Mail Merge

   Do have a need to mail the same letter (perhaps a 'Season's Greetings' letter)  to multiple addressees. Do you want to create a series of envelopes to clients or customers in your Instant Database records? Perhaps you have a collections practice and need to send the same demand letter to multiple debtors.

   That is what 'mail merge' is all about.

   Pathagoras provides an easy way to accomplish your mail merge tasks, and it can all be done with plain text. (We believe that Pathagoras is the only program on the market to offer "plain text" mail merge. It is really quite a remarkable tool. The possible 'draw back' is speed, but the time difference is only a matter of seconds, so it's mostly a non-issue. Plus, the additional time needed to set up documents with fields vs. plain text likely will make up any difference.)

   You source of names can be from one of several sources. You can use your current Instant Database records. Just make sure that the variable names in your record marry up to the variable names in your mail merge document.

   If you plan to draw names and addresses from an external data source, you must point Pathagoras to at least one external database in the External Database settings. See the Setup section of this chapter. (You can set up to three external sources from which to draw on.) As with Instant Database source, you just have to make sure that the field names in your data record match up to the variable names in your mail merge document.

   To begin a Mail Merge session, display on your editing screen the document you wish to use as the mail merge template. (The document can be an existing document that your recalled to the screen, or it can be a document that you just now assembled. So long as it has [bracketed variables] that will pair up with your data, you are ready to go.)

   Next, press <Alt-D> to bring up the Instant Database screen. Click the Power Tools button to display the Power Tools options (image below).

 

Click to enlarge.

   If you have not previously set an external database link, do so first (the button indicated by the upper arrow).

   If you have set the link, or are going to use your Instant Database records as your data source, click the Mail Merge button at the right. A screen will appear asking you confirm that the on-screen document is the proper mail merge letter.

   Say"Yes" and the following screen will appear. Click the radio button next to the source of the Mail Merge data and then press Next.

MailMerge3

   Pathagoras quickly reads the data source and presents a checklist from which you can select the record(s) you desire. You can select a single record, all records, or any number in between. Regular list selection controls (click, Ctrl-click, shift-click) will work. When you have completed you selections, click the Merge button. Pathagoras will generate one letter per selected record. The results are presented on screen for review.

  Please note the following:

   Variables in headers, footer and textboxes add processing time. If you are processing more that, let's say 30 records and you need header/footer data, you may wish to 'fake' the header/footer. Do so by changing the margins of your document and place the same text at the extreme upper or lower edges of your document. (If you have fewer than 30 records to process, don't worry about the above. It will still take longer to process, but it is only a matter of a couple of seconds. It becomes significantly noticeable when you have more than 100 records.)

   Blank fields: You have a choice about where to delete blank fields. If you do not delete blank fields keep in mind that any fields that do remain will be 'called' the same thing. This works great when the remaining field is, let's say, a court date that will be the same for all records. Just scan the resulting mail-merged result, put in the date and all [Court Date] variables will be replaced with the same value. If you need different values for any of the remaining fields, perhaps mail merge was not the correct technique.

   "Good" blank fields vs. "Bad" blank fields: What if, after the initial mail merge, you have variables such as [Court Date] (which are probably okay, since you want to assign them later) and also variables such as [Address Line 2] which are present simply because you chose not to delete empty variables in the initial mail merge?

   Actually, IDB as a post-merge editing tool works quite well for this situation. After you have run the mail merge, call up the Instant Database screen. Click scan. You will see [Court Date] (the 'good' variable) and [Address Line 2] (the 'bad' one).

   Complete the former with a date,and leave the latter blank. Make sure you check the "Delete if Blank" box at the top of the Instant Database screen.

   When you click the Next button, [Court Date] will be replaced throughout the document with the date provided, and all instances of [Address Line 2] will be removed. (The assumption here is that since the initial mail merge process did not replace [Address Line 2] with a value, that no such value exists. Running a 'regular' IDB process call against the document will remove those variables if the "Delete if Blank" selection made .)

   Calling in text from other documents: Unlike Word merges, Pathagoras can call in entire blocks of text into your merged document. It actually is a two step process, but when it runs, it is actually pretty seamless. The first step of any mail merge routine is the replacement of variables set out in a document with the values assigned to those variables in the data source for the mail merge. So typically [Client Name] with be replaced sequentially with each "Client Name" in the data (John Q. Doe, Robert R. Roe, etc.)

   But with Pathagoras Mail Merging, it is not necessary to replace variables with just names and addresses. You can replace variables with calls to whole documents and snippets that Pathagoras recognizes. (Before making the most of this feature, you should fully understand that when Pathagoras sees <<document name>> in a document, it will hunt down the named document and insert its text in place of the call. See this page of the Manual for more information.

   So, if you set the value of a field not to a name like "John Q. Doe" but rather to a 'document call' (e.g., "<<document name>>") after Pathagoras runs the mail merge, it will immediately perform any 'document calls' that remain. For example, let's say that special text is needed in a mail merge document for employees over 55. In the data source, a field that you might call "AgeText", you would insert (or if using Excel or other database program, program it to work automatically if the employee is over 55) "<<Age55 Letter>>". Be sure to compose a letter called "Age55 Letter.doc" (or .docx) and save it in a folder where Pathagoras will find it. (See Hunt Path for more info on that.) The actual flow is that as the mail merge is taking place, "<<Age55 Letter>>" is replacing [AgeText] as appropriate. At the conclusion of the merge, Pathagoras immediately begins to process the document, replacing <<Age55 Letter>> with the text of the document called "Age55 Text.doc". It's all pretty remarkable and very fast.

   Separate documents: The classic Mail Merge results in a very long document. Each individual letter is separated from the others by a page break, making it easy to print, save or delete when the need is complete. If you want to save the individual letters as separate files, insert <<Break/Field>> at the very end of the base document (so it will appear at the end of each letter; the colors are optional and for emphasis here). 'Field' would typically be the sorting field used to select your individual letters. E.g., <<break/last name>>. It is used to name the individual document. If, in this example, there are multiple records with the same last name, use either another field with a unique value that you will recognize, or concatenate 2 adjacent fields. E.g., <<break/last name+first name>>. Caveat: If concatenation is indicated, the fields must be in adjacent columns. They must also appear in the same order they appear in the database.

   <<*Repeat(merge)*. . . >> is an alternative approach to plain text mail merge. It allows 'intra-document' merging of data. Read more about merging with the 'Repeat(merge) command at this link.

 

 

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