If you're anything like me, you tend to become rather fixed in your ways and shun major changes. Imagine my surprise (and yours, too?) and horror over the way Microsoft Word's Mail Merge feature changed from version 2000 to XP and beyond. After a brief (year-long) adjustment period, I decided it was time to delve into the new way of doing things. In this article, let's review just the basics of the Mail Merge Task Pane to create a basic letter mail merge.
To open the Mail Merge task pane, click Tools à Letters and Mailings à Mail Merge Wizard.
Microsoft's Task Pane appears with Mail Merge showing in the dropdown list at the top. The Mail Merge Wizard prompts you to respond to Step 1:
To create a simple letter, make sure Letters is selected, then click Next: Starting Document at the bottom of the task pane to continue to step 2:
Next, Microsoft wants to know what document you want to use to contain your boilerplate text and merge fields. For our letter, we will Use the current document. Note that you can also Start from a template or Start from existing document.
After choosing the correct option for your starting document, click Next: Select recipients:
The next step in the basic mail merge process is to select the intended recipients of your letter. For our letter, we will choose Type a new list. Note that you can also Use an existing list (for example, an existing Excel list) or Select from Outlook contacts.
After choosing Type a new list, click Create…
After you click Create, the New Address List box opens. The New Address List box contains standard fields used in creating a letter, including name, address and other contact information. Enter all of the contact information for one recipient, then click New Entry to continue adding information.
After contact information for all intended recipients has been added, click Close to return to the mail merge wizard task pane.
Word will prompt you to save your new data source. The default location for saving data sources is the My Data Source folder. Use all defaults in the Save Address List box, name your file (something more descriptive than MyDataSource will be helpful if you need to refer to the data source in the future), then click Save.
Word will open the Mail Merge Recipients list to allow you to edit the intended recipients and choose whom to include or exclude. Note the checkbox to the left of each name. A checked box indicates that recipient will be included, while an unchecked box indicates exclusion of that recipient from the mail merge. After reviewing that all information is present and correct, click OK.
Note that the Task Pane has changed to reflect your current data source and to offer options regarding your data source. You can Select a different list or Edit recipient list as needed.
Click Next: Write your letter
In the Write your letter step, you have options to automatically insert a number of standard letter writing necessities, including an Address block, Greeting line and others.
Click in the appropriate location in your blank letter, then click the Address block link. Note that there are ways to include information in individual fields, but for this basic letter merge, we will use the preset address block.
Word opens the Insert Address Block dialog box. Choose a format for the address block, then click OK.
Next, click in the appropriate place in the document, then click Greeting line.
Word will open the Greeting Line dialog box. Select your greeting line format, then click OK to insert the greeting line.
In the body of your letter, enter any boilerplate text desired in your letter. When your letter is set up the way you want, click the Next: Preview your letters link in the Mail Merge task pane.
The task pane changes to reflect your recipients. Click the >> button to move to the next recipient. The active document will change to reflect the merge information for each recipient as selected.
Note that you also have options to Exclude this recipient or Edit recipient list.
After previewing your letters, click the Next: Complete the merge button.
The Mail Merge task pane changes to provide two options: Print and Edit Individual Letters.
Choose the Print option if you want to merge your letters to the printer.
Choose the Edit individual letters if you want to merge your letters to a new file to save or edit.
When you click either option, a box will appear asking which records you want to merge. For our purposes, choose the default of All, then click OK.
In this example, I chose to merge the letters to a new document by clicking Edit individual letters in the last step of the merge process. A new document appears containing one section for each of your merged letters. You can print and/or save this new document as desired.
That's it – the basics of creating a mail merge letter in Word XP. Stay tuned for more on mail merges next month!