What is Mail Merge?
Mail Merge is a function found in word processing software such as Microsoft Word, in which a single template document is used to create multiple documents based on information drawn from a data source. A mail merge has four basic steps; creating a template document, creating a data source, adding placeholders in the template document for the variable information, and merging the template and the data source.
The template document determines the structure of all of the final documents; it includes both the content that will be common to all of the documents and the placeholders for the variable information (the content that is unique to each document, such as an address). The data source is usually a spreadsheet (e.g. Microsoft Excel) or database (e.g. Microsoft Access) that includes a field or column for each piece of variable information.
When the template document and the data source are merged, one document is created for each row in the spreadsheet or database, with the values in the relevant field or column of the spreadsheet or database filling in the placeholders in the template document. This creates a complete document that is personalised to each recipient.
A mail merge can be used to print labels with a standard layout and/or content while adding personalised details during the merge; a mail merge is an excellent way to print address labels, but can also be used to create personalised name labels or gift tags or to print product labels that include standard text alongside the relevant product details for each item.
Use mail merge for bulk email, letters, labels, and envelopes
Mail merge lets you create a batch of documents that are personalized for each recipient. For example, a form letter might be personalized to address each recipient by name. A data source, like a list, spreadsheet, or database, is associated with the document. Placeholders–called merge fields–tell Word where in the document to include information from the data source.
You work on the main document in Word, inserting merge fields for the personalized content you want to include. When the mail merge is complete, the merge document will generate a personalized version of itself for each name in the data source.
Your first step in setting up a mail merge is to pick the source of data you’ll use for the personalized information. Excel spreadsheets and Outlook contact lists are the most common data sources, but any database that you can connect to Word will work. If you don’t yet have a data source, you can even type it up in Word, as part of the mail merge process.
For details about data sources, see Data sources you can use for a mail merge.
Excel or Outlook
If you know you’ll be using Excel or Outlook as the source of your data, see:
Word provides tools for incorporating your data into the following kinds of documents. Follow the links for details about each type:
Letters that include a personalized greeting. Each letter prints on a separate sheet of paper.
Create and print a batch of personalized letters
Email where each recipient’s address is the only address on the To line. You’ll be sending the email directly from Word.
Envelopes or Labels where names and addresses come from your data source.
Directory that lists a batch of information for each item in your data source. Use it to print out your contact list, or to list groups of information, like all of the students in each class. This type of document is also called a catalog merge.