Selecting Recipients

In the following window of the Mail Merge Wizard task pane, you choose a data source. This is the file that already contains contact information for the people who will receive your message or, if you are creating a directory, the file that contains the data you want to incorporate into it (see Figure 17.5).

Figure 17.5. Selecting recipients for your mailing or the content source for your directory.


You need to create or select a data-source document to accompany your main document. Your data source must contain the information that will change in each of your merged documents. Ideally, it should also contain headings or fields that identify each specific category of data, such as first names or ZIP Codes.


Your data source need not contain names and contact information. For example, if you're building a directory, you could specify a data source containing lists of products, together with their features and prices.

Once again, Word gives you several choices; these are covered next.

Selecting an Existing File Containing the Names You Want to Use

Select Recipients actually consists of two tasks: first, selecting or creating the data source that contains information about potential recipients; and then, choosing exactly who will receive your message from among the names in the list you've just selected. You choose your database file first.

If you already have a list of names you want to draw on?stored in a database, a spreadsheet, a Word table, or some other document?choose Use an Existing List. A Browse button appears; click it to display the Select Data Source dialog box.

Next, browse to and select the file containing the data you want to use.

If you are connecting to an enterprise database such as SQL Server 2000 or Oracle 8i, Word 2003 contains a Data Connection Wizard that streamlines the process.

To run this wizard, click the New Source button on the Select Data Source dialog box next to the Open button. This opens the Data Connection Wizard. Choose the type of database you want to connect with, click Next, and follow the steps provided in the wizard to establish the connection you need.

In some cases, you won't have a choice about where your data comes from. In other cases, you may be in charge of organizing and managing the data as well as the mail-merge process. In the latter situation, you need to decide which program makes the most sense to use for entering and managing the data you will merge with Word. Fortunately, there are some rules of thumb you can use to make that decision.

Word tables lend themselves best to small mail merges, typically 100?200 data records or fewer. Of course, if your data is already stored in Outlook, Access, Excel, or a third-party database, it usually makes more sense to use your existing data source than to create a new one. If you're building a data source from scratch, however, consider these factors:

  • With which program are you most comfortable? If, instead of investing many hours in learning a new program, you can achieve identical results with a program you already know, consider using the program you already know.

  • How big is your database? As your database grows?to many hundreds or thousands?it makes sense to use a dedicated database program such as Microsoft Access. If your database is very large?say, containing 100,000 records or more?consider migrating to an enterprise-scale database such as Oracle, Sybase, Informix, IBM DB2, or Microsoft SQL Server 2000.

  • How else do you intend to use your data? If you're sending a sales mailing to all your business contacts, and you plan to follow up with telephone calls, use a contact manager such as Microsoft Outlook or Symantec's ACT!.

  • Where does your data come from? If you input all your own data, Microsoft Word or Outlook may be all you need. If others help input your data, consider a database program such as Microsoft Access, which enables you to create forms that streamline and simplify the process. If your data is imported from another source, consider Excel or Access for their excellent data import and cleanup (parsing) capabilities.

Selecting an Outlook Contact List Containing the Names You Want to Use

If you want to use names stored in an Outlook contact list, choose Select from Outlook Contacts; then click Choose Contacts Folder. If you are asked which profile contains the names you want to use (see Figure 17.6), choose the correct profile.

Figure 17.6. Choosing the profile associated with your Outlook contact list.


Next, choose the contact list folder you want to use?typically, Contacts. Word will display the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, containing all the names that appear in your Outlook Contacts list. (If Outlook contains large numbers of contacts, it may take a few moments for the names to appear within the dialog box.)

After you've done so, you're ready to move forward to the next step.

Creating a New List of Names

Occasionally, you may want to create your list of names at the same time you create your mail merge. Although large lists are best created in Access, Excel, or Outlook, shorter lists can be created in Word, directly from the Select Recipients pane of the Mail Merge Wizard.

Choose Type a New List; then click Create. Word displays the New Address List dialog box (see Figure 17.7).

