Mail Merge It!

by Richard Spitzer
II ALive Volume 1 Number 1
March / April 1993

After writing a letter or two in AppleWorks’ Word Processor, you’ re then stuck with the problem of addressing the envelopes. It just seems inelegant to use something as archaic as a digital encoding device (also known as a pen) to do it after writing the rest of the letter on the computer. Yet the labels produced from AppleWorks’ Database aren’t really worth the effort for one or two envelopes- and they make your carefully written letter look like junk mail. The AppleWorks Mail Merge feature provides a quick way to address the actual envelope, including your return address. The same technique can be used for making large-size address labels which include the return address. Other projects, like name tags and file cards, can be created in the same way. If your printer has a friction feed feature (in other words, if it can handle paper without holes punched in it), you can print on almost anything.


Before you can write your envelope, you need a database of names and addresses. You may already have something like that setup you can probably use it with little or no modification. At first glance, typing your names into a database just so you can print them on an envelope sounds like the long way to do things. If you write a lot of letters, though, it can save you plenty of time in the long run. You don’t have to enter the names all at once; just add them as you need them. Once you’ve written one letter to a person, addressing a second letter to them is as simple as finding them in the database. You’ II have a complete list of the people you’ve been in touch with if you want to send them Christmas cards. And by adding more fields, you can create a very flexible “contacts” list.

Here are some suggestions for fields you might want to include in your address database if you’re starting a new one. (For step-by-step instructions on actually creating the database, refer to your Apple Works manual.)

  • LAST NAME- Always separate first and last names in a database. This makes it easy to sort by last name, and to print names in either normal or “Last, First” format.
  • FIRST NAME- If the person has a middle initial, you could include it here, or you could create a separate category for middle initials and names.
  • TITLE- Dr. , Mr., Mrs., or Ms. Be sure to include the period when entering data in this category.
  • POSITION- President, general manager, superintendent, etc.
  • ORGANIZATION- Company name, school district, office, etc.
  • STREET- Street address, rural route, or P.O. box number.
  • CITY- The name of the city.
  • STATE- Use the official postal service two letter state abbreviations. (The Post Office can provide you with a complete list of these abbreviations if you have trouble remembering them.)
  • ZIP-ZIP Codes. Use the “ZIP+4” code if you know it.

PHONE- This isn’t necessary for an envelope, but it might come in handy later. If the people on your list have lots of phone numbers (home, office, car, fax, pager. .. ), you could put all the numbers in this one field, or you could create additional phone number fields as necessary.

CODE- You can use this to sort your database into personal and business contacts, or for any other purpose.

NOTES- Use this field to jot down notes about the person. For example, the hours certain people are usually in their offices, or that you need to call the person before you try to fax them something, or that the person is allergic to chocolate and so shouldn’t be sent any at Christmas time, or anything else you might want to remember when contacting someone.

If you’ re using the database for personal contacts, you might want to include categories called “Spouse” and “Family” to record the names of other family members living in the same household. Similarly, if you often end up in contact with a business associate’s secretary or one of their colleagues, an “Associates” category might be a good idea. Little touches like this can allow you to seem like you remember everyone you talk to, even if you only call them twice a year. (For that matter, why not add a category that tracks the last time you contacted each person?)

After you’ve set up the categories, put together a single-record layout using OA-L. Group related categories together, and be sure to leave enough space for categories that may need to hold lengthy data. Once that’s done, you’re ready to create the envelope formats in the Word Processor.


Consider how many address formats you’ ll need. Informal letters to friends should probably use a format different from the one used for more formal business letters. Each format should be produced and stored as a separate Word Processor document.

To demonstrate the basic setup procedure, we’ ll use a #10 business envelope. These envelopes are usually 4 & 1/8″ x 9 & 1/8″ in size–check to make sure these will fit into your printer.

Before you can create the Word Processor document, you must place the database information on the clipboard so that the Word Processor will know which fields are available. Follow these steps:

  • 1 Move to the multiple-record layout (OA-Z if necessary).
  • 2 Print (OA-P).
  • 3 Select “Create a new tables format” and press Return.
  • 4 Name the report “Envelopes” and press Return.
  • 5 Print (OA-P), select “The Clipboard (for Mail Merge)” and press Return.

The message “The Mail Merge data is now on the clipboard” appears on the screen, indicating that you can now create your Word Processor document. Escape to the Main Menu and create a new Word Processing document “From Scratch.”

I named the file “RDS Legal Bus.” “RDS” indicates that the return address will contain my full legal name (Richard D. Spitzer). (If I were writing to a friend, I might leave out the “D.” or eliminate the name from the return address entirely.) “Legal” indicates that a #10 legal-sized envelope will be used. “Bus” indicates that a complete business address will be printed on the envelope.

Zoom into the file with OA-Z so you can see the printer options after you add them. Begin the document with the following printer options (OA-O):

  • MARGINS (TM, BM, LM, RM): 0.0 inches ensures that you’ll be able to print anywhere on the envelope.
  • PAUSE EACH PAGE (PE): Stops printing after each envelope. If you’re printing more than one, this gives you a chance to load them all.
  • PAPER LENGTH (PL): 4.0 inches-Use the length of the actual envelope you’re printing on.

Now enter a blank line and type the return address just the way it should be printed on the envelope. Be sure that no lines are added between the printer options and the return address. (The blank line will allow the printer’s gears to “catch” so that the first line of your return addressed isn’t “scrunched” the way it often is when you manually insert a document.) See Figure 1.

Figure 1

Below the return address, add the following options:

  • LEFT MARGIN (LM): 4.0 inches-Starts printing the mailing address 4 inches from the left edge of the envelope
  • SKIP LINES (SK): 6 lines-Starts the printing of the mailing address six lines ( 1″) below the return address.

