Microsoft Office Tip: Making Labels For Mass Mailing

Are you looking forward to sending a mass mailing? Are you worried about doing it because you don’t know how to use mail merge to create a sheet of address labels? If so, you’ve landed on the right page. Here are five steps to mail merge that will answer all your questions:

Set up the labels:

What you will be doing in this step is setting up the layout of the labels one time, for all the labels in the mail merge. In a mail merge, the document that you use to do this is called the main document where you can also set up any content that you want repeated on each label (company logo or your return address on shipping labels, for example).

If you already have a package of label sheets – you probably do – from one of the label sheet suppliers (Avery, AOne, or Formtec), you must have noticed how each sheet is a certain size and contains a certain number of labels with specific dimensions. You should match the dimensions of the labels on those sheets with the dimensions of the label main document to set it up. So here’s what you should do:

  • Start Word and go to the Mailings tab. In the Start Mail Merge group, click Start Mail Merge and click Labels.
  • You’ll see a Label Options dialog box open up where you should click the type of the printer you are using to print the labels under Printer information ; click the name of the company that made the label sheets that you are using in the Label vendors list; and click the product number that is listed on the box of label sheets in the Product number list.
  • When you are done, click OK and Word will create a document containing the sheet of labels which will be laid out in tables. If the lines separating the labels happen to be missing, you can click the Layout tab under Table Tools, and then click View Gridlines in the Table group.

In case you need to stop working on the mail merge for some time, you can save the label main document and work on it later. Don’t worry; Word retains the data source and field information so you can start where you left. To resume the merge, open the document. You’ll see a message from Word that asks you to confirm whether you want to open the document. Click Yes if you want to retrieve the data (this document is connected to a data source, by the way) and click No to prevent potentially malicious access to data. You can now click the Mailings tab and resume your work.

Connect the labels to your address list:

Your address list is a file that contains the addresses to be printed on the labels. Also called the data source, it is a file that Microsoft Word uses in the mail merge to which you must connect the labels.

For those of you without a data file, you can create one during the mail merge process. To type a new list, you should go through the following steps:

  • Go to Select Recipients in the Start Mail Merge group and click Type New List. You will see a New Address List dialog box open up where you should type the information for the first address that you want to include in your label merge. To add or remove columns, click Customize Columns, and then make the changes you want.
  • Click New Entry after you type all the information for your first record, and then type the information for the next record. Continue until you have typed information for all the records that you want to include.
  • Click OK when you are done creating the list.
  • Save the list by going to the Save Address List dialog box, typing a name for your new list, and then clicking Save.

For those who do have a data file but want to make some changes, we suggest that you have your data files ready before you begin merging since you can’t open your data source separately during the merge. Some changes can be made during the merge, though. So, here’s how you can choose a data file:

  • In the Start Mail Merge group on the Mailings tab, click Select Recipients. If you want to use your Contacts list in Microsoft Outlook, click Select from Outlook Contacts. If you want to use an existing data source file, click Use Existing List, and then locate the file in the Select Data Source dialog box.

Refine the list of recipients:

So you’ve connected to a data file but you don’t want to merge information from all the records (rows) in that data file into your labels. Now what? You should refine your list of recipients, of course. For those of you who want to merge information from the entire list, you can go to step 4. The rest of you should read on and find out how a list of recipients can be refined:

  • Go to the Start Mail Merge group on the Mailings tab and click Edit Recipient List.
  • As you get to the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, you can either select individual records by selecting the check boxes next to the recipients you want to include, and clearing the check boxes next to the recipients you want to exclude or sort records by clicking the column heading of the item that you want to sort by. The list sorts in ascending alphabetical order (from A to Z). If you want to sort the list in descending alphabetical order (Z to A), click the column heading again.

For more complex sorting, you should click Sort under Refine recipient list and choose your sorting preferences on the Sort Records tab in the Filter and Sort dialog box.

If the list contains records that you know you don’t want to see or include in the merge, you should go for filtering the records. To filter the records:

  • Click Filter under the Refine recipient list and choose the criteria that you want to use for the filter on the Filter Records tab in the Filter and Sort dialog box. If you want to refine the filter further, click And or Or to choose more criteria.

You may also add recipients to your list. Here’s how you can do it:

  • Click the name of your data file under Data source and click Edit.
  • You’ll see an Edit Data Source dialog box open up where you should click New Entry, and then type the information for that recipient and you’re done.

Add placeholders, called mail merge fields, to the labels:

Now that you’ve connected your labels to your address list, it’s time to add placeholders to the labels (The placeholders indicate where the addresses will appear on each label. You may also type text that you want repeated on each label). For that, you should go through the following steps:

  • Map the mail merge fields to your data file: You should map the mail merge fields in Word to the columns in your data file to ensure that Word can find a column in your data file that corresponds to every address element. To map the fields, first click Match Fields in the Write & Insert Fields group on the Mailings tab. When you do that, the Match Fields dialog box will open where will see the elements of an address listed on the left and Column headings from your data file listed on the right. In the list on the right, you can select the column from your data file that matches the element on the left. Your mail merge label doesn’t need to use every field, though.
  • Type the content and add placeholders or fields: Type any content that you want to appear on every label in the initial label that you set up (your label main document). If you want to add a picture, such as a logo, click Picture in the Illustrations group on the Insert tab. And then click where you want to insert the fields. You may use the Write & Insert Fields group on the Mailings tab. When you’re done taking your pick, you can add an Address Block with name, address, and other information; individual fields; or custom fields from Outlook contacts. When you are done setting up the first label the way you want it, click Update Labels in the Write & Insert Fields group. The content of the first label is replicated to all the other labels.
  • Format the merged data: You can add formatting to the merged data (which you should because when you merge information from a data file into a Word document, you are merging the raw data without the applied formatting) by selecting the mail merge field and making sure that the selection includes the chevrons (« ») that surround the field. The Home tab has the Font group using which you can apply the formatting you want. For more options, click the Font Dialog Box Launcher.

Preview, complete the merge, and print the labels:

Ah! We’ve finally arrived at the last step. But you still can’t sigh with relief because you’ve still got a lot of things to do, the first of which is previewing the merge.

  • Preview the merge: Before you actually complete the mail merge, preview your labels and make changes.

To preview, first go to the Preview Results group of the Mailings tab and click Preview Results, or page through each label by clicking the Next Record and Previous Record buttons. You may also preview a specific document by clicking Find Recipient.

  • Complete the merge and print the labels: Almost there! So, on the Mailings tab, in the Finish group, click Finish & Merge, and then click Print Documents. Choose whether to print the whole set of labels, only the label that is currently visible, or a subset of the set, which you specify by record number and…you’re done!

If you want to change labels individually, go to the Finish group on the Mailings tab and click Finish & Merge, and then click Edit Individual Documents. Choose whether the labels you want to edit. Don’t worry; Word compiles the labels that you want to edit into a single file. When you’re done editing, just go to the File tab, click Print, and click the Print button.

Now, you may sigh with relief. Phew!! But do remember to save the label main document in case you need it for another mail merge. We’re pretty sure you don’t want to go through the same process again.

On saving the label main document, you also save its connection to the data file. So, the next time you open the label main document, you will be asked to choose whether you want the information from the data file to be merged again into the label main document. Clicking Yes opens the document with the information from the first record merged in while clicking No breaks the connection between the label main document and the data file. The label main document then becomes a standard Word document where fields are replaced with the unique information from the first record.

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