As I was getting my holiday cards ready to send recently, I realized again how useful mail merge was to create labels in Microsoft Word. If you are not using the mail merge feature, then you are missing out on a great tool.
In my past training classes, I have encountered many students who think it is too complicated since it involves several steps. Usually when I go through the steps with them, they realize it is much easier than it seems. One of the best ways to start out with mail merge is to create basic mailing labels. For small and large businesses, creating labels can be a big time-saver.
Start the Mail Merge
Open a blank Word document and save it to your computer. This will be your main document for the merge. Click on the Mailings tab and click the Start Mail Merge button. Choose Labels from the drop down menu. See Figure 1.
On the label options dialog box, you can choose from a large variety of labels. There are address labels, filing labels, multimedia labels, and much more. For this example, we will choose a standard size label that is available for purchase in most office stores and online. Choose the Avery 5160 label. See Figure 2.
Your Word document will look about the same but it is already set up and formatted for the labels. Turn on the show/hide characters to help you see the label edges. Click on the home tab and on the show/hide button in the paragraph group. See Figure 3.
Select the Recipients
Once you have turned on your non-printing characters in the step above, you can see your labels more clearly. You will need to choose your recipients before you can set up the labels. On the Mailings tab, click on the Select Recipients button. You can choose from your Outlook contacts, an Excel file, a database file, or even type in your own list. See Figure 4. For this example, I’ll choose an Excel file. The Excel file has a column for First Name, Last Name, Address, City, State, and Zip.
When you choose to Use an Existing List, navigate to the location of your file and choose it. If you are using an Excel file, you will need to choose the exact worksheet on the next screen. If you are using an Access or other database, you will need to choose the table you want to import.
When you have the file and worksheet selected, your first three lines of your document will now look like Figure 5.
Set Up Your Label
Next, you want to create the label itself. You will get one set up and then the rest of the labels will follow the same format. Click on the Address Block button (See Figure 6) on the Mailings tab to pick the layout of your address.
In the Insert Address dialog box, choose the name, address, and city/state/zip arrangement that you would like for your labels. See Figure 7. Note: if your field names do not match what Word mail merge is looking for, you may need to click on the Match Fields button and correctly link the fields. If you are using international addresses, you will want to check box to format the addresses according to their destination country or region.
When you are done, click the OK button. You will see the code <<address block>> in the first address label’s spot. See Figure 8.
Update and Merge
To update all of the labels to match the address block design of the first label, click the Update Label button on the Mailing tab. See Figure 9.
The labels will now look like Figure 10.
Click the Preview Results button (see Figure 11) on the Mailings tab to check your labels for accuracy before completing the merge. Note: there is a button to have Word check the merged items for errors. Do not rely completely on this feature. Review the individual labels visually, if possible.
The previewed labels will look similar to Figure 12 depending on how the layout was selected.
After you have checked the labels, you can click the Finish & Merge button on the very right of the Mailings tab. See Figure 13.
Click on Edit Individual Documents from the button’s drop down menu. This will allow you to look at the finished product before printing the labels. You can choose how many labels you want to merge (from 1 up to all of the recipients in the list). See Figure 14.
For this example, I’m going to merge all of the records. When the merge is complete, the labels will be in a new document. You will have the original document with the merge codes and then this document with the merged labels in it. Essentially you will have 3 documents: main label document, recipient data file, and merged labels document.
Enjoy trying out mail merge for all kinds of documents, labels, etc. Comment and let us know how you use mail merge.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/armydre2008/