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You can do IT in later life - 20

You can do IT is a regular feature of aimed at trying to help laterlife visitors make the most of Information Technology on or off the web.

Jackie Sherman who runs the You can do IT Question & Answer section is an IT trainer and author. Jackie has spent her career in education and specialises in teaching IT to adults. Her courses for adults include such topics as MS Office, the Internet, e-mail and basic web page authoring. Getting the most from your computer.jpg (5543 bytes)

Jackie has also written the two books shown here - you can find more details about these by clicking on the cover images above. Jackie has also been running a course specifically for over 50s.

Via Jackie aims to particularly help those new to IT and the web to build up knowledge and confidence, so no question is too basic. At the same time she will cover Q&As for the more experienced user. 

So if you would like to ask a question of Jackie, why not email her

or if you have discovered something which may be of interest to others in making the most of the web, then she would love to hear about that too

Q:  Everyone I speak to says that mail merge is very difficult.  I haven’t tried it yet, but can you explain it in simple terms for those of us who are not very confident with our computers.

A:  If you have ever received a letter addressed something like “Dear Mrs Jackie” you will see the effects of a mail merge that has gone wrong!  So what is it?

Well, mail merge allows you to write one letter to lots of different people and, instead of each letter starting “Dear Sir/Madam”, they can be personalised by drawing names, addresses, telephone numbers etc. from a database you set up during the process. (If you have previously created and saved a database e.g. in a spreadsheet or database application, you can use this instead.) 

There are two files that must be created and saved:  the letter/memo/invitation/demand etc. received by everyone and known as the main document, and the details of all the people on your mailing list known as the data source. Both files can be saved and stored on your computer and will be linked whenever the main document is opened. You can print out all the letters straight away or at a later date, or you can create a new, merged document e.g. to save on a floppy disk ready to take away and print from a different machine. 

(The following instructions apply to Microsoft Office Word 2000):

Step 1  Open Word and then go to Tools - Mail Merge.  Select the first option to create the main document and pick Form Letter as this covers everything except labels or envelopes.  If you now select Active Window you will simply base the document on the blank document you opened with Word.

Step 2  Before you can work on the main document, you must set up the database, so go to Step 2:  Data source - Get Data - Create Data source.  You will be offered a long list of categories (technically known as fields) likely to be used in letters, and you can keep as many as you like. To remove unwanted field names e.g. Zipcode, click it and press the Remove button. To add any e.g. Initials (no spaces or punctuation marks allowed in field names), type them in the Field Name box and click the Add button. This data source file is the structure for your database, and must be saved with a recognisable name e.g. tennis club members.

Step 3  Adding the names on your mailing list is known as editing so click the Edit Data Source button. For each person (known as a record), click in the boxes displayed as a form and type their details.  When you have finished adding all the details for the first person - record 1 -  click Add New and type in record 2. Do not click OK or you will close the form you are filling in.  (If this happens, open it again by clicking Alt + Shift + E.)  Only click OK when all your records have been completed.

Step 4  After closing the data form, you will be back in your main document with an extra toolbar showing across the top of the page. One button will be labelled Insert Merge Field and if you click it you will see a list of all the field names you have entered your mailing list details under. You can now type your letter in the normal way, but do NOT type any personal details. When you get to the point to add any (e.g. after Dear or when starting an address) click the field name showing on the Insert Merge Field list. Field names will then appear like this: 

Dear <<Title>>  <<Surname>> 

On merging your letters, this will then show the details for each record in turn e.g. Dear Mrs Jones (record 1), Dear Mr. Smith (record 2) etc. etc.

To see the merged letters, click the button labelled <<ABC>> (View merged data) and click it again to return to the view of the field names.

Step 5  There are ways to select only a few letters to print (e.g. if you want to write only to people living in Bristol, or owing more than 20,000 etc.) that you can set up using the Query option, but for a straightforward mail merge, simply click the Merge to Printer button (Alt + Shift + M) to print all the letters, or Merge to New Document (Alt + Shift + N) to save them as a new, merged file.  Note that the main document is still open if you do this.

Finally, when you close you will have 2 things to save:  the main document and the records you added to the data source file that have not yet been saved.


Jackie Sherman`s new book:

This work provides all necessary computer skills an individual may need and presents them in a straightforward and intelligent way. It demystifies computers and is ideal for those wishing to develop their skills and confidence in the subject.

View previous editions of YoucandoIT for more useful Questions and Answers

Click on a book or magazine image above or below to see full details.



For a wealth of books on the web and IT generally, visit Amazon and under the books section select Computers and Internet.

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