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Of the hundreds of thousands of mail merges completed in offices each day, the vast majority use name and address information about people, the kind of data that you and I would normally store in Microsoft Outlook. Let's see how easy it is to use Outlook contacts as a data source for our mail merge. Here is our letter, and we'll be picking up name and address information for use in the address block and in the body of the letter in the areas that I have highlighted in yellow, because they will be replaced with placeholders. If I want to choose Microsoft Outlook Contacts as my data source, all I do is choose, on the Mailings tab, and Start mail merge, from the Select Recipients dropdown, Select from Outlook Contacts.
Microsoft Word goes out and asks Outlook, what kind of contacts folders do you have there for me? And Outlook reports that it has two: one is the Contacts folder that is standard with office, and the second is the Suggested Contacts folder that Outlook creates itself. But I have an additional folder here called Current Vendors. Why doesn't it show up on my list? You will notice that I am looking at my Outlook folder here, and obviously yours will look different, so go ahead and follow along using your Outlook folders or simply watch as I go through the rest of this demonstration.
If I look at the Contacts folder, or any contacts folder in Microsoft Outlook, and right-click and choose Properties, there is a tab called Outlook Address Book. For my default contacts folder, this always shows up as an e-mail address book. I can't turn this off. However, when new contacts folders are created, they are not set up that way. The assumption is that you will not use them as e-mail address books. So if I would like to use my list of Current Vendors in a mail merge, first I need to go over to Outlook, right-click, choose Properties, choose the Outlook Address Book tab and say, show this folder as an e-mail Address Book that I could use in mail merge and click OK.
We will be back to Outlook here in a second, but let's go over to Word, cancel this and once again say, select recipients from Outlook contacts, and you will notice here is my Current Vendors list. It's that quick. All I need to do is say, make this visible from mail merge; it's an Outlook Address Book. If I had a stack of information on paper someone handed me, and it was name and address information that I wanted to use in a mail merge, I would put it in Outlook. I wouldn't put it anywhere else. People belong here. So let's say that somebody has given me a stack of applicants, and I would like to add them. I don't want to put them in my contacts.
I don't want to put them in Current Vendors. They are applicants to become vendors. So what I want to do is go to Contacts and create a new folder. I am going to give this folder a name: Applicants. I am going to make sure that the folder contains dropdown has Contact Items selected, and I can either create a subfolder of one of the existing folders, like a subfolder of Current Vendors, or I can choose my mailbox, and it will put it out at the same level as my Contacts folder. But I am actually going to put this under Current Vendors, and click OK.
Now I have new folder called Applicants. If I right-click and check its Properties, go to Outlook Address Book, it says, Show this folder as e-mail Address Book, that's all set, in part because Current Vendors was an e-mail Address Book, and I am going to say OK. Now let's go back to Microsoft Word, and when we select from Outlook Contacts, I have Applicants and Current Vendors, the two Address Books that I have just added, simply by clicking that check box. If you are an Outlook power user, most of your mail merge letters and labels will use Outlook as your data source.
So you want to get used to being able to go in and change those address book settings, then choose Select from Outlook Contacts, select the Address Book that you want to use, and from here, you can either choose specific folks you want to include in a mail merge, you can use everyone in the mail merge, you can sort using the column headings here in the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, or you can filter, to say, for example, that I am only looking to send a letter to folks who are in the State of Ohio, so we will go find the Business Address State is Equal to Ohio, and just another way to trim down a subset.
Now I have a small group of people. All of them are in this contacts folder and all of them are in the State of Ohio. If you have been using Outlook for e-mail only and you don't use it to manage contacts, then you are missing some of the power of Outlook that will really help you when you mail merge in Microsoft Word. If you use Outlook, maintaining your contacts there will give you a great head start on mail merge in Microsoft Word.
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