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In Word 2010: Mail Merge in Depth, author Gini Courter demonstrates how to take advantage of Word's Mail Merge feature to save a tremendous amount of time creating customized documents. The course offers tutorials on creating letters, emails, envelopes, and labels. It also shows how to use Mail Merge with Outlook and Excel, creating data sources, inserting fields, using IF and other rules for customized merges, and troubleshooting Mail Merge issues. Exercise files are included with the course.
So we have our letter here, complete with merge fields and a data source, but it's not quite time to merge. First, we are going to use Word's Preview Results feature to see how a sample of the individual letters will look if we complete the merge. And normally, if Preview Results is turned off, what we see are the highlighted merge fields, and we have three of them here in our letter. When we click Preview Results, we see whatever the current record is, reflected here in the Merge Fields. So there is record 5. We can click the first record button to go to record 1, the last record button to go to record 79, and we can use these to work our way through and check out, visually, all of the different records.
Ideally, we'd like to look at groups of records that are different. For example, in our data source, the biggest difference between records is that we have some that do have a company name and some that don't. So we would like to make sure that that address block manages that. We also have a few records that have no first name in it. We would like to make sure that the Greeting Line handles those correctly. So you can either know that you are looking for a particular record. For example, I know that Ross's record doesn't have a company. So if I say that I am looking for Ross, and that's the first name, I can go directly to Ross's record and say, okay, there's no empty line between his name and the address where the company would be, and know that that handles it.
Or you can simply browse through the records and make sure that you are feeling comfortable with how things look. Now we can use the Merge Auto Check feature to actually check our letter, and see if there are any kinds of errors in it. Auto Check has three different options. One option is to simulate the merge and say it did or didn't run into some errors, and to tell us that in a new document. So let's click OK, and it actually just ran through the merge really quickly and said, I don't find anything at all. So when your data source has just a few hundred records, stored locally in Excel or Outlook, this is as good a way to check as any, is this Auto Check for Errors simulate the merge.
If your data source is a very large database, such as a SQL Server or Access database with thousands of records, even if you are filtering and not using them all, the simulation might not accurately identify those errors. So you have two different choices: one is to complete the merge and to pause whenever there's an error and let you know, hey, I have got an error here, so you can make note of it, and the other is to complete the whole merge without pausing, and if there are errors, to report those out to you in a new document. So if I say, Complete the merge without pausing.
Report errors in new document, and click OK. Word actually completes the entire merge. This is the same as if I had chosen mail merge. And to finish the merge, it puts them in a new document called letters 1, you will notice that there are 79 pages here, because I have 79 records in my data source, and no dialog box popped up and went, oh, you have an error here, so we know that we have gone all the way through without hitting any errors at all. If there are errors in the data source or errors in the way the merge executes, Word will pause at the end and tell you, with a dialog, or if when I had done my merge - let's go ahead and close this and not save it = I had chosen to Auto Check and to pause in the way through it, it would actually pop up and say you have an error here.
Now I have a preference for this. I will always do the merge without pausing first. The reason being that if you have an error that occurs with every single record, you can't get out of it until you've said okay to 79 dialog boxes here, because you have 79 records. So it is always better to use the first and the last option, and then if you need to go through and actually close in on two or three records, you could complete the merge and ask to have the pause happen at the records so that you can see it. You may have used other Word processing programs or prior versions of Word, some of which made it hard to preview your results or to check for errors before merging, but with Word 2010, you can preview and error-check before merging and printing.
So you won't need to waste paper printing errors, and you won't need to physically inspect all of the individual letters that you create with mail merge.
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