Mail Merge is a powerful tool that is included in most new word processing applications. When understood and used effectively it can cut down the time taken to do bulk tasks, like sending letters to customers, exponentially. This section of the help is not just limited to exports from Invoice either, if you take the time to read and experiment with what's said on this page you can set up Mail Merge with other applications increasing productivity even more. To make things easier read the instructions entirely before following them step by step.

Mail Merge is a 6 step process:

  1. Create a data file.
  2. Connect the file to a document.
  3. Write the document you want to bulk send.
  4. Insert 'place holders' in the document that correspond to parts of the data file.
  5. Select which entries in the data file are to fill the 'place holders'.
  6. Merge the data file and the document
If some (or all) of that doesn't make sense now don't worry, everything is detailed step by step below using Invoice and Microsoft Office Word 2007 and Invoice and Open Office 2.2 Writer as examples. Just keep in mind as you are reading that any program that advertises a mail merge feature will need to have ways of doing the above steps, all you have to do is figure out which buttons to press to do them (and if it's not immediately obvious then you may want to consider using another program!).

Step 1: Create a data file

The point of this step is to create a file that is able to be 'understood' by whatever program is doing the merge. Nearly all programs that can mail merge (including Microsoft Word and Open Office Writer) are able to 'understand' a file type called 'CSV' so when we want to create a data file from within Invoice, Invoice automatically 'exports' the file as 'CSV'. There are two different possibilities for CSV files within Invoice:

In our example we'll export the customer details to a CSV file. Follow similar steps to those found below to export a Report, just select 'Save as CSV' from the file menu of the report screen.
  1. Go to view then select Customers from the main menu (or you could press Ctrl+C)
  2. Select the customers who you wish to export the data from (hold down Ctrl and click to select multiple customers)
  3. Go to Customer in the menu and select Export Data for Mail Merge
  4. Navigate to the folder you want the file to be in and type a name for the file, then click Save. Make sure you remember or write down where you have saved the file as you'll need to know this later.
  5. A box should pop up saying whether the export has been successful or not. Read it and click OK.
Congratulations! You've just exported the file, which now contains all the following data for the customers you selected:

Step 2: Connect the file to a document

This step connects the data file and the document together ready to be 'merged'. Instructions on how to do this for Microsoft Office Word 2007 and Open Office 2.2 Writer are below.

Microsoft Office Word 2007

  1. Start Word.
  2. Click on the tab at the top of window that says 'Mailings'.
  3. Click 'Select Recipients' in the Mailing tab, then scroll down and select 'Use Existing List...'
  4. Navigate to the folder where you exported the CSV file, select it and click Open.

Open Office 2.2 Writer

  1. Start Writer.
  2. Go to File then New then select Spreadsheet.
  3. In the spreadsheet window open the CSV file.
  4. Go to File then Save As, from the drop down box select the dBASE format and click Save.
  5. Close the Spreadsheet program.
  6. Back in Writer go to File then New then select Database.
  7. In the box that pops up select 'Connect to an existing database' then from the drop down menu select dBASE and click Next.
  8. Click on Browse and find the folder where you saved the dBASE file in the Spreadsheet program. Select it and click OK then click Next.
  9. Make sure that 'Yes, register the database for me' is selected and both of the checkboxes are NOT selected. Click Finish and save this file where you saved the dBASE file.
  10. Finally go to View and click 'Data Sources' if your file isn't there then right click on the left window go to 'Registered databases...' select your file and click ok.

Step 3: Write the document

This is pretty self explanatory. The only difference is that whenever you want to write something that would be contained in the data file you just connected, leave a space. If you feel confident, you can combine this step with next one inserting place holders as you go to save you having to come back later.

Tip: Make sure you put spaces where they are needed around the place holders, they're not put in for you e.g. Dear < < Customer_Name> > , merges to -> Dear Bob, where as Dear< < Customer_Name> > , merges to -> DearBob,

Step 4: Insert place holders

This step is to tell the program where to put different parts of the data file. To do this you insert place holders in the place of where you would normally manually type the data. When you eventually merge, these place holders will be replaced with data from the data file.

Microsoft Office Word 2007

  1. Click the part of the document where you want to insert the place holder.
  2. Click 'Insert Merge Field' in the Mailing tab, then scroll down and select the place holder you want to insert.

Open Office 2.2 Writer

  1. Click the plus next to your database in the view data source window.
  2. Click the plus next to the Tables icon.
  3. Double click on the table that is listed.
  4. In the window to the right you should see all the data contained in the file organized into columns. Click and drag the column names into the document where you want the place holders.

Step 5: Select parts of the data file

Microsoft Office Word 2007

  1. Click 'Edit Recipient List' in the Mailing tab.
  2. Check or uncheck the appropriate boxes that correspond to the data you want to insert.

Open Office 2.2 Writer

  1. Click the 'Mail Merge' button from the data sources toolbar.
  2. Go to Step 6, you can click the left and right arrows to preview what the finished document will look like, if there is a particular part of the file you don't want included then preview it and check the box 'Exclude this recipient'.

Step 6: Merge

Microsoft Office Word 2007

  1. Click 'Finish & Merge' in the Mailing tab, scroll down and select 'Edit Individual Documents...'
  2. Select 'All' and click OK
  3. A new document will pop up with all the merging taken care of! Make sure you save, print, email or do whatever you wanted to do with the document before closing it.

Open Office 2.2 Writer

  1. Still in the mail merge wizard having completed Step 6 go to Step 8.
  2. This will open the merged document, from here you are presented with several options. Each is pretty self explanatory.