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Working with Data Files

It's easiest to build a data file first, so you can use the field names that you create in the form document. Field names are used to identify the merge field codes that you create to organize the data file. For example, a typical data file might contain these fields: Name, Company, Address, City, State, Zip, Phone, Fax, and E-mail. Field names are optional, though—you can use Field1, Field2, Field3, and so on, if you prefer.

The main thing to keep in mind when you're creating the data file is that more fields mean more flexibility. For example, if you have three separate fields for the city, state, and ZIP Code, you can arrange the list by ZIP Code. The same goes for the name—if you use one field for first name and one field for last name, you can arrange the records by the last name and you can break out the first name for a personalized salutation. Each field can be acted upon individually. This is how the Publisher's Clearinghouse folks make those letters seem so personal. The last letter I received had my city and county broken out and used in the letter, as well as my name, address, and state. And these letters are extremely effective!


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