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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.
Most organizations maintain a lot of data in Microsoft Excel, and it's easy to see why. Excel is incredibly powerful and yet simple to use when you want to enter, sort, filter and analyze data. Let's see how we can use Microsoft Excel as a data source for our mail merge. We have our letter open, with the text that will be variable text highlighted. Let's go ahead and open an Excel workbook. We will go to Select Recipients > Use Existing List, and I am going to go open my Exercises folder in Chapter 1 and select the Vendors Workbook.
When I open the workbook, there are two different tables listed, but these aren't really tables; they are worksheets. I know they are worksheets, because they have a dollar sign at the end of their name, and it says that the first row of data contains column headers for both of these. There are some column headers, so that's great. Now, I am going to open up this first data set, which is called Current. When I click on Edit Recipient List, you will notice that the Data Source is listed as the workbook Vendors.xls, and then we have, at the top here, field names or column headings that were picked up out of that data source: Last, First, Email, Name of Company.
If you scroll across, you will notice this is a nice data source. Every column has a heading, the data looks like the data we would expect, and then out to the end, we start getting F10, F11, F12. These are field names. They will keep going as long as we actually have space, and this is simply the unnamed columns that we have. We don't have any data in those columns, so we don't really care. This all works for us. Let's now take a look at the other data set that we have in this same workbook inside of Vendors.xls. We will go back to Select Recipients > Use Existing List, and return to the Exercises folder on the desktop and open Vendors again, and this time we are going to choose the second worksheet, which is called Pending.
I am going to click OK and look at the Recipient List, and one of the things I will notice is that this worksheet is actually more like most of the worksheets you will probably use. The data doesn't start immediately at the very top of the worksheet. There's a couple of rows that have other information in them - perhaps titles or instructions - and so we have one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight rows of data that really aren't data. The unfortunate thing about this is that because our information doesn't start in row one with column headings, what I have is one label that says Type vendor application.
It's actually just some information, and then those unidentified fields, F1, F2, F3, F4, and so on, start immediately. So even though the information is labeled with an application date, a reference check date, first, last, and so on, I'd like these fields to be up here, but they are not, simply because they are not in row one. There are some folks who would just proceed through this merge at this point, but I am not one of them, because I actually want to be able to put fields in my letter and see what they are called. I don't wan to have to create a little cheat sheet that says F3 really is the first name, and F5 really is the name of the company.
So we are going to go make a change to this worksheet in Excel, so that we can more easily identify it for use in our mail merge. I have already opened this workbook in Microsoft Excel, and if you look, here is that current sheet that starts in row one with our field names. Here is the Pending sheet, and if we take a look, rows one through eight have nothing to do really with the data that we will use in a mail merge. So what I am going to do is I am going to select the data that we do want to use in our mail merge, and we are going to give it a name, so that we can find that name when we open the workbook.
So we are looking at A through K, and then all the way down to row 88. You could select a few extra rows if you wanted to. And the speedy way to select this range of data, or any other range, by the way, is to select the first cell, hold Ctrl and Shift on your keyboard go to the right and go down. Excel will automatically select all the way to the right, until it runs out of cells that are used, and all the way down, so again, another really quick way to select this data. The goal here though, is to name this data range. To the left of the Formula bar is an area called the Name Box, and I can click in the Name Box and simply give this a name.
It can't have a space in it. For example, these are our pending vendor applications, so I could call his PendingApps, for example, any name I want, and then I have to remember not just to click somewhere else, but to press Enter. That's the part you are most likely to forget. So I am going to press Enter, and I can check that that name works by clicking any place else in the workbook, clicking the down arrow ,and going back to PendingApps. And Excel says, if you choose this, this is the area that we are talking about. My attention here isn't to teach you about naming in Excel other than this; however, I will tell you that you will find all the names in the workbook by clicking the Formulas tab and choosing the Name Manager, and if you need to edit or delete or rename this named range, this is what you will do it here, in this Name Manager dialog box.
Let's go ahead and save our Excel workbook, and it says it's in Compatibility Mode right now. We could take care of that while we are here, as well, by converting it. So we will click OK. We will click Yes, and now this Vendors workbook is no longer in Compatibility mode. It's a nice 2007-2010 Workbook now, and we are going to save this entire workbook and close it. Now, we are back in Microsoft Word again, and let's go find that named range. We do it exactly the same way we found the worksheets. Select Recipients > Use Existing List. Our Excel workbook is still on the desktop.
It's still in the Exercises Folder in Chapter 1, and you will notice now that when we open that workbook, we have the two worksheets that end in a dollar sign, but we also have that named range we just created and saved the workbook. So let's go pick up PendingApps as our mail merge data source, and when we look at Edit Recipient List, you will notice that only the named range is imported; therefore, we get nice field names at the top of our Mail Merge Recipients List. Now you can do all of the same things and this mail merge Recipients List from Excel as you could in the list that we typed ourselves, or in the contacts we imported from Outlook.
We can sort using the column headings or open a Sort dialog box. We can Filter, to say, for example, that we only want to have those records where the Business State is Equal to Ohio or the Business State is Equal to California. You may actually enter a lot of these if you wish to limit the list, and we should only now see records from California and Ohio. We can find duplicates. We can look to make sure a particular recipient is in our list. If we know that we are looking for someone that should be in this data set, that's a good way to check and make sure that you have the data that you actually want.
So, two different ways that you can identify the actual Excel data that Word should use as your data source: first, a simple worksheet that ideally contains no other data, or second, by identifying the data in Excel, naming the range and saving it. You will always make this choice based, not on what's happening in Word, but how your data is arranged within the worksheets in Microsoft Excel.
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