Figure 17.7. The New Address List dialog box.


In this dialog box, you can customize a Word table that serves as your database and then enter detailed information (new database records) for each individual who receives your mailing. You can also find, filter, and sort names in your database table.

Customizing the Address Information Table Word Provides

Word's Default New Address List table contains fields corresponding to the most commonly used categories needed for mass mailings: first name, last name, company name, address lines, email addresses, and so forth.

However, you may occasionally need a new category (and if you're creating a directory of parts, services, or other information unrelated to contacts, you may need many new categories). You might also need to tweak the names of a category to correspond with a mail-merge document you've already created or reorganize the fields in Word's Address List for faster data entry.

To make changes like these, click Customize. The Customize Address List dialog box opens (see Figure 17.8).

Figure 17.8. The Customize Address List dialog box.


If you want to add a new field to your Word database, click Add; then type the new field's name and click OK. If you want to delete an existing field, select it in the Field Names scroll box and click Delete. To rename an existing field, select it and click Rename; then type the new field's name and click OK. To rearrange fields, select a field; then click Move Up or Move Down repeatedly, until it appears in the sequence you want.

When you're finished making adjustments to the structure of your address list, click OK to return to the New Address List dialog box.

Working with the New Address List

In the New Address List dialog box, you can enter new data?such as the names and addresses of each mailing recipient?just as you would if you were using database software. In fact, the database you create is stored in .mdb format?the same format Microsoft's Access database software uses.

When you open the New Address List dialog box for the first time (refer to Figure 17.7), you see the first empty record. To fill in the record, click on the field you want to enter (or press Tab to move to it). Then start typing. To move from one field to the next, press Enter or Tab.


You can copy information from one field to another (even on different records) by using the standard Windows keyboard shortcuts for Copy (Ctrl+C) and Paste (Ctrl+V).

If you want to create another record after you finish entering the data in the current record, click New Entry. A new blank record appears. If at some point you no longer need a record, click Delete Entry to eliminate it.


As you edit your address list, keep in mind these pointers:

Don't duplicate information included as boilerplate text in the main document. For example, don't add a comma after the city, because then you have to add a comma after every city name. Plan to include a comma in the main document immediately after the City merge field. (If you chose one of Word's mail-merge templates as your main document, this was done for you.)


You can't enter character formatting such as italic and boldface in an address list. Word disregards any character formatting that may appear in records in an underlying Word table.


Word's Undo feature isn't available from within the New Address List dialog box.

Finding Information in Records

To move quickly among records in the New Address List dialog box, you can use the View Entry Number box, which allows you to move to the First, Last, Next, or Previous record, or to select a record number (refer to Figure 17.7).

You can also search for specific information within the address list. To do so, click Find Entry. The Find Entry dialog box opens.

Type the information you want to find in the Find text box. If you want Word to search the entire database, choose All Fields; if you want Word to search only a specific field within all records, choose the field from the This Field drop-down box. Then click Find Next. Word finds the first reference. To find the next instance of the same text, click Find Next again.

Saving Your Address List Database

When you're finished creating new database entries and managing existing entries, click Close; the Save Address List dialog box opens. Enter a name for your address list in the File Name box; then browse to and select a location for your database.


By default, Word stores your database in a new My Data Sources folder created when you installed Word 2003 or Office 2003 and looks in this folder first whenever you search for a data source or database.

Filtering and Sorting Recipients

In the previous sections, you learned how to choose your data source: the file that contains the information you want to add to your main documents. After you've chosen or created that file, you need to specify exactly who will get your message. Your primary tool for doing so is the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, which opens automatically after you select a data source (see Figure 17.9).

Figure 17.9. The Mail Merge Recipients dialog box.



If you're working with a large database, you may want to enlarge the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box to show more records at once. To do so, drag the triangle at the lower-right corner of the dialog box.

The Mail Merge Recipients dialog box gives Word users more direct control over who gets their messages than ever before.

