When you set up a mail merge, Word lets you draw address information from a variety of sources, including an Excel worksheet or a Word document. But why not use a data source that’s designed to hold address information—in a program that’s designed to facilitate correspondence? Outlook’s Contacts list can provide you with a ready-made data source that works hand in glove with Word’s mail merge tools. You can create a group of recipients by copying the desired individual contacts (or an entire category of contacts) to a new folder. Then just switch to Word and use the Mail Merge Helper to execute the merge using the selected contacts as recipients.

Although this may sound complicated, you can actually walk a class through the procedure in a matter of minutes. All you need is a sample Outlook Contacts list to use for demo purposes.

Round up the contacts
Start by clicking the Contacts icon in the Outlook bar or on your Folder List to display your Contacts list. We’ll work in Phone List view, since that makes it easy to drag selected items. Just choose Current View from the View menu and select Phone List from the submenu to switch to this display.

We’ll gather the desired contacts from this Contacts list displayed in Phone List view.

Create a folder
To consolidate the contacts for the merge, create a new folder and copy the appropriate contacts into it.

  1. Choose Folder from the File menu, and select New Folder to open the Create New Folder dialog box. Outlook will select Contact Items from the Folder Contains list box and specify the Contacts folder as its location.
  2. Type a name for the new folder in the Name text box. We’ll go with Fourth Quarter Mailing for this example.
  3. Click OK to create the folder. Outlook will display the Folder List with your new folder located under Contacts.

The new folder, Fourth Quarter Mailing, is located within the Contacts folder.

Copy the contacts
After you create the folder, you’re ready to copy the appropriate contacts into it.

  1. Hold down [Ctrl] and click on each contact you want to use in the merge.
  2. Continue to hold down [Ctrl] and drag the selected contacts onto the Fourth Quarter Mailing folder icon in the folder list. Holding down [Ctrl] ensures that you copy the items rather than move them.

Time to merge
Once you’ve created a folder that holds only the contacts you want to include in the mailing, switch to Word and set up the main document. This is a step-intensive procedure, but it’s not particularly confusing if you demonstrate each action for the class.

  1. Choose Mail Merge from the Tools menu.
  2. Click Create, choose Form Letters, and click Active Window.
  3. Click Get Data and select Use Address Book.
  4. Choose Outlook Address Book from the Use Address Book dialog box and click OK.
  5. When the Mail Merge From Contacts Folder dialog box opens, select your contact folder—Fourth Quarter Mailing, in our example.
  6. Click OK. When Word presents a message telling you it found no merge fields in your main document, click Set Up Main Document.

Select the folder containing your contacts to use as your data source.

Set up the letter and pop in the merge fields
You may not want to invest a lot of time showing your students how to set up a main document—especially if they’re already pretty merge-savvy. The point of this exercise is to teach them how to set up the Contacts folder and tell Word to use it as the data source.

However, you may want to take a few minutes to type some dummy letter text and insert the merge fields in the appropriate spots. You can insert a field by positioning the insertion point where you want a particular piece of information to appear and then clicking Insert Merge Field on the Mail Merge toolbar. Simply select the field that corresponds to the information you’re inserting. For instance, to insert fields that pull each recipient’s name into the letters, choose First_Name from the list, type a space in the document, and then choose Last_Name.

Once the letter is complete, you can verify that the merge process works either by printing a batch of documents or by clicking View Merged Data on the Mail Merge toolbar.
What other Outlook/Word interop tricks do you share with your students? Post a comment below and let the TrainingRepublic in on it! Or sendus your topic suggestions for future articles.