the whole set.

You use commands on the Mailings tab to perform a mail merge.

IMPORTANT: If you plan to use custom contact fields with the Contacts list in Microsoft Office Outlook, you must begin the mail merge process in Outlook.

TIP: You can also perform a mail merge by using the Mail Merge task pane, which leads you step by step through the process. To use the task pane, in the Start Mail Merge group on the Mailings tab, click Start Mail Merge, and then click Step by Step Mail Merge Wizard.

Set up the main document

  1. Start Word. A blank document opens by default. Leave it open. If you close it, the commands in the next step are not available.
  2. On the Mailings tab, in the Start Mail Merge group, click Start Mail Merge.
  3. Click Letters. You can also use mail merge to create:
    • A catalog or directory The same kind of information, such as name and description, is shown for each item, but the name and description in each item is unique. Click Directory to create this type of document.
    • A set of envelopes The return address is the same on all the envelopes, but the destination address is unique on each one.
    • A set of mailing labels Each label shows a person’s name and address, but the name and address on each label is unique.
    • A set of e-mail messages The basic content is the same in all the messages, but each message goes to the individual recipient and each message contains information that is specific to that recipient, such as the recipient’s name or some other piece of information.

Resume a mail merge

If you need to stop working on a mail merge, you can save the main document and resume the merge later. Microsoft Office Word retains the data source and field information. If you were using the Mail Merge task pane, Word returns to your place in the task pane when you resume the merge.

  1. When you’re ready to resume the merge, open the document. Word displays a message that asks you to confirm whether you want to open the document, which will run a SQL command.
  2. Because this document is connected to a data source and you want to retrieve the data, click Yes. If you were opening a document that you did not realize was connected to a data source, you could click No to prevent potentially malicious access to data. The text of the document, along with any fields that you inserted, appears.
  3. Click the Mailings tab, and resume your work.

Connect the document to a data source

To merge information into your main document, you must connect the document to a data source, or a data file. If you don’t already have a data file, you can create one during the mail merge process.

IMPORTANT: If you use an existing list, make sure that it contains the information that you want to use, including all the columns and the rows. You can make some changes during the merge, but you can’t open your data source separately during the merge. The merge process is easier if your data source is ready before you connect to it.

  1. Choose a data file
    1. On the Mailings tab, in the Start Mail Merge group, click Select Recipients.
    2. Do one of the following:
      • Use Outlook Contacts If you want to use your Contacts list in Outlook, click Select from Outlook Contacts.
      • Use an existing data source file If you have a Microsoft Office Excel worksheet, a Microsoft Office Access database, or another type of data file, click Use Existing List, and then locate the file in the Select Data Source dialog box.
        • For Excel, you can select data from any worksheet or named range within a workbook. For Access, you can select data from any table or query (query: A means of finding all the records stored in a data source that fit a set of criteria you name. Queries can contain operators, quotation marks, wildcard characters, and parentheses to help focus your search.) that is defined in the database.
        • For another type of data file, select the file in the Select Data Source dialog box. If the file is not listed, select the appropriate file type or select All Files in the Files of type box. In a mail merge, you can use the following types of data files:
        • Files from single-tier, file-based database programs for which you have installed an OLE DB (OLE DB: A component database architecture that implements efficient network and internet access to many types of data sources, including relational data, mail files, flat files, and spreadsheets.) provider or ODBC (Open Database Connectivity (ODBC): A standard method of sharing data between databases and programs. ODBC drivers use the standard Structured Query Language (SQL) to gain access to external data.) driver (a number of which are included with Microsoft Office).
        • An HTML file that has a single table. The first row of the table must contain column names, and the other rows must contain data.
        • Electronic address books:
          • Microsoft Outlook Address Book
          • Microsoft Schedule+ 7.0 Contact List
          • Any similar address lists that were created with a MAPI (MAPI: The Microsoft interface specification that allows different messaging and workgroup applications (including e-mail, voice mail, and fax) to work through a single client.)-compatible messaging system, such as Microsoft Outlook.
          • A Microsoft Word document. The document should contain a single table. The first row of the table must contain headings, and the other rows must contain the records that you want to merge. You can also use a header source (header source: A document that contains the header row (or header record) to be used with the data source specified for a mail-merge main document.) as a data source.
          • Any text file that has data fields (data field: A category of information that corresponds to one column of information in a data source. The name of each data field is listed in the first row (header row) of the data source. “PostalCode” and “LastName” are examples of data field names.) separated (or delimited) by tab characters or commas and data records (data record: A complete set of related information that corresponds to one row of information in the data source. All information about one client in a client mailing list is an example of a data record.) separated by paragraph marks.
    3. Create a new data file in Word If you don’t have a data file yet, click Type New List, and then use the form that opens to create your list. The list is saved as a database (.mdb) file that you can reuse. For more information, see Type a new list.

