Step-By-Step: Mail merge is easy with Word 2002's new templates

Make mail merge easy with Word 2002s templates

Smart Word users know they don’t have to create every document from scratch—at least not when they can open and customize one of Word’s built-in templates for common document types. If you’ve upgraded to Word 2002, you’ll want to be sure to take advantage of the new templates available in that version.

Locating the templates
For the uninitiated, you can find out what templates are available, regardless of the version of Word you use. Go to File | New. In previous versions of Word, the New dialog box appears. In a typical Word 2000 installation, the templates are organized under the following eight or nine tabs:
  • General
  • Legal Pleadings
  • Letters & Faxes
  • Memos
  • Office 97 Templates (If your machine ever had Office 97 installed on it, you may have this tab.)
  • Other Documents
  • Publications
  • Reports
  • Web Pages

By contrast, when you go to File | New in Word 2002, the New Document pane is added to your document window, with the basic options shown in Figure A. This is the same pane that appears when you go to View | Task Pane. Of note, your most recently used documents will appear under the section Open A Document.

Figure A
To view template options in Word 2002, go to File | New and click the General Templates link in the New Document pane.

Click on the General Templates link, and Word 2002 will display the Templates dialog box. The Word 2002 templates are organized into categories similar to those of past versions, including:
  • General
  • Legal Pleadings
  • Letters & Faxes
  • Mail Merge
  • Other Documents
  • Publications
  • Reports
  • Web Pages

The most obvious difference between templates in Word 2000 and Word 2002 is that the Office 97 Templates tab has been replaced by Mail Merge.

Best of the new stuff: Mail merge mania
The Mail Merge templates are going to open up the world of mail merge technology to legions of Word users who before just didn’t get it. Why? These templates are prepopulated with merge fields. All you have to do is use the template’s field names to name the columns or fields in your source data.

For example, suppose you’d like to run a mail merge in Word to generate a list of customer or employee names and addresses. But the data exists only in an external data file, such as an Excel workbook, an Access database, or a comma-delimited or fixed-length text file. If you don’t happen to have Excel or Access on your computer, you can use Word 2002’s Mail Merge template to get to the data.

Just go to File | New | General Templates | Mail Merge, and then open the Contemporary Address List template. You’ll then get a two-row table. In the first row, you’ll see these column labels:
  • Last Name
  • First Name
  • Position
  • Company
  • Phone
  • Fax
  • E-mail

In the second row, you’ll see these corresponding mail-merge fields:
  • «Last Name»
  • «First Name»
  • «Job Title»
  • «Company»
  • «Business Phone»
  • «Business Fax»
  • «E-mail Address»

We won’t go into a comprehensive tutorial on the Mail Merge Wizard here, but once you’ve opened any merge template, your primary mission will be to open your data source. Go to Tools | Letters & Mailings | Mail Merge Wizard to display the Mail Merge toolbar. Click on the Open Data Source tool and navigate to your data file.

As long as the fields or columns in your source data match those in Word, that data can be merged into Word. The trick, of course, is using the names in the template to name the columns or fields in your source data.

If you don’t have the option of changing the names in the source data, you can always change the field names in Word 2002’s template. Just right-click on any merge field, choose Edit Field, and then edit the name of the field. (As I’ll discuss in a moment, you can also use the Match Fields utility on the Mail Merge toolbar to align your merge fields with fields in your data source.)

For instance, suppose you open the Contemporary Merge Fax template, and you notice that the default name for the destination fax number is Business Fax. If you want to align that field with one named CustFax in your database, just right-click on the Business Fax merge field and choose Edit Field.

You’ll see a screen like the one shown in Figure B. Make the change to the field name in the area circled, and you’re ready to run your fax-mail merge.

Figure B
It’s easy to make the templates’ field names match those in your source data. Just right-click on a merge field and choose Edit Field.

Want more templates for common documents prepopulated with mail merge fields? The Mail Merge tab contains 10 templates in all, beginning with a plain merge letter and including contemporary, elegant, and professional versions of letters, faxes, and address lists.

New features for the Mail Merge toolbar
In addition to providing a new set of templates specifically for mail merge operations, the Mail Merge toolbar has been completely overhauled in Word 2002. The first thing you’ll notice is that you can display the new Mail Merge toolbar at any time by going to View | Toolbars | Mail Merge. Figure C shows what the new toolbar looks like.

Figure C
The Mail Merge toolbar has a new look and lots of new functions in Word 2002.

In mail merge nomenclature, the main document is the document that contains the static text for merge letters, faxes, and e-mail messages. One of the most useful new tools is Main Document Setup, shown in Figure D along with the dialog that appears when you click that icon. Just activate the radio button for the type of merge document you want to create and click OK.

Figure D
The Main Document Setup tool lets you quickly get to work on a new merge document.

The Mail Merge toolbar also features several other new timesaving tools, including:
  • Highlight Merged Fields—Clicking this tool lets you quickly identify where merge fields are located in your template.
  • Match Fields—This tool launches a dialog box that lets you choose which fields from your data source correspond to the mail merge fields in your template.
  • Merge To Fax—This tool merges your main document with your data source and sends the output to a fax device, if available.
  • Merge To E-mail—This tool launches a dialog box that lets you generate e-mail messages based on your main document and data source.

If you’ve been putting off learning how to perform a merge of data into letters, faxes, e-mail messages, labels, or other forms, then procrastinate no more. Word 2002’s new Mail Merge templates and improved Mail Merge toolbar make it easier than ever to generate batch communications that are customized based on records in a data source.

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