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Setting Up a Mail Merge

By Laura Acklen
www.wpwriter.com

The methods we use to communicate will change, but the need to reach out to friends, family, clients, prospective customers, and associates will not. Any business, large or small, will tell you that its most important asset is its client database. Harnessing the power of that information makes it possible to inform the right people about the right thing at the right time. And just staying in touch is important too. With Merges, you'll save tons of time creating personalized holiday letters for your friends, family and clients.

WordPerfect's merge feature is very powerful yet incredibly easy to use. It's a three-step process:
1. Create the data (or bring it in from another source)
2. Create the Aform@
3. Merge the two together.

The result? A stack of personalized letters with envelopes or labels, in just minutes.

This tutorial explains how to set up a very basic mail merge that creates personalized letters and envelopes. As you work through these steps, remember that you can use these same concepts to create invoices, timesheets, price lists, employee directories, and much more.

Understanding Merge Terms
In WordPerfect, a merge is the combining of information from two different sources. Typically, there is a form file, which is the letter, and a data file, which is the list of names and addresses. A form file is just like any other document, except that it contains merge codes. The merge codes act as markers for the pieces of information that will be inserted from the data file.

A data file is structured into records and fields. In this case, each name and address is a separate record. Each record contains individual fields, such as first name, last name, company, address, city, state, postal code/zip and email.

Creating a Data File
It's helpful to create the data file first. If you already have the names and addresses on your system, chances are you can use them in a merge. WordPerfect will pull data from Quattro Pro, Paradox, an address book, an ODBC source, or a WordPerfect data file. So, if you already have a data file, you can skip to the section on setting up the form file.

Creating a data file is just entering names and addresses. It's important to map out how you want to break up the names and addresses into fields. A popular option is to use Afirst name, last name@ instead of just Aname@ because if Afirst name@ is broken out, you can use it alone to make the letter more personal.

To create a new data file, click Tools > Merge to display the Merge dialog box. Click Data Source > Create Data File to display the Create Data File dialog box (see Figure 1). Type the first field name in the Name a Field text box (i.e. First Name), then press Enter. Type the second field name (i.e. Last Name), then press Enter. Enter the rest of the field names that you want to use.

Create Data File
Figure 1
The Quick Data File dialog box lets you create and organize field names.

The order of the field names is important because this is the order that you will use to enter the data. To rearrange the list, select a field name then click Move Up or Move Down. Enable the Format Records in a Table check box, then click OK to display the Quick Data Entry dialog box.

WordPerfect presents you with a list of the fields in a Quick Data Entry dialog box to make it faster and easier to type in the names and addresses. Go ahead B start typing in the names and addresses. As you enter the data, remember not to use extra spaces or punctuation. All of the formatting, punctuation, and placement of the data is done in the form file. Notice that when you press Enter in the last field, a new entry form is created.

When you are finished with all of the names and addresses, choose Close, then click Yes to save the data. Type a name for this data file, then click Save. Click Cancel to clear the Merge dialog box so you can see your data table (see Figure 2).

Placing merge data
Figure 2
Formatting a data file into a table has many advantages. It is easier to read the information in columnar format and tables come with a property bar.

At this point, you may want to adjust the column widths in the table so your data is easier to read. Simply hover over a column border until the double-sided arrow appears, then click and drag the column border to resize the column. This step is merely for your convenience. The formatting that you do in the table will not affect the final merge results. For more information on formatting tables, see this tutorial: Ten Frequently Asked Questions about Table Formatting in Wordperfect.

Note: Placing the names and addresses in a table has many advantages. In a table, each field has its own column, and each row is one record. Data files that aren't formatted as a table contain special codes, called merge codes, that separate the fields and records. You must be especially careful when editing this type of data file to ensure that you don't accidentally delete one of the merge codes. The only disadvantage of formatting the records in a table is that if you have a lot of fields, the table will contain a lot of columns, so it may be more difficult to navigate than a narrow table, and you may not be able to see all of the columns at one time. To see all of the columns, try changing the page format to landscape (click Format > Page > Page Setup, then select Landscape).