Refine the list of recipients or items

When you connect to a certain data file, you might not want to merge information from all the records in that data file into your main document.

To narrow the list of recipients or use a subset of the items in your data file, do the following:

  1. On the Mailings tab, in the Start Mail Merge group, click Edit Recipient List.
  2. In the Mail Merge Recipientsdialog box, do any of the following:
    • Select individual records This method is most useful if your list is short. Select the check boxes next to the recipients you want to include, and clear the check boxes next to the recipients you want to exclude. If you know that you want to include only a few records in your merge, you can clear the check box in the header row and then select only those records that you want. Similarly, if you want to include most of the list, select the check box in the header row, and then clear the check boxes for the records that you don’t want to include.
    • Sort records Click the column heading of the item that you want to sort by. The list sorts in ascending alphabetical order (from A to Z). Click the column heading again to sort the list in descending alphabetical order (Z to A). If you want more complex sorting, click Sort under Refine recipient list and choose your sorting preferences on the Sort Records tab of the Filter and Sort dialog box. For example, you can use this type of sorting if you want recipient addresses to be alphabetized by last name within each zip code and the zip codes listed in numerical order.
    • Filter records This is useful if the list contains records that you know you don’t want to see or include in the merge. After you filter the list, you can use the check boxes to include and exclude records.
      • To filter records, do the following:
        1. Under Refine recipient list, click Filter.
        2. On the Filter Records tab of the Filter and Sort dialog box, choose the criteria you want to use for the filter. For example, to generate copies of your main document only for addresses that list Australia as the country/region, you would click Country or Region in the Field list, Equal to in the Comparison list, and Australia in the Compare to list.
      • To refine the filter further, click And or Or, and then specify more criteria. For example, to generate copies of your main document only for businesses in Munich, you would filter on records whose City field contains Munich and whose Company Name field is not blank. If you use Or instead of And in this filter, your mail merge includes all Munich addresses as well as all addresses that include a company name, regardless of city.
  3. Add recipients To add recipients to the list, do the following:
    1. On the Mailings tab, in the Start Mail Merge group, click Edit Recipient List.
    2. Under Data source, click the name of your data file.
    3. Click Edit.
    4. In the Edit Data Source dialog box, click New Entry, and then type the information for that recipient.

Add placeholders, called mail merge fields, to the document

After you connect your main document to a data file, you are ready to type the text of the document and add placeholders that indicate where the unique information will appear in each copy of the document.

The placeholders, such as address and greeting, are called mail merge fields. Fields in Word correspond to the column headings in the data file that you select.

  • Columns in a data file represent categories of information. Fields that you add to the main document are placeholders for these categories.
  • Rows in a data file represent records of information. Word generates a copy of the main document for each record when you perform a mail merge.

By putting a field in your main document, you indicate that you want a certain category of information, such as name or address, to appear in that location.

NOTE: When you insert a mail merge field into the main document, the field name is always surrounded by chevrons (« »). These chevrons do not show up in the merged documents. They just help you distinguish the fields in the main document from the regular text.

What happens when you merge

When you merge, information from the first row in the data file replaces the fields in your main document to create the first merged document. Information from the second row in the data file replaces the fields to create the second merged document, and so on.

Working with fields: Examples

You can add any column heading from your data file to the main document as a field. This gives you flexibility when you design form letters, labels, e-mail messages, and other merged documents. For example:

  • Suppose you are creating a letter to notify local businesses that they have been selected for inclusion in your annual city guide. If your data file contains a Company column with the name of each business that you want to contact, you can insert the «Company» field instead of typing the name of each individual company.
  • Imagine that you send quarterly e-mail messages to your customers alerting them to new products and special deals. To personalize those messages for your best customers, you can add a PersonalNote column to your data file where you can type notes such as “Miss Miller, the new widget is exactly what you have been looking for.” By placing a «PersonalNote» field in the main document, you can include those notes at the bottom of certain messages.
  • Suppose that your mailing list is for subscribers to your newsletter, and your data file includes a column, called ExpireDate, for storing the date that each subscription expires. If you place an «ExpireDate» field in the label main document before you run the merge, subscribers will each see their own expiration date on their mailing label.
    • You can combine fields and separate them by punctuation marks. For example, to create an address, you can set up the fields in your main document like this:
      • «First Name» «Last Name»
      • «Street Address»
      • «City», «State» «Postal code»
    • For things that you use frequently, like address blocks and greeting lines, Word provides composite fields that group a number of fields together. For example:
  • The Address Block field is a combination of several fields, including first name, last name, street address, city, and postal code.
  • The Greeting Line field can include one or more name fields, depending on your chosen salutation.
  • You can customize the content in each of these composite fields. For example, in the address, you may want to select a formal name format (Mr. Joshua Randall Jr.); in the greeting, you may want to use “To” instead of “Dear.”

