Tuesday, April 02, 2013


Crazed merge field destruction

Often tech problems look at first like they are going to be hopelessly complex and knotted (which means they are beyond my depth), but as I get curious about them and start to pull on the nearest thread, I find they unravel easily and we have our solution. Recently Nancy sent me a note with this frustrating puzzle:
About 2 months ago I copied a merge tag off a website to help add commas and decimals to a dollar amount merge field in Word 2010. Since then, I have not been able to preview my merge documents. When I click the Preview button (which is active), nothing changes on the screen. I still see only merge fields, not real data. I have combed the Internet looking for answers, I have tried every possible combination of settings I can on Word itself, I have created new merge documents from scratch that have no relation to the copied merge field that started this, I have even reinstalled the application - all with no change. This is making me crazy as we produce a lot of merge documents in our office and I can't continue to print out sample docs as previews! When the documents print, the merged data shows up as it should. I just cannot get it to preview on the screen anymore."

I started out by trying to replicate the problem, and with a little creative searching and sleuthing, I had my "I could've had a V8 moment." There's a little-talked-about option in the Advanced tab of the Word Options dialog box, and I think Nancy's copying-the-merge-field-code adventure flipped the switch on that option so all she was getting was codes, codes, and more codes when she previewed her project.

Here's how to flip the switch back to normal setting if this ever happens toy ou. Click File, click Option, and click Advanced. Scroll down to the Show Document Content area and find the checkbox to the left of the Show Field Codes Instead of Their Values. Is it checked? If so, click it to clear that puppy, and then click OK. You may need to restart Word so the program launches the correct settings this time.

Happy, or at least reasonably painfree, merging!

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