BUILDING A BESPOKE MAIL MERGE SYSTEM?
One of the most common requests to our software development department is to deliver a system with bespoke advanced mail merge functionality. This might be to develop a brand new solution or to develop an extension to an existing tool!
WHAT IS A MAIL MERGE?
A mail merge is an automated process used to create a batch of documents/emails which are personalised for each record/recipient. A process that would otherwise take a huge volume of time to create manually can instead be completed rapidly at the click of a few buttons.
CAN I JUST USE MICROSOFT WORD’S INBUILT MAIL MERGE FUNCTIONS?
There are of course mail merge functions built into products such as MS Word that will suit for simple mail merge processes but when the requirements become a little bit more detailed or specific, you will find you need to start quickly looking elsewhere for solutions.
Typically, the systems we deliver have a focus on creating mail merge emails with a number of mail merge attached files added to them. These automated solutions are developed using either MS Access or MS Excel (with VBA Coding elements) as the central platform for the tool. MS Word is most often utilised for the creation of the source templates to be used by the tool (These templates may go on to become the body of the email, an attached MS Word doc or an attached pdf).
OVERVIEW OF COMMON FEATURES IN MAIL MERGE SYSTEMS
- Identify records from a datasource to be part of the main mail merge (either using rules or by manual selection)
- Set the Send to address line
- Set the Cc & Bcc address lines
- Set the From account. (Send on Behalf Of etc.)
- Set the Subject line (Personalise the Subject Line)
- Select a particular Signature to use
- Create the body of the email, including personalised details
- Body of the email to match a precise format, including fonts, layouts and graphical elements (borders, logos etc.)
- Attach # number of static attachments. Example: this might include an MS Excel file of a sales report or a MS Word document containing Terms and
- Attach # number of other mail merge documents as attachments
- Personalised MS Word documents
- Document could be locked to only allow input into form fields
- Personalised PDF documents
- Personalised MS Excel reports
SAMPLE MAIL MERGE SYSTEM SCREENS
In the following sample system screen the user has selected a mail merge process that will first create the body of an email, before attaching two mail merge documents, a MS Excel file and MS Word Form. Also attached are two further static attachment files. The mail merge process will be addressed to the employee but their manager will also be cc’d in on it.
Upon clicking the ‘Start Mail Merge Process’ button, the process would cycle through each applicable record in the datasource, creating the emails and adding the attachments automatically.
Once a record is processed, details can then be recorded to a transaction history log.
On an Administration screen a list of all applicable basic Placeholder mail merge fields would be listed along with formatting instructions for those elements. More complicated mail merge features, such as embedding custom charts or tables of data in the document, would be handled separately to this method.
It is these Placeholder fields (encapsulated between the chevrons) that are then available for the user to use in the creation of the mail merge MS Word template files.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO ENQUIRE ABOUT HOW OLAS CAN DEVELOP A MAIL MERGE SOLUTION FOR YOU?
To learn how our development can help design and develop a mail merge system tailored to your exact needs, just send an email to email@example.com and we will be back in touch promptly to arrange a call.
To find out more about our Application Development teams services, click HERE
Author: Fergal O’Connor, Senior Training Consultant, Application Development Department.
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- FERGAL O’CONNORSenior Technical Consultant
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