Map mail merge fields to your data file

To make sure that Word can find a column in your data file that corresponds to every address or greeting element, you may need to map the mail merge fields in Word to the columns in your data file.

  1. To map the fields, click Match Fields in the Write & Insert Fields group of the Mailings tab.
  2. The Match Fields dialog box opens.
  3. The elements of an address and greeting are listed on the left. Column headings from your data file are listed on the right.Word searches for the column that matches each element. In the illustration, Word automatically matched the data file’s Surname column to Last Name. But Word was unable to match other elements. From this data file, for example, Word can’t match First Name.In the list on the right, you can select the column from your data file that matches the element on the left. In the illustration, the Name column now matches First Name. It’s okay that Courtesy Title, Unique Identifier, and Middle Name aren’t matched. Your mail merge document doesn’t need to use every field. If you add a field that does not contain data from your data file, it will appear in the merged document as an empty placeholder — usually a blank line or a hidden field.
  4. Type the content and add the placeholders, or fields
    1. In the main document, type any content that you want to appear on every copy of the document.
      1. To add a picture, such as a logo, click Picture in the Illustrations group on the Home tab.
  5. Click where you want to insert the field.
  6. Use the Write & Insert Fields group on the Mailings tab.
  7. Add any of the following:
    • Address block with name, address, and other information
      1. Click Address block.
      2. In the Insert Address Block dialog box, select the address elements that you want to include and the formats that you want, and then click OK.
      3. If the Match Fields dialog box appears, Word may have been unable to find some of the information that it needs for the address block. Click the arrow next to (not matched), and then select the field from your data source that corresponds to the field that is required for the mail merge.
    • Greeting Line
      1. Click Greeting line.
      2. Select the greeting line format, which includes the salutation, name format, and following punctuation.
      3. Select the text that you want to appear in cases where Microsoft Word can’t interpret the recipient’s name, for example, when the data source contains no first or last name for a recipient, but only a company name.
      4. Click OK.
      5. If the Match Fields dialog box appears, Word may have been unable to find some of the information that it needs for the greeting line. Click the arrow next to (not matched), and then select the field from your data source that corresponds to the field that is required for the mail merge.
    • Individual fields – You can insert information from individual fields, such as first name, telephone number, or the amount of a contribution from a list of donors. To quickly add a field from your data file to the main document, click the arrow next to Insert Merge Field, and then click the field name.
      1. In the Mailings tab, in the Write & Insert Fields group, click Insert Merge Field.
      2. In the Insert Merge Field dialog box, do one of the following:
        • To select address fields that will automatically correspond to fields in your data source, even if the data source’s fields don’t have the same name as your fields, click Address Fields.
        • To select fields that always take data directly from a column in your data file, click Database Fields.
      3. In the Fields box, click the field you want.
      4. Click Insert, and then click Close.
      • If the Match Fields dialog box appears, Microsoft Word may have been unable to find some of the information it needs to insert the field. Click the arrow next to (not matched), and then select the field from your data source that corresponds to the field that is required for the mail merge.

NOTE: If you insert a field from the Database Fields list and then later switch to a data source that doesn’t have a column with the same name, Word won’t be able to insert that field information into the merged document.

    • Custom fields from Outlook contacts The only way to include custom contact fields in your main document is to start the mail merge from within Outlook. First, set up a view of your contacts with the fields that you want to use in the merge. Then, start the mail merge. After you choose the settings that you want, Word will automatically open, and you can complete the merge.
    • Set up a view of your contacts that includes custom fields
      1. In Outlook People, on the View tab, click Change View and choose Phone.
      2. Right-click a column heading, and then click Field Chooser.
      3. In the drop-down list at the top of the Field Chooser dialog box, select User-defined fields in folder.
      4. Drag the field that you to add from the dialog box to the column headings. A little red arrow helps you place the field in the location that you want. You can add a new field in the Field Chooser dialog box by clicking New at the bottom.
      5. After you add all of your custom fields to the view, close the Field Chooser dialog box.
      6. To remove a field that you do not want included in the mail merge, click the field name in the column heading in Phone List view, and drag it off of the column heading.

