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The Microsoft Word merge field Ask is similar to Fill-in, but it has a couple of different behaviors. Fill-in takes a piece of data entered by the user and sticks it into each letter. Ask creates a bookmark to hold the text temporarily and stores that user-entered value in the bookmark. Then you add a corresponding Ref field, a reference field, that says go grab the value that the user put in that bookmark and stuff it into the letter where I place the Ref field.
Here is why we will use Ask. The location of the meeting occurs twice in the letter. The first time it's listed in paragraph one, the second time in paragraph three. Now if we were lazy, we could use Fill- in and say location one, location two and enter the same information twice, but if we misspell it once, it's going to look icky. We're going to use the Ask field to ask the user at the time of merge, where is the meeting going to be held? Then we'll drop in two reference fields to drop that information into the letter twice.
The only part of this that we care about, in terms of a sequence, is that the Ask field has to be placed in the letter prior to any reference to the Ask field. So I'll generally go right to the top the letter and do something like Ctrl+Home to get as high in the letter as I can before we place this Ask field in our letter. So we're going to go ahead and on the Mailings tab in the Write & Insert Fields area, we're going to choose Rules > Ask. It says Insert Word Field: Ask. This is for the meeting location. So we give the bookmark a name, Location.
And because it will be the same for every letter, we're going to send everybody to meeting in the same place, we're going to only ask once. The prompt will be Enter the location for the meeting. Now if most meetings are held at Corporate Headquarters, we could put that in this default bookmark text. So, let's just go ahead and say most meetings are there. So we'll put in a bookmark. That's a default. If I don't enter anything else, it will say Corporate Headquarters. Let's go ahead and say OK, and we will be prompted, and we'll say, okay, the meeting is going to be at Corporate Headquarters, and say OK.
Now, absolutely nothing happens, except that value has been stuffed into a bookmark. We now need to place two reference fields to reflect that information back in the document. The first will go here. So I'm simply going to delete where it says Corporate Headquarters. You'll notice, if we look at the rules list, there is no reference here. This is a field that's not included on the default list of merge fields. To go get it, we'll have to go to the Insert tab. So let's go to Insert > Quick Parts > Field to open the list of all the fields that are available to us when we work automating Word.
As I scroll down the list, you'll find Ref here, which is a reference, and it says, okay, if you're going to insert a reference, what bookmark are you referring to? I'll say location. Now notice that I need to be at the right place in my letter in order to do this, because it's going to insert the reference right where I am. There are number of different options I can use. For example, I can have users enter a value, and then I can format it in the way I choose. I can have incrementing numbers that appear, but I just want to grab this reference and stuff it back in the letter.
If you want to look at these other options, I recommend them to you, because you can do some exciting things with them. I am going to say OK, and notice Corporate Headquarters got dropped there. And I can tell I need a space here, so I am going to put space. Let's go add a reference for the second time that this appears. I am going to simply select this text and delete it, Insert > Quick Parts > Field, scroll down to Ref, or hit R to get down there quicker, Location > OK, Corporate Headquarters again, and add my space in the letter.
That's all the harder it is to be able to use Ask and Ref together to be able to insert information here in my merge letter. Now, I want to show you one other thing, as we start adding these fields in. There is a shortcut key that you can use to see the fields. It's Alt and then F9. So when I do Alt+F9, I'll actually see all of the fields that are in my letter, and that's helpful. Here's the Ask that I did. Ask for a location. There's the prompt. There's the default, followed by the Fill-in, which was to fill in the date for the meeting.
We did that in an earlier video. Then down in the text, notice in the body, a reference to location, a reference to location. When you simply highlight the merge fields, those Ref and Ask fields won't show up. So you'll want to remember that Alt+F9 will display or hide all of those field codes. Let's go ahead and save our letter. I am going to do File > Save As, and I am going to save this as Cover Location. Now let's merge this and see how it actually works.
Remember that if you weren't with us in the last video, we were prompting for a couple Fill-ins as well. So Edit Individual Documents > Merge them all. It says, where is the location for this meeting? I am going to say Bali, because we deserve it, actually, Tahiti, because my friend Jeff likes going their. So we're going to choose Tahiti and click OK. This is a Fill-in the date for the meeting. August 24 is fine. Fill-in the date here, and now we've picked up the date, but also Tahiti is going to appear in two locations in every single letter.
There's our first letter, as we scroll down, our second letter. So we can use Ask to grab information and place it as many locations as we wish in a document. Think about using Ask for things like contracts, where you need to fill in information about both parties in a contract. By using Ask, we can allow the user to enter variable information on the fly at the start of the mail merge, rather than having to enter all of this information in the data source.
And this makes Word mail merge very, very powerful.
- Choosing or creating a data source
- Using Mail Merge with Outlook contacts
- Merging data from an Excel spreadsheet
- Inserting address blocks and greetings
- Matching fields from a data source
- Previewing merge results
- Using rules for customized merges