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Word mail merge uses two files. The first is a primary document always created in Word, and the second is a data source which is the structured variable data that will be merged into that primary Word document. With Word mail merge, we can choose data from a wide range of data sources. With our document open, if we click on the Mailings tab and choose Select Recipients, you'll see three different types of data sources listed in reverse order of usefulness.
Type New List, Use Existing List, and Select from Outlook Contacts. It's always better to use an existing data source, whether that data source comes from Outlook or comes from an existing list. You'll only ever create a new list if the data that you need does not exist electronically anywhere else. Because if you duplicate data that already exists, for example, if you make a copy of an Excel list that someone else maintains, now there are two lists, and the chances are that there'll be some discrepancy between them over time, if they're not both maintained and both maintained by you.
Word makes it incredibly easy to connect to any data source on your computer and to access almost any network data source that you have permission to. For example, if the people you're sending this letter to are already in your Outlook Contacts list or a contacts folder in your public folders, you should use Outlook as your data source. Typically your Outlook data is some of the best maintained data that you keep on your computer, because you actually use it to contact people. If the list is an Excel or can be easily exported to Excel as so much data can be, then an Excel worksheet is a great data source.
To choose an Excel spreadsheet, simply chooses the Use Existing List option and then browse to locate your Microsoft Excel workbook. The same is true with Microsoft Access, and any SQL database or a database that you have an ODBC connection to can be accessed in the same way. When you choose Use Existing List, Microsoft Word goes out to a list of registered data sources on your computer and you can either create a new connection or choose an existing data source.
This is the kind of thing you want to talk to your IT department about setting up for you. If the data that you need in your mail merge doesn't exist anyplace else, for example, someone handed you a stack of manual forms that are what you'll need to use, then you'll need to type in existing list. The list will be stored in a small Access database when you save it and then in the future you can edit that data in Word or in Microsoft Access. When you save your main document, your primary file, you also save the connection between this letter and the data source file that you've selected.
The next time that you open this main document then, you've prompted to choose whether you want to use the information from your data file and merge it again into this document. If you click Yes, then your document will open with a connection to the data source. If you choose No, you are choosing to break the connection to the data source. Your main document will become a standard Word document and it will show one record, the record that is currently selected in the data source.
All of the fields that control the connection between your main document and your data source will be replaced with information from the first record and if you choose No and then save the file, you no longer have a primary Word document to use in a merge. Any of the data sources that you select might have more records than you want to use in a specific mail merge. But don't let that bother you. After you choose the type of data source you want to use and select your data source, you can then sort and filter that data to be able to use as a subset in a Microsoft Word Mail merge.
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