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Q142756: WD97: How to Design and Set Up Mail Merge Data Sources

Article: Q142756
Product(s): Word 97 for Windows
Version(s): WINDOWS:97
Operating System(s): 
Keyword(s): kbdta winword word97 kbmergekbfaq
Last Modified: 14-NOV-2000

The information in this article applies to:

- Microsoft Word 97 for Windows 


This article describes the acceptable format for a mail merge data source along
with suggestions and questions you should ask yourself as you create a data

The easiest data source format to work with is a Word table; however, you can use
any database-like format such as a text file in which fields are separated by
commas or tabs, and records are separated by paragraph marks. For details on
using a Word table as the data source, see the "Organizing Data in Tables or
Paragraphs" section later in this article.

In a data source, each category of information, such as "last name," is called a
"field." The set of fields that make up information about one person is called a


How to Plan and Organize Your Data Source

Before creating a data source, decide what information you want to include and
how you want to use that information, and then design the database. In the long
run, this will save you time and work. Ask yourself the following questions as
you prepare your data source.

  Q. Will some records have more information than others?

  A. Some of your data records may have more information than other records. For
  example, some entries may have a business name, a department title, and up to
  three lines for the address. Other entries may have only a name, a one-line
  street address, and a third line with the city, state, and ZIP code. In the
  data source, however, each data record must have the same number of data
  fields. Design the data source so that it has enough data fields to
  correspond to the record with the most fields. You do not need to fill in
  every field in the data record; you can leave some fields blank. Word will
  automatically suppress blank records.

  Q. Do you plan to sort the data?

  A. If you intend to sort your data, you need to arrange it so that you can
  sort the data based on some criteria. For example, the city, state, and ZIP
  code are usually printed on the same line of a mailing label, so you might
  want to include all of this information in the same field. If you do this,
  you will not be able to sort your records based on the state or the ZIP code.
  In this case, you should separate each piece of information into a separate
  field. The same is true if you want to sort your data by the addressees' last
  names. In this case, you need to separate the last names and the first names
  into separate fields.

  Q. Do you want to use a POSTNET bar code?

  A. To speed mail delivery in the United States, you can print a POSTNET bar
  code on mailing labels and envelopes. To use the bar code, both the
  addressee's ZIP code and the delivery address (street name and number or post
  office box) must be in their own data fields, separate from all other parts
  of the address.

  Q. Will you use information in a particular field in different ways?

  A. In a form letter, the first line of the inside address usually contains a
  title and the recipient's complete name, for example, Mr. Gerard LaSalle. The
  salutation, on the other hand, may contain only the title and last name (Dear
  Mr. LaSalle) or only the first name (Dear Gerald). If you place the title,
  first name, and last name in separate fields, you can use the same field to
  print the last name in both the address and the salutation. Alternatively,
  you can use one field for the complete title and name in the inside address,
  and a second field for the title and last name in the salutation.

  Q. Will you use the data source for several merge documents?

  A. You can merge a single data source with any type and number of main
  documents. In setting up a data source for printing form letters, plan the
  addressee information so that you can use the same data source to print the
  addresses on mailing labels or envelopes.

  Q. How many fields (pieces of information) will you have for each record (the
  collection of the pieces of information)?

  A. If you have a few pieces of information for each record, you can use the
  Mail Merge Helper (Tools menu) in Word. In Word 97 for Windows, there is a
  limitation of 63 fields in the Mail Merge Helper. If your number of fields
  will exceed this value, then you should not use the Mail Merge Helper.
  Instead, create the data source as a tab- or comma-delimited text file, in a
  Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, or in a Microsoft Access database.

For additional information, please see the following article in the Microsoft
Knowledge Base:

  Q96243 Print Merge Data Document Can Contain More Than 2000 Fields

Organizing Data in Tables or Paragraphs

When you create a data source through the Mail Merge Helper, Word sets up the
data source in a table. The table contains a column for each field name you
specify in the Create Data Source dialog box. The first row of the table is your
header row; each subsequent row contains the information for one data record.

Although text might wrap in each cell, it will be printed correctly. If you use
an existing data source or set up the data source in Word without using the Mail
Merge Helper, you need to organize the data as follows:

1. Unless you use a separate header source, make sure that the header record is
  the first record (row of cells) in the data source. Make sure that there are
  no spaces, text, or blank lines before the header record. The header record
  can not contain any spaces. Each header field is limited to 40 characters and
  must start with a letter. Each subsequent character must be a letter, a
  number, or the underscore character. All header fields must be filled in.

2. Make sure that each data record has the same number of data fields as there
  are field names in the header record. If a record doesn't have information
  for a certain field, leave the cell for that field blank.

3. Arrange information in the data records in the same order, left to right, as
  the corresponding field names in the header record. The order of your columns
  in the data source is not important because you will control the placement of
  your data in the mail merge main document.

