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How to initiate a merge from inside Outlook using a filtered list of contacts

If you want to send a personal letter to a number of people, start your merge inside Microsoft Outlook instead of Word--it will save you a lot of work.

3D rendering of an open mailbox with flying envelopes

Image: Bob McCarroll, Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you send a Microsoft Outlook message to a lot of people at the same time, there are a few inherent problems. If you use the TO or CC fields, the recipients aren't private, so recipients can see one another. If you use the BCC field, the results are impersonal and often end up being tagged as spam by software.

SEE: Microsoft Teams: A cheat sheet (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

You might consider running a mail merge from inside Word by importing a contact list into Word--this combines Outlook and Word to send out individual emails to each contact in your imported list. However, it's rare that you'll send a message to everyone in your contact list, and filtering the contact list inside Word is difficult. 

I'll show you how to initiate the mail merge from inside Outlook, where you can filter contacts before Word sends out the individual messages via email. The result is a personal email sent individually to multiple contacts with minimal effort—you get everything!

I'm using Office 365 (desktop) on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but this solution will work in older versions. This solution isn't suitable for the web versions. There's no demonstration file because you won't need one.

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How to get contacts

You're going to need contacts to merge so that's where we'll start. Click People (aka as Contacts) to open Contact view. To select contacts, hold down the Shift key while you click contacts or press Ctrl+A to select them all. Or, enter a search string, as shown in Figure A. If you do so, be sure to select the contacts you want to merge from the results before you continue. Once your contacts are selected, you're ready to start the merge.

Figure A

outlookmailmerge-a.jpg

  Select the contacts

While practicing, be sure to select yourself or a few people who won't mind getting your email if you want to actually send them. You don't want to annoy contacts by sending a test message.

How to merge

You're ready to start the merge by setting a number of merge options and creating the message.

  1. Click the Home tab and then click Mail Merge in the Actions group.

  2. The resulting dialog offers a number of options that are mostly self-explanatory. Figure B shows the options for our merge. I chose Email from the Merge to dropdown and entered subject text.

  3. Click OK to launch Word. Inside Word enter the text of your email message (Figure C). You can further customize the merge, but we're not going to do so now.

  4. Once your message is done, click Finish & Merge in the Finish group (still inside Word). From the dropdown, I recommend you choose Edit Individual Documents before sending the message so you can review and make edits if necessary.

  5. Click All. As you can see in Figure D, Word created two "messages." There are actually two documents now: The original merge document and the results of the merge (not committed yet). If the results were personalized, you would see those differences in the preview. You must close the preview document and return to the original merge document to continue. If you notice, there's a grammatical error in the message. That's why you should preview the results before sending. (We won't fix it now.) 

  6. After returning to the merge document, click Finish & Merge again, and select Send Email Messages.

  7. Click OK and Allow when prompted.

The message you typed in Word is sent via Outlook email to the contacts you selected earlier.

Figure B

outlookmailmerge-b.jpg

  Set the merge options.

Figure C

outlookmailmerge-c.jpg

  Enter the email message.

Figure D

outlookmailmerge-d.jpg

  You can preview the messages (as documents) before sending.

This is a simple example, but a lot of users don't know they can send a more personal and private message to a lot of people using simple filtering techniques without expending a lot of effort. Stay tuned for a follow-up article that demonstrates using a more advanced method for selecting recipients. 

Send me your questions about Office

I answer readers' questions when I can, but there's no guarantee. Don't send files unless requested; initial requests for help that arrive with attached files will be deleted unread. You can send screenshots of your data to help clarify your question. When contacting me, be as specific as possible. For example, "Please troubleshoot my workbook and fix what's wrong" probably won't get a response, but "Can you tell me why this formula isn't returning the expected results?" might. Please mention the app and version that you're using. I'm not reimbursed by TechRepublic for my time or expertise when helping readers, nor do I ask for a fee from readers I help. You can contact me at susansalesharkins@gmail.com.

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