To begin with, if you want to remove one individual from your mailing, you can simply clear the check box next to his or her name.

To restore all the names whose check boxes you've cleared, click Select All.

To clear all the check boxes at once, click Clear All. You might want to do this if you're building a mailing that will go to only a few of the names on your list; you can then check those recipients' check boxes individually.

To sort all the names in your mailing list, click on the field name you want to sort by.


You can often lower the cost of a mass mailing by bundling letters going to the same ZIP Code, which is practical only if you print your letters in ZIP Code order.

To achieve even greater control over sorting and filtering, see "Advanced Filtering and Sorting," p. 597.

To filter names, click the down arrow next to a field (see Figure 17.10). Word lists all your options for filtering that field:

  • Choose (All) to display all records. (Choosing All turns off filtering based on a specific field.)

  • Choose (Blanks) to display only records containing no information in that field.

  • Choose (Nonblanks) to display only records that do contain information in that field. You may often want to use Nonblanks, to avoid creating messages that don't contain key information they need in order to be delivered. For example, there's little point in creating an email message for someone whose email address you don't have.

  • Choose a name from the list that appears, to filter out all items that do not contain that name. For example, use this feature to create a mailing that is sent only to individuals at a specific company. (Names may not appear if you are using an Excel database or Word table as your data source, or if there are too many different names for Word to list easily.)

Figure 17.10. The Mail Merge Recipients dialog box provides powerful filtering capabilities.


Using this feature, you can filter based on multiple elements. For example, if you're planning a sales trip to a specific location of a major company, you might filter records based on that company's name, displaying all records of people who work for that company. You might then filter this subset of records, displaying only individuals in the city you'll be visiting.

Advanced Filtering and Sorting

In many cases, the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box provides all the filtering and sorting power you'll need. But in some cases, you'll want even more control. To get it, click the down arrow next to any field name and choose Advanced from the drop-down box that appears. The Filter and Sort dialog box appears (see Figure 17.11).

Figure 17.11. Use the Filter Records tab to specify criteria for Word to use when selecting records to merge.



If you've used mail merge in previous versions, you may recognize this dialog box: It was previously called Query Options and is one of the few parts of mail merge that haven't changed significantly.

The Filter Records tab enables you to choose which records to print based on detailed criteria you specify. First, you tell Word the field on which you want to base your selection. Then you tell Word which comparison to make to decide whether to include a record. You can make several kinds of comparisons:

  • Equal To

  • Not Equal To

  • Less Than

  • Greater Than

  • Less Than or Equal To

  • Greater Than or Equal To

  • Is Blank

  • Is Not Blank

In most cases, you must provide a type of comparison and tell Word what it should compare the text or number with. ("Equal to what?") Here are a few examples of how filtering records works, first in English and then in Word's query language.

To create messages for all records in which the company name is AT&T, enter the following:

Field: Comparison: Compare To:
Company Equal to AT&T

To create messages for all records in which the order size is less than $1,000, enter the following:

Field: Comparison: Compare To:
Order Size Less than $1,000

To create a message for every record except those that don't have a name, enter this:

Field: Comparison:
Name Is not blank


The last example does not require you to enter anything in the Compare To box.

Using the list box at the left, which specifies And by default (but also can specify Or), you can make up to six comparisons at the same time in the same query. Here's an example that uses the And operator.

To create messages for all records in which Postal Code is greater than 11700 but less than 11999 (thereby creating only messages addressed to Long Island, New York) enter this:

 Field: Comparison: Compare To:
 Postal Code Greater than or Equal 11700
And Postal Code Less than or Equal 11999

Here's another example, this time using the Or operator. To create messages for all records in which the addressee's company is AT&T, IBM, or General Electric, enter the following:

 Field: Comparison: Compare To:
 Company Equal to AT&T
Or Company Equal to IBM
Or Company Equal to General Electric

If you tell Word to print only records that meet one condition and another condition, you almost always get fewer records than if you select records that meet one condition or the other (and you never get more records).