Run mail merge from Outlook

  1. In Outlook People, select individual contacts by pressing SHIFT and clicking to select a range or by pressing CTRL and clicking to select individuals. If you want to include all the contacts currently visible in the view, do not click on any contacts.
  2. On the Home tab, in the Actions panel, click Mail Merge.
    • If you have selected individual contacts to include in the merge, click Only selected contacts. If you want to include all the contacts currently visible in the view, click All contacts in current view.
    • If you have configured the Phone List view so that it displays exactly the fields you want to use in the merge, click Contact fields in current view. Otherwise, clickAll contact fields to make all of the contact fields available in the merge.
    • If you want to generate a new main document for the merge, click New document. Otherwise, click Existing document, and click Browse to locate the document to use as the main document.
    • If you want to save the contacts and fields that you have selected, so that they can be reused, select the Permanent file check box, and then click Browse to save the file. The data is saved in a Word document as comma-delimited data.
  1. Select any merge options you want:
    • Form Letters Prepare a batch of letters for a mass mailing.
    • Mailing Labels Set up address labels for a mass mailing.
    • Envelopes Set up envelopes for a mass mailing.
    • Catalog Create a single document that contains a catalog or address list.
    • New Document Generate merged documents, which you can edit individually in Word.
    • Printer Send merged documents directly to the default printer.
    • E-mail Generate merged documents designed to be e-mail messages. When you are ready to complete the merge in Word, on the Mailings tab in the Finish group, click Finish & Merge, and then click Send E-mail Messages. The Subject line is filled with the text you typed in the Mail Merge Contacts dialog box in Outlook.
  1. Click OK. When the document opens in Word, on the Mailings tab, in the Write & Insert Fields group, click the arrow underneath Insert Merge Field, and then click the fields that you want to add to the document.

NOTE: You can’t type merge field characters («« »») manually or use the Symbol command on the Insert menu. You must use mail merge.

NOTE: If the merge fields appear inside braces, such as { MERGEFIELD City }, then Microsoft Word is displaying field codes (field code: Placeholder text that shows where specified information from your data source will appear; the elements in a field that generate a field’s result. The field code includes the field characters, field type, and instructions.) instead of field results (field results: Text or graphics inserted in a document when Microsoft Word carries out a field’s instructions. When you print the document or hide field codes, the field results replace the field codes.). This doesn’t affect the merge, but if you want to display the results instead, right-click the field code, and then click Toggle Field Codes on the shortcut menu.

Format the merged data

Database and spreadsheet programs, such as Microsoft Office Access and Microsoft Office Excel, store the information that you type in cells as raw data. Formatting that you apply in Access or Excel, such as fonts and colors, isn’t stored with the raw data. When you merge information from a data file into a Word document, you are merging the raw data without the applied formatting.

Add formatting

  1. Select the mail merge field. Make sure that the selection includes the chevrons (« ») that surround the field.
  2. On the Home tab, in the Font group, apply the formatting that you want. Or click the Font Dialog Box launcher for more options.
  3. Preview, complete the merge, and print the documents
  4. After you add fields to your main document, you are ready to preview the merge results. When you are satisfied with the preview, you can complete the merge.

IMPORTANT: To minimize the extra space between lines in the addresses on your labels, you must select the lines, click the Paragraph Dialog Box launcher on the Home tab, and then type 0 in the before and after spacing boxes. If you are using the Address Block merge field, select the whole field, including the chevrons (« »), and then adjust the spacing.

Preview the merge

You can preview your merged documents and make changes before you actually complete the merge.

To preview, do any of the following in the Preview Results group of the Mailings tab:

  1. Click Preview Results.
  2. Page through each merged document by using the Next Record and Previous Record buttons in the Preview Results group.
  3. Preview a specific document by clicking Find Recipient. Click Edit Recipient List in the Start Mail Merge group on the Mailings tab to open the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, where you can filter the list or clear recipients if you see records that you don’t want to include.

Complete the merge

You can print the merged documents or modify them individually. You can print or change all or just a subset of the documents.

If you want to print a subset of the documents, you can specify the set by a range of record numbers. If you want to print pages instead of specifying record numbers, follow the instructions in the Change individual copies of the document section.

Print the merged documents

  1. On the Mailings tab, in the Finish group, click Finish & Merge, and then click Print Documents.
  2. Choose whether to print the whole set of documents, only the copy that’s currently visible, or a subset of the set, which you specify by record number.

Change individual copies of the document

  1. On the Mailings tab, in the Finish group, click Finish & Merge, and then click Edit Individual Documents.
  2. Choose whether you want to edit the whole set of documents, only the copy that’s currently visible, or a subset of the set, which you specify by record number. Word saves the copies that you want to edit to a single file, with a page break between each copy of the document.

After you finish editing the new file of labels, you can print the labels by clicking the Microsoft Office Button and then clicking Print.

 

Save the main document

Remember that merged documents that you save are separate from the main document. It’s a good idea to save the main document itself if you plan to use it for another mail merge.

When you save the main document, you also save its connection to the data file. The next time that you open the main document, you are prompted to choose whether you want the information from the data file to be merged again into the main document.

  • If you click Yes, the document opens with information from the first record merged in.
  • If you click No, the connection between the main document and the data file is broken. The main document becomes a standard Word document. Fields are replaced with the unique information from the first record.

 

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