Monday, April 02, 2012


Too many labels!

I get a number of messages--for good reason!--about problems with Word's mail merge process. Even though the whole task has been simplified a bit through the years, it does still require some outside-the-box, non-traditional-document thinking. For one thing, you have to choose the type of merge project you want to create. And then you have to attach a data source (or enter the information you want to use in the merge). Then you have to arrange all the fields on the page so you get the effect you want, whether you're creating labels, or letters, or catalogs. Then, after you preview the project to make sure your data shows up in the right place, you need to choose the type of output you want--print, email, or something else?

Choose Rules in the Mailing tab
and select Next Record
One simple fix that causes a lot of consternation involves a field code you insert to tell Word to insert the data for the next record. This is the action that determines whether you get a whole page full of labels or you print one label on each page. And if you've ever gotten waaaay too many labels (as I have) or spent waaaaay too much on labels that you ultimately waste (as I have), this little field code can save you a big amount of frustration.

So the process is this. Set up your merge as you would have it be, choosing labels as the merge type (for a big label merge print job, choose Start Mail Merge in the Mailings tab and click Labels). Add your data list by using Select Recipients. Then, when you go to position the label fields on the page, add the fields you want to include, and then click Rules. Choose Next Record. This tells Word the information is complete for that label and you want to move on to the next.

When you preview your merge, by clicking Preview Results, you should see a whole variety of different labels on that first sheet--no more wasted labels or unwanted repetition. Life is good. :)

One fun thing if you want to get fancy with it is to create a conditional merge print, which prints the next label that meets a certain specification. For example, if you want to send reminders to your students who signed up for a spring seminar, you can use Next Record have Word find the records that have the data in the field you're looking for. It's worth playing with, especially if you love being smart about label use. (Your trees thank you.)

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