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Hour 14. Generating a Mail Merge > Understanding Mail Merges

Understanding Mail Merges

Before you start your “training run” through the mail merge process, you need to understand the two documents that make up a mail merge:

  • Main document— This is the actual document that you are producing. It can be a form letter, e-mail message, envelope, label, or directory. The main document contains the text and formatting that stays the same for each copy of the letter, as well as merge fields, which are “placeholders” that tell Word where to insert individual pieces of information from the data source.

  • Data source— This is the file that contains the data you will merge into the main document. It is organized into records, one for each recipient. Each record is composed of individual fields for specific pieces of information, such as first name, last name, address, and so on. If you create your data source during the mail merge process, Word will save it in the Office Address List format. This format, which is actually saved as an Access (.mdb) file, is good for simple address lists that are relatively small (a few hundred addresses or fewer). Word can also use data sources in many other formats, including Access, Excel, other database programs, Word tables, text files, and more. To learn what's possible, search in Word's help system for the keywords data source mail merge and click the link “Data sources you can use for a mail merge.”


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