Word annoyance: Mail merge fieldsJune 7, 2009
I had to design a ‘request for funding’ document for a government client who had hundreds to send out, each with customer-specific data that had to be incorporated, such as amounts for various programs etc. The most logical and effective way to create these documents was to create a single document and use mail merge fields to insert the data from a data source (in this case an Excel file). Everything worked really well — I was pleased, and the client was pleased.
What I wasn’t pleased about was the tedium associated with inserting more than a few mail merge fields. This document had at least 100, and every one had to be inserted by clicking on the icon, selecting the field from a long list, clicking Insert, then repeating those steps FOR EACH ONE.
Unlike the Cross-reference dialog box, you can’t leave the mail merge field dialog open and continue selecting and inserting fields. No, you have to close the dialog and then re-open it. For every single field.
And just like the Cross-reference dialog in Word 2003 , you can’t resize this dialog box, so there’s an awful lot of scrolling if you have a lot of fields — as you can see from the screen shot below, you see 15 fields at a time. If you look at the scroll bar, you can get a sense of how many fields were in this document!
I couldn’t find a way to simplify the process, like typing in the field details instead of click, scroll, select, click , repeat… If anyone knows how to add mail merge fields using the keyboard, let me know!
Part of this pain has been eliminated in Word 2007 — instead of a dialog box, when you click Insert Mail Merge Field from the ribbon, you get a drop-down menu of all fields. You still have a lot of scrolling to do for a long list, but you don’t have to click Insert for each one — just select it and that’s it.