Start a merge from Outlook using a filtered contact list

If you want to send a personal letter to a number of people, start your merger in Microsoft Outlook instead of Word – it saves you a lot of work.

Image: Bob McCarroll, Getty Images / iStockphoto

If you send a Microsoft Outlook message to many people at the same time, there are some inherent problems. If you use the TO or CC fields, the recipients are not private, so recipients can see each other. If you use the BCC field, the results are impersonal and are often marked as spam by software.

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You can consider merging from Word by importing a contact list into Word – this combines Outlook and Word to send individual emails to each contact in your imported list. However, it is rare for you to send a message to anyone in your contact list, and filtering the contact list in Word is difficult.

I will show you how you can start merging from Outlook, where you can filter contacts before Word sends the individual messages via e-mail. The result is a personal e-mail that is sent individually to multiple contacts with minimal effort – you get everything!

I use Office 365 (desktop) on a Windows 10 64-bit system, but this solution works in older versions. This solution is not suitable for the web versions. There is no demonstration file because you do not need one.

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How to get contacts

You need contacts to merge, so that’s where we start. Click People (also known as Contacts) to open the Contact view. To select contacts, hold down the Shift key while clicking on contacts or press Ctrl + A to select them all. Or enter a search string as shown Figure A. If you do this, you must select the contacts that you want to merge from the results before continuing. Once your contacts have been selected, you are ready to start the merge.

Figure A

While practicing, make sure you select yourself or a few people who don’t mind receiving your email if you actually want to send it. You do not want to annoy contacts by sending a test message.

How to merge

You are ready to start the merge by setting a number of merge options and creating the message.

  1. Click the Start tab, and then click Mail Merge in the Actions group.

  2. The resulting dialog offers a number of options that usually speak for themselves. Figure B shows the options for our merger. I chose E-mail from the Merge drop-down list and enter the subject text.

  3. Click OK to start Word. Enter the text of your e-mail message in Word (Figure C). You can further adjust the merger, but we are not going to do that now.

  4. Once your message is complete, click Finish and Merge in the Finish group (still in Word). I recommend that you choose Edit Individual Documents from the drop-down list before sending the message so that you can view it and edit it if necessary.

  5. Click on everything. As you can see in Figure DWord has made two ‘messages’. There are actually two documents now: the original merge document and the results of the merge (not yet recorded). If the results were personalized, you would see the differences in the example. You must close the sample document and return to the original merge document to continue. If you notice it, the message contains a grammatical error. Therefore, you must preview the results before sending them. (We will not fix it now.)

  6. After you return to the merge document, click Finish and Merge again and select Send Emails.

  7. Click OK and Allow when prompted.

The message that you have typed in Word is sent via Outlook e-mail to the previously selected contacts.

Figure B

Set the merge options.

Figure C

Enter the e-mail message.

Figure D

You can preview the messages (as documents) before sending them.

This is a simple example, but many users do not know that they can send a more personal and private message to many people using simple filtering techniques without having to do much effort. Stay tuned for a follow-up article that shows you are using a more advanced method to select recipients.

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