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Planning Retirement Online

You can do IT in later life - 51

March 2005   

Getting the most from your computerYou 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.

Amazon book - Basic Computer Skills Made Simple: XP Version  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



MARCH 2005

Many of you will be using databases – these can include sophisticated tables in Access, simpler spreadsheets or even a table of information in Word. Whichever type you use, you may want to carry out a number of tasks. Here are three of the more complex problems people have with databases:

1. Using the information for a mail merge e.g. to produce labels or personalised letters..

  • Start by saving your records, whether a word processed table, Excel spreadsheet or Access database, with a recognisable name e.g. Friends Details. For non-Access data, make sure the FIRST ROW contains categories (Field names) e.g. First Name, Town, Telephone etc. so your system can find them easily.

  • Open your word processor and either start a new page or open a letter you want to re-use. Select Tools – Mail merge.

  • Set up the letter or label by selecting this option (prior to Word 2002, all letters are known as Form Letters) and choose the Active Window or Current Document as you have your new or pre-written page open on screen.

  • Find your database by “getting” or browsing for the data file i.e. Friends Details. At this point, you may even be able to filter out certain records if you only want to write to a limited number of people.

  • You will now be offered the option to edit (i.e. start writing) the letter or insert fields into your label. Each time you come to a point in the letter where you need a person’s name, address or telephone number etc., select the category from the “Insert Merge Field” list (in XP machines, click More items for this window). It will be added to the page in the format <<FirstName>> or <<Town>>. Use your space bar or Enter key as normal to put spaces or lines between all the entries.

  • To see the ‘real’ data in place, click the <<ABC>> or Preview button on the toolbar and move through the records by clicking the arrow next to the record number.

  • Finally, print out your letters or labels, or save your linked ‘Form Letter’ or label file for another day. Again, name it clearly e.g. Letter to Friends to help locate it again. It will stay linked to the database as long as both are held on your computer.

2. Transferring information across from a spreadsheet into Access. Many people start with a spreadsheet database and want to copy it into Access. Do this as follows:

  • Create a new Access file or open an existing one to which you want to add records. On the main window with the Table tab selected, click File - Get External Data – Import.

  • When the Import window opens, make sure you search for appropriate files e.g. Excel spreadsheets or CSV (text) files. When the file is visible, click it and click Import.

  • Check that the column headings (new Field names e.g. First Name, Town etc) are shown against a shaded background.

  • Select the appropriate option – to add the records to an existing table or to create a new one.

  • You will be offered the option to delete or rename some of the fields and remove or change the primary key field.

  • Finally, name any new table before finishing the importing process. The new table will now appear in the database window, ready to use as normal.

3. Copying a table from Access into a word processed document. Although you can always copy and paste, there is another option available.

  • With the table closed on the main window, find the Office Links button on the toolbar. It will probably show a blue W.

  • Click the arrow next to it to offer 3 options: to set up a new mail merge; to copy into a spreadsheet; or to copy across into a new Word document (Publish It with MS Word). If you pick this option, you will set up a rich text file in Word – simply Save As if you want your file to be a normal Word document.

  Office Links Publish  



View previous editions of YoucandoIT for more useful Questions and Answers


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

Don't forget to visit the general laterlife features section called laterlife interest


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