The order in which you use the Ands and Ors makes a difference in the records Word prints. Word performs each operation in order, and the result from one operation is used when it performs the next operation.

For instance, suppose Word sees this query:

 Field: Comparison: Compare To:
 Job Title Equal to Vice President
Or City Equal to Cincinnati
And Title Equal to Mr.

Word finds all the vice presidents in your database and adds to it everyone from Cincinnati. Having done this, Word next subtracts all the women. But swap things around a bit, and it's a different story:

 Field: Comparison: Compare To:
 Job Title Equal to Vice President
And Title Equal to Mr.
Or City Equal to Cincinnati

Word first finds all the vice presidents in the list, next excludes the women vice presidents, and then adds anyone from Cincinnati, without regard to gender.


If you create a set of filtering rules that don't seem to work properly, you can start over again by choosing Clear All.

Sorting Merged Records

You've already learned that you can perform simple sorts on any field by clicking that field name in the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box. However, you'll often need greater control. For example, you might want to sort by one field and then sort the results by another field.

To control the order in which your records print, click the down arrow next to any field name and choose Advanced from the drop-down box that appears. The Filter and Sort dialog box appears. Click the Sort Records tab (see Figure 17.12).

Figure 17.12. Controlling the order in which your records print.


In the Sort By drop-down box, you choose a field on which to base your sort. You also can choose whether to sort in ascending or descending order. Ascending sorts from 0 to 9 and then from A to Z (in other words, any entries starting with a number appear before entries starting with a letter). Descending sorts from Z to A and then from 9 to 0; in other words, letters appear before numbers.

You can sort up to three levels. Word first sorts by the field you choose in the Sort By box. Next, Word sorts by the field in your first Then By box. If you've specified another Then By field, Word then sorts by that field's contents.

In essence, Word uses the second and third fields as "tie-breakers": If it finds two or more records that meet the same criterion, it looks for the next criterion and then the third to determine which order to use. So, for example, you might sort your letters first by ZIP Code and then alphabetically by last name; all letters to the same ZIP Code would be printed together, but within each ZIP Code, the letters would be alphabetized.

When you're finished using Word's advanced filtering and sorting tools, click OK to return to the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box.

Editing Data from Any Data Source

As you work with Word's filtering and sorting tools, you may find that you need to make adjustments to your database. For example, you may need to add new records, or resolve slight inconsistencies in company names and addresses, to build a mailing that reaches exactly the people who should get it.

Earlier, in the section "Creating a New List of Names," you learned that you can create a new database and then add names to it using the New Address List dialog box. Regardless of where you got your data, you can use a similar dialog box to make adjustments to it. From the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, click Edit.


After you've selected your recipient list, you can edit it at any time. With the Mail Merge Wizard task pane open, click the left or right arrow until the Select Recipients window appears; then click Edit Recipient List.

For more information on working with the New Address List dialog box, see "Creating a New List of Names," p. 592.

Refreshing Your Data Source

If you are working with live data from an enterprise database, that data may change between the time you start building your mail merge and when you're ready to run it. To update the data your mail merge is based on, click Refresh in the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box. Word reloads your data source, displaying the most up-to-date information available.

Understanding Address Validation

If you're looking to get maximum postal discounts on your mailings, you must first validate the accuracy of your address and ZIP Code information.

Neither Word 2003 nor Office 2003 contains address validation software. However, if you click Validate in the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, Word connects you to a page on its Web site containing information about online address validation services from ThinkDirectMarketing that integrate with Microsoft Word.

By now, you've done the following:

  • Identified the document you want to use as your main document

  • Chosen a file as your data source

  • Identified the specific individuals who should receive your letter

In the following sections, you'll walk through the process of getting your document ready for mailing.

    Part I: Word Basics: Get Productive Fast
    Part II: Building Slicker Documents Faster
    Part III: The Visual Word: Making Documents Look Great
    Part IV: Industrial-Strength Document Production Techniques
    Part VI: The Corporate Word