Outlook 2003: Email merge

I needed to let a userbase of around 300 people know their individual usernames & passwords for a new web-based system. The easiest way was to send out a bulk email using mail merge functionality. Here’s how I did it:-Some assumptions to start with:

  • You are using Outlook as the mail client.
  • You have already prepared your recipient list as an Excel worksheet with column headings (strongly recommended!) and email addresses.
  • You already have a draft of the message text you wish to send – in Word is probably most straightforward.

Now you’re ready to start:

  1. Open a new email & click into the body of the message to move the cursor.
  2. Check that you can see the option Tools>Letters & Mailings>Mail merge. If not – because it’s not a standard setting – you’ll need to click on View>Toolbars and then select the Mail merge option to activate it.
  3. Click on Tools>Letters & Mailings>Mail merge (this option will be greyed out if your cursor is still in the To/Subject fields).
  4. In the Mail Merge wizard along the right-hand side of the window, select E-mail messages & then click Next.
  5. Decide where you want your message text to come from – either current document, template or existing document & then click Next.
  6. Select where you want to get your recipients from. Click on Browse to find your file.
  7. In the pop-up window, select the name of the worksheet that you want to use (you might have more than one worksheet in your Excel workbook). Check or uncheck the First row of data contains column headers box, as appropriate, depending on whether you’ve used column headers or not (you really should..). Click OK.
  8. In the Mail merge recipients pop-up, you can choose whether to send the message to everyone on the list or filter people out by unticking the box next to their name. Click OK when you’re done. You can always go back & edit the list by clicking Edit recipient list… in the wizard window.
  9. Click Next to go to the body of the email message.
  10. Now you should see your main message text on the screen. If you want to add in some merge fields, here’s where you do it.
  11. Move to the place in your message text where you want to insert your first merge field.
  12. Click on More items.. which will bring up a pop-up containing all the header fields from your recipients worksheet (you did use headers, like I recommended, didn’t you?).
  13. Select the field name and then click Insert. You can only select one field at a time, so repeat as often as necessary. The field name(s) will now be shown in the right place in the message body.
  14. Click Next to preview the message. This is useful as you can scroll through the recipients to make sure the merge is running correctly before you send it.
  15. Click Next to complete the merge if you’re happy with it. If not, click Previous to get back to the step where you want to make a change.
  16. With your cursor in the body of the message, click on Electronic mail..
  17. In the Merge to email pop-up window, you should see the Email field in the To box. (If you don’t see this pop-up, click the cursor somewhere in the message body & try again).
  18. Insert a subject line in the Subject field.
  19. By default the Send records field is set to All. Unless you only want to send out some of your messages, there is no need to change this.
  20. Click on OK and … wait. You’ll see text at the bottom of the message telling you how many messages have been merged & sent. The messages will all show individually in your Sent Items folder in Outlook, so you have a record of exactly what’s been sent.

And that’s it.

A few other points to note:

  • You can include hyperlinks in your message, but not attachments – unless you are a VBA code whizz.
  • For this merge to work, all your versions of Outlook / Excel / Word have to be the same – ie all 2003. It doesn’t mix & match across different versions.

Applies to 2003. Not tested: 2007, 2010, Outlook Express.

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