Creating a Form File
Excellent! You'll be pleased to know that the time-consuming part is done. Setting up a form file takes only seconds if you've already created the document, and just a few minutes if you need to put one together.

Either open the letter that you want to send out, or, if you are starting from scratch, open a blank document and enter everything up to the point where you want to insert the name and address information (i.e. the current date). Remember, all of the punctuation and formatting will be done in this file (not the data file), so go ahead and set up the formatting that you want.

The next step is to designate this as your form file. Click Tools > Merge to open the Merge dialog box. Click Form Document > Create Form Document if you are starting fresh, or choose Use File in Active Window if you opened an existing document. Type the name of your data file (or click the folder icon to browse for it) in the Associate a Data File text box in the Associate Form and Data dialog box.

Now, it's time to insert the field codes. Position the insertion point, then click the Insert Field button on the Merge feature bar. This opens the Insert Field Name or Number dialog box (see Figure 3). The field names from your data file are displayed, just waiting for you to pick one.

Insert Field Name or Number
Figure 3
To begin building the form file, select a field name from the Insert Field Name or Number dialog box.

Double-click the field code to insert it. Add a space or other punctuation, or insert blank lines, then continue to insert the field codes where you want the information to appear in the finished letter.

For the name and address example, you insert the First Name field code, then add a space, then insert the Last Name field code. Press Enter to move to the next line, where you insert the Company field code. Press Enter to move to the next line, where you insert the Address field code. Hit Enter again to move to the next line, then the City field code, followed by a comma and a space. Then, add the State field code followed by a space, then the Zip field code.

You've just created an address block in the form letter! Continue inserting codes as you complete the form letter. When you are finished, click Close to clear the dialog box, then save your changes to the form file. Figure 4 shows you how the field codes for an address block and a personal greeting will look.

Mailing Address Block
Figure 4
The mailing address block and salutation will be filled in with information from the data file.

Merging the Files Together
Now, you're ready to merge the data file with the form letter. Click the Merge button on the feature bar to display the Merge dialog box. Now, if you've followed along, you know that the data file is already selected and the form document is set to . This is good B you're all ready to go!

Click the Merge button to start the merge process. WordPerfect matches up the field names in the form file with the field names in the data file and inserts the information into the form. If you only have a dozen or so letters, this happens so quickly that if you blink, you'll miss it.

When a merge is finished, the insertion point is always on the last line of the last page, so you can press Ctrl+Home to move to the top of the document, i.e. the first letter. Figure 5 shows an example of an address block and personal greeting. That's itCyou just did your first mail merge!

Data file is pulled during a merge
Figure 5
During a merge, information from the data file is pulled into the form document, and a new set of documents is created.

Creating Envelopes During a Merge
If you plan to mail your personalized letters, you will also need personalized envelopes. You can create these envelopes during a merge so everything is generated together. (For labels, you will need to create a label form document and merge that form with the data file in a separate merge.)

To create personalized envelopes during a merge, open the form document, then click the Merge button (on the Merge feature bar). Click Envelopes to display a sample envelope. If necessary, insert your return address. Press Ctrl+End to move down to the address block. If necessary, delete the existing address block so you can create a new one.

Click the Insert Field button to open the Insert Field Name or Number dialog box. Insert the field codes for the address block. When you are finished, click Continue Merge. If necessary, select a data file to be used in the merge. Click Merge to create the personalized letters and envelopes in one step.

Merging to Email
If your data includes an email address, you can set up a merge to email and have the documents sent out electronically. Click Tools > Merge. Click Form Document and select a form file for the merge. Click Data Source and select a data file for the merge. Click Output and choose Email.

In the Merge to Email dialog box (see Figure 6), select the field that contains the email address. If you like, type a subject for the message in the Subject Line box. Click OK, then click Merge. If necessary, select a profile, otherwise just respond to prompts to activate your email application.