If you've got a lot of data, a database is a
wonderful thing. But, if you don't have many contacts, using
a big database to store your address information
may be cumbersome. For quick access to your data,
try using a Word data source instead. A data source
is what Word calls the data you enter when you do
a mail merge. If you never use your contact
information outside of Word, it's easy to create,
maintain, and use a data source to store your contacts. And
because you are entering the information into
Word, the data source is ideal for merging your address
information into form letters, envelopes, labels and
address lists or catalogs. You don't need to import
any data into Word; it's already there!
Create a Data Source
To create a data source, you use Word's mail
merge helper. To get started, follow these steps:
- Create a new, blank document by
choosing File|New. Click OK to use the default template.
- Now choose Tools|Mail merge.
- Under Step 1, click the Create button and
select Catalog from the list of merge document
types. Confirm that you want to use the Active
Window for the main merge document.
- Click the Get Data button under Step 2 and
select Create Data Source (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. The Create Data Source dialog box.
Word gives you a list of items that are often in
address files: Title, First Name, Last Name, Job
Title, Company, Address, City, State, Postal Code,
etc. These items are called fields. You can accept this
list of fields or customize it to suit your needs.
You can add items that are missing from the list
by typing a field name in the Field Name box and
clicking the Add Field Name button. Note that
field names may not contain any spaces or special
symbols, such as periods or slashes. You are limited to
a maximum of thirty-one fields in a Word data
source. (If you need more fields, you must store your data
in a different format, such as a character-delimited
file, an Excel table, or a database.)
If you see an item you don't want, you can highlight it, and click the Remove Field Name button
to delete it from the list. You also can change the
order of the items in the list by highlighting the field
name and clicking the up or down arrow to the right of
the list box.
When you are done setting up the structure to store your data, click OK. Word now requires you
to save the data source. Type a name in the File
Name box and click OK.
A message appears asking you to choose whether you first want to add information to your
data source, or if you prefer to edit the main
document. To add some information to the data source,
click the Edit Data Source button.
Use the Data Form
You use Word's data form (Figure 2) to add and change information in your address list. Just type
in the information for every address (called a record
in database lingo) in the appropriate text box. If
you don't have certain contact information, you can
leave fields empty. Press Tab or click in the
appropriate box to move your cursor from field to field. Use
the scroll bar to see more fields.
Figure 2. Word's Data Form. Warning...you can't use Undo
in the Data Form. You can, however, cancel the changes
you're making in the current record by clicking the Restore
button. Clicking the Delete button deletes the currently
displayed record. Since this step cannot be undone, a warning
message is displayed.
You create new records by clicking the Add New button. To move between existing records, click
the arrow buttons at the bottom of the form. The
arrow buttons with the vertical bars jump to the first or
last record in the list; the single arrows move one
record at a time. You can go directly to any record
by double-clicking in the record number box, typing
the number of the record you want to go to, and
As soon as you have more than a few records
in your data source, locating specific addresses can
become unwieldy. The Find button is a more
efficient way to search for specific records. Clicking it
displays a dialog box that lets you search for a record
according to the information in a field.
Set up the Merge Document
Once you have information entered into your
data source, you can use it in a merge. For example,
you could print out an address list for your day
planner. To do this, switch to the main merge document
either through the Window menu, or by clicking the Mail Merge Main Document button in the
data source toolbar.
I have one of those pocket notebook day
planners, which requires a special paper size, so I
chose File|Page Setup and changed the margin settings
to work with my day planner. (Note that if your
day planner uses a smaller size, just set the paper size
to Letter and adjust your margins so you can cut
away the excess paper later.
The next step is to insert the merge fields in
the format you want to display the address
information. Click the Insert Merge Field button on the
Mail Merge Toolbar to display the list of fields. Select
the field you want to insert. Word inserts the field in
the document at the cursor position.
To save space, you may want to display the addresses in two columns, with the list running
alphabetically down the left column, and continuing in
the right column before breaking to the next page.
(Because you selected a catalog type of mail merge
in Step 1 of the setup, Word does not insert a
page break between the addresses as it would in a form
letter type of mail merge.)
At last, everything is ready. Now you can
create the address list by merging to a new
document. Choose Tools|Mail Merge and check that
New Document is selected under Merge To. Now click the Merge button. Note that you also can run
the merge directly from the main merge document by clicking the Merge to New Document button in
the mail merge toolbar.
You can keep your address list up-to-date by
opening the data source file for editing. If you want
to work through the Data Form and use the sorting
buttons, display the Database toolbar by choosing View|Toolbars and selecting it from the list.
You also can change the data at any time from within
the main merge document.
Creating a simple address list should no longer
be a secret to you—it sure beats typing or writing in
that pocket notebook by hand! As you can see, using
a Word data form is a convenient way to prepare a merge or update addresses. Once you have the
information set up, it's easy to sort it quickly by any