Designing a Data Source That Contains Many Fields

The Mail Merge Helper creates a table for the datafile. In Microsoft Word 97 for
Windows the maximum number of fields (table columns) is 63. If you need more
data fields in your data source, Word cannot organize the data in a table.
Instead, you can set up your information as separate paragraphs in a Word
document. The header record and each data record must end with a paragraph mark,
which is the data record delimiter. Each field name in the header record and
each field in the data record must be separated by a tab character or comma,
which is the data field delimiter. If any of the data fields are empty, you will
need to include a field delimiter to identify the empty field.

If you are using a data source from a database or spreadsheet program, you can
either export this data to an ASCII text format, separated by commas or tabs, or
you may be able to attach the database using ODBC, DDE, or a converter. If you
export your data to an ASCII format and Word doesn't automatically recognize the
field and record delimiters, Word prompts you to select the delimiters when you
first use the data source. When you set up a data source in this format in Word,
you should use a paragraph mark as the data record delimiter and a tab character
or comma as the data field delimiter.

In addition to the general rules for organizing a data source, the following
rules also apply to data sources set up as regular text:

1. Press ENTER to end each data record with a paragraph mark. Make sure that
  there are no extra paragraph marks between or following the data records.
  Word interprets any empty paragraphs (blank lines) as empty records.

2. Use the same field delimiter in both the header record and the data record.
  For example, you cannot use tab characters in the header record and commas in
  the data records. Because text in data fields may include commas, its better
  to use tab characters.

3. If a data record does not include information for a specific data field,
  insert two tab characters or two commas to indicate the empty field. Do not
  insert a second field delimiter if the data field is the last one in the data

4. Enclose the data field in quotation marks if the data field contains any one
  of the following characters:

   - A tab character or comma, if you are using that same character to separate
     the fields.
   - A line break or a paragraph mark.
   - A character you specified as the list separator character in the
     International section of Control Panel.

5. If information in a data field contains quotation marks (" "), type the
  characters twice ("" ""). When information from the data field is merged,
  only one pair of quotation marks will be printed.

Deciding When to Use a Separate Header Source

In most cases, it's convenient to list the field name for each data field in the
first row, or record, of the data source. However, you may want to list the
field names in a separate header source for the following reasons:

- You can use the same header row and field names to merge data from various
  sources without having to repeat or change the header row in each data source
  or change the merge field names in the main document.

- Sometimes a data source from another program does not include a header
  record, or field names in the header record do not match the merge field
  names in your main document. If you cannot modify or add a header record in
  the data source, for example, because the data source is read-only, you can
  use a separate header source that contains the field names you specify.

If you use a separate header source, you must specify both the header source and
the data source before you can merge the main document with the data source.

Designing a Header Source

When you specify a header source, keep the following rules in mind:

1. The header source must contain the same number of field names as there are
  data fields in the data source.

2. Field names in the header source must be listed in the same order as the
  corresponding information in the data source.

3. Use the same field delimiter (either a tab character or a comma) for both the
  header source and the data source.

4. If your main document already contains merge fields, use the same merge
  fields in your header source. If you don't, then you will need to replace the
  merge fields in the main document to match the field names in the header
  source. Once you specify a header source, you can edit it just as you do the
  data source.

Using a Header Record from Another Data Source

If you have a data source that contains a header record, you can use it as a
header source. For example, if you've broken up your data source into several
documents, you can specify the field names in the header record of the first
data source. When you merge from other data sources that don't have a header
record, specify the first data source as the header source. Then, specify each
of the remaining data sources in turn.

Word ignores the data records from the first data source and uses only the header

Types of Data You Can Use with Mail Merge

You can merge virtually any type of information from a mail merge data source,

- Any text or numbers.

- Graphics for which you have a graphics filter installed. For a list of
  graphics filters that come with Word, see Importing and Creating Graphics in
  the "Microsoft Word User's Guide." For information about how to install
  graphics filters and file converters, see Installing and Starting Word in
  "Microsoft Word Quick Results."

- If the graphics are contained in a data source from a program other than
  Word, you must convert the file by using a file format converter.

- Objects created in programs that support object linking and embedding (OLE),
  such as Equation Editor.

- Word fields that display a result, such as an {=} (Formula) field.

To add information other than text or numbers to a data source you created in
Word, you must display the data source in a document window. To do this, click
the View Source button in the Data Form dialog box. You can also use the Open
command on the File menu to open a Word data source. Then, insert the
information in the appropriate column and row of the data source table.

Types of Data You Cannot Use

You cannot merge text or graphics contained in a frame in the data source.
However, you can position merge fields inside frames. When you merge the
documents, the text and graphics from the data source are positioned in the

Additional query words:

Keywords          : kbdta winword word97 kbmerge kbfaq
Technology        : kbWordSearch kbWord97 kbWord97Search kbZNotKeyword2
Version           : WINDOWS:97
Issue type        : kbhowto



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