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Word mail merge uses two files: a primary document, like the one on the screen that's always created in Word, and d data source, which is structured, variable data that will be merged into the highlighted areas of this primary document. With Word mail merge, we can choose data from a wide range of data sources. There are three choices listed on the Mailing tab of the Ribbon, in reverse order of usefulness: Type New List, Use Existing List, and Select from Outlook Contacts.
Let's take a look at those three different types of data sources for our Word mail merge. It's always better to use an existing data source. You'll only create a new list if the data that you need doesn't exist anywhere else, because otherwise you'll need to maintain at least one, if not both of those lists. So Word makes it easy to connect to almost any data source on your computer and any data source on your network that you have permission to access. For example, if the people you're sending this letter to are already in your Outlook contacts, or a Contacts Folder in your Exchange Public Folders, you must use Outlook as your data source.
Outlook has great data, and the chances are good that that data is up-to-date because you use it for other purposes. So any contacts folder will do. Then you can choose an existing list. If you don't have information in your Outlook contacts, take a look, for example, at data maintained in an Excel spreadsheet, or data in a good Access database, or any other database. For example, you might have client information or vendor information on an enterprise database maintained in SQL Server or Oracle. When you need to use databases like this, your enterprise databases, you'll probably need to have a conversation with your IT or IS department about how they can set up a read-only connection to those databases for you to use.
If the data you need for your mail merge doesn't exist anywhere else, then you can create a New List. An example of this would be, someone hands you a stack of applications that were filled out on paper; they don't already exist electronically, so you may as well create them. If you type a new list for a mail merge data source in Microsoft Word, it's actually stored in a small Access database when you save it. Later on, you can edit this data in Word, or you can edit it directly in Microsoft Access. After you select your data source and connect to the file, you'll save this primary document again, and in doing so, you will save the connection to your data source file.
No matter what data source you choose, the data source might have more records than you want to use in any specific mail merge, but don't let that bother you. After you decide what type of data source you want to use, and connect to your data source, you can then sort and filter to use some, or all of the records in your data source, in your Word mail merge.
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