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Using Mail Merge with an Excel table

From: Word 2007: Mail Merge in Depth

Video: Using Mail Merge with an Excel table

Most organizations maintain a lot of data in Microsoft Excel and it's easy to see why. Excel is both powerful and simple to use when you want to enter, sort, filter, and analyze data. Let's see how we can use Microsoft Excel data as our data source for a mail merge in Microsoft Word. We are already in our primary document, our Simple Letter, and we have identified it as a letter that we want to do a mail merge with. So we are now ready to select recipients.

Using Mail Merge with an Excel table

Most organizations maintain a lot of data in Microsoft Excel and it's easy to see why. Excel is both powerful and simple to use when you want to enter, sort, filter, and analyze data. Let's see how we can use Microsoft Excel data as our data source for a mail merge in Microsoft Word. We are already in our primary document, our Simple Letter, and we have identified it as a letter that we want to do a mail merge with. So we are now ready to select recipients.

On the Mailings tab, choose Select Recipients > Use Existing List. Microsoft Word automatically goes to the location where it always looks initially for files, the All Data Sources folder within your profile folder. My file is saved elsewhere, so I am going to go and find it. I am going to go the Exercise Files folder and go to Chapter 1 and open this Excel workbook called Vendors. The Excel workbook has two tables that Microsoft Word recognizes.

It's actually two worksheets and the reason I know they are worksheets is that the file name is followed by a dollar sign. So there is a worksheet called Current$, and there is a worksheet called Pending$. So if I wanted to use my Current$ worksheet, I could just double-click or click once and click OK and then the easiest way to see what's in there is to Edit the Recipient List and it immediately begins to load. The very first row here is row 1 of that worksheet, row 2 of the worksheet and so on.

So in my first row, I have Last name, First, Email, Name of Company and so on. Row 2 is Meredith Alvarado, row 3 is Sharon Aguilar, and it continues to load. It would be very easy for me now to choose what I wanted to do with this dataset. For example, if I wanted to send a letter to everybody, I am ready to go to the next step of mail merge. However, if I wanted to send it to just a few people, I could click to turn all of my records off and then go back and say well, I only want to send a letter to a few people.

Let's say I wanted to send a letter to a lot of folks based on a particular value in a field. In order to do that, I would use filter. So I can turn everyone back on again and choose Filter and say for example that where the Business State is equal to Ohio, I would like to send a letter and click OK. And now all I will see are the records where the Business State is equal to Ohio. I can sort these by saying I would like to sort by Last name, so I can see that list in alphabetical order which makes it far easier for me to work with.

So for bulk operations I can say I would like to sort to filter and I can easily access this data. Let's now take a look at that second worksheet that we had in our Vendors workbook just to take a look at some other options. So I am going to go back. Once again I am going to say that I would like to locate my file, same steps as before, and I am going to choose the second worksheet that's called Pending$. When I do and then say that I would like to edit my recipient list what I notice is a number of blank rows at the top.

This is relatively common. Very few of my Excel worksheet actually start with the names of the fields across the top. Instead, they start with either some titles or some descriptive data for the people who are using them. When Microsoft Word can't actually find field names in that top row, it makes them up. It makes up field one, field two, field three, and so on, because I haven't provided an easy way for Microsoft Word to know that this is the row that contains my column headings.

These column headings are actually used when I create my merge letter. It would be far better if I had first name here then F3, or company name rather than F5. It's really difficult to have to remember what all of these actually stand for when I am doing my merge. So it's worth it to me to go back into Excel and make one small change that's going to make it possible for me to actually identify my column headings when I move into Microsoft Word mail merge.

So first, we need to close Word in order to be able to get to Microsoft Excel and edit this file. Right now Word has a connection to this file that makes it impossible for me to change it with Word open. So I am going to go ahead and close my merge letter, and I am going to say No to saving my changes, because I haven't made any changes that I want to keep in this session. We are going to go into the Exercise Files folder and open up this Excel workbook so we can see it directly. As you will notice, we actually have those same blank rows that we saw when we tried to use this as a merge.

Now if this was my workbook and nobody else was using it, there is no reason that I couldn't simply go in and strip out those eight rows if I wanted to. But I don't own this workbook. Somebody else does. I am simply using it so that I don't have to maintain this whole list of names and addresses and application dates on my own. So I am going to actually select all of the occupied area of this datasheet, which takes me down to about here, and then some extra rows that I would like to use later to put more information into.

How many of these I choose should be pretty easy for me to determine. I need about 200 rows, because that's how many applications we have in the year plus a few more. So I am just going to hold Shift and select all of those. So here is my range. Beginning at the top with those names that I want to be able to see in Microsoft Word when I do mail merge and ending with some blank rows down at the bottom. Now I need to give this a name. It's easiest if I don't use the names that are already used for sheets, Current$ and Pending$.

Those could be a little bit confusing to me later on when I see this list in Word. So these are actually vendor applications and I am going to just name this VendorAapps and press Enter. A name in Microsoft Excel can't have a space in it. So I am going to just type this with no space. If I want to make sure that the name's stuck, there are a few ways to do. I can click somewhere else and click this name dropdown and choose VendorApps, you will notice that it selects that whole range I selected earlier.

Or I could go to the Formulas tab, and I could choose Name Manager and I will see that that name is listed here. This is also a place that I could edit this name later if I wanted to or delete it if I chose to. I am all done naming this range here in Excel. I am going to save and close my Excel workbook and it's important that I do that. Now, for our purposes, normally what I would do is I would save this workbook using exactly the same name. Naming a range in a workbook is a minor thing.

It's not going to bother the person who owns it, but for our purposes we are going to actually give this a new name so that we can tell it apart when we work with this workbook later on in this title. So I am going to choose File > Save As, and we are going to call this Vendors - Merge. Now we will close this workbook and return to our letter in Microsoft Word.

Now one more time, let's go back to Mailings, select Recipients > Use Existing List and let's go find in our Exercises folder, the Vendors-Merge workbook. Again, the only difference here is this one has a named range. Notice now there are three possible sets of data in this workbook: the Current$ sheet, the Pending$ sheet, and the VendorApps named range with no dollar sign at the end of its name. Let's tell it OK.

Just as with the data set that I created from scratch, I can go back and edit this recipient list if I want to, I can sort and filter just as I could my data that came directly from a worksheet that had not been named. And notice that choosing the named range of the sheet that had all those extra rows allows me to see that this is a last name, this is a first name, an email address, and so on. Here is all of my data in a form that will be very easy for me to use in Microsoft Word for mail merge.

So there are two ways that I can identify the Excel data that Word should use as a data source. I can use a simple worksheet that contains no other data or I can go into Excel and name a range. Whenever I am going to create a mail merge with Microsoft Excel data, I will make this choice based on one factor. How is my data arranged in the original Microsoft Excel workbook?

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Word 2007: Mail Merge in Depth

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Gini Courter
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