Again, check your work with Figure 1. Now it’s time to use the Mail Merge feature to enter the category name markers for the mailing address. Without adding any blank lines, go to the Printer Options (OA-O) and type MM, for Mail Merge. A list of the categories in your database will appear on the screen. Select “Title.” When Apple Works asks you, “Omit line when all entries on line are blank?” answer Yes. FIGURE 2 (There may be times when the letter isn’t addressed to any particular individual-“Dear Sirs:”-and in those instances, the line should be left out entirely.)

After you answer Yes, you’ II return to the Printer Options. Again , type MM for Mail Merge. Now choose “First Name” and, again, answer Yes to the ensuing question. Type MM once more, choose “Last Name,” answer Yes, and then Escape the Printer Options.

Press Return to move to the next line. Press OA-O for the Printer Options once again, type MM, and choose “Position.” Again, answer Yes to the question about omitting the line if it’s blank. Sometimes the letter you’re addressing won’t be addressed to the President of a company, and if it’s not, you don’t want a blank line-you want the line gone completely. Now Escape from the Printer Options menu.

Press Return again, then OA-O once more, and type MM. Select “Organization” and, once again, answer Yes to the question that follows. Escape the Printer Options. Using a similar procedure, enter the “Address” category on the next line (again, answering Yes to the “omit this line if it’s blank category”-some organizations don’t have, or need, street addresses), then Escape the Printer Options once more. Now we’ll fill in the final line with the City, State, and Zip. Press OA-O, type MM, and select “City.” This time, answer “No” to the question. Without a city, the address is incomplete and would likely be returned by the Post Office. (Actually, the Post Office can route a piece of mail to its destination with only the ZIP Code, but it uses the city and state information to double-check the ZIP Code.) Escape the Printer Options and add a comma after the City category marker. Now go back into the Printer Options and add the markers for State and Zip, answering “No” to the “omit” question in both cases. Finally, Escape the Printer Options and compare your handiwork with Figure 1.

The format is now complete! Save the file (OA-S).

Many other formats can be quickly produced to meet your needs. The easiest way to make a new format is to load an existing Word Processor document that’s close to what you need and make any necessary changes. (Since we started with the business envelope, you can change it into a personal format by deleting a lot of the category markers!) Change the name of the file with OA-N and then hit OA-S to save the file with the new envelope format and file name.

See Figure 2 for an example of an alternate format (notice that it’s set up for smaller envelopes, of 6 & 1/2″ by 3 & 5/8″ dimensions).

Figure 2


After you’ve entered the formatting for your envelope-printing task, try printing it on scrap paper. (Or use envelopes; I suggest scrap paper only because it’s cheaper and less likely to jam while you’re still figuring out how to align the paper.)

First, disengage the tractor feed (the mechanism that pulls or pushes paper with holes punched in it) . Some printers, like the ImageWriter II, use a “push” mechanism that allows you to roll the pin-feed paper out from behind the platen while leaving it actually “parked” inside the tractor feeds. When you disengage the tractor feed, the paper just sits there, and the printer uses whatever paper you feed into it. This way, you can just re-engage the tractor feed and advance the paper back into the print mechanism when you’re done printing envelopes.

Trace the outline of an envelope on your scrap paper, then load that page into the printer, with the page face-down and the envelope outline going into the printer first. Be sure that the left side of your practice “envelope” is lined up as far to the left as your printer can print. With the power off, adjust the paper feed knob so that the top edge of the envelope lines up in the middle of the printer ribbon. (If your printer has a scored line on the paper guide that indicates where the first line of print will fall, line it up about one sixth of an inch below the top of the envelope.) Now tum on the printer.

Some printers have a “paper out” sensor located behind the platen. This keeps the printer from actually printing on the platen (which can lead to print head damage). Depending on the model of pri nter you have, this sensor might prevent you printing on envelopes properly. You can disable this sensor one of three ways:

  • 1 Some printers have a switch or a front-panel setting for this control. Check your printer manual.
  • 2 Set up a custom printer which sends appropriate printer codes to disable the sensor, if your printer supports this procedure. Again, check your printer manual.
  • 3 Fool the printer by inserting a small piece of paper between the switch and the platen. If the paper is positioned properly, it will not move through the printer, but will stay in place, making the printer think it always has paper. (If you will be printing lots of envelopes and never leave long printouts going unattended, you might do this permanently. Just be careful to never print without paper in the printer.)

Now, go to the Database file containing your addresses (OA-Q). Do a record selection (OA-R) so that only two or three records are selected. Print the database “to the clipboard” while in the multiple record format using the steps outlined previously.

Quick-change (OA-Q) to the word processor document which contains your envelope format and print (OA-P). Choose “From the beginning” and press Return. Select the desired printer and press Return. The question “Merge database items with this document?” appears. Choose “Yes.” Finally, enter the number of copies to be printed (I means to print one copy of each of the envelopes selected with the database’s record selection rules earlier).

The printer will stop after printing one “envelope.” Check the position of the recipient’s address and the return address, then load the second envelope, making any changes you think would improve the printout’s positioning. Press the Space Bar to continue printing. Repeat this procedure until all your test envelopes have been printed. If the format didn’t produce what you’re after, make any necessary changes to the Word Processor document.

Now it’s time to try a real envelope. Turn off the printer. The trick to loading an envelope successfully is to open the flap and feed it in point-first. Using a light pressure with your hand, push the print head to the center of the platen (or to where the center of the envelope will be, if your envelope is significantly narrower than a standard page). Now open the envelope’s flap and feed it into the printer so that the fold of the flap lines up with the middle of the ribbon. If the envelope isn’t aligned properly horizontally or is crooked, flip the paper release lever and slide the envelope to its correct orientation. Now print the envelope as described above. If you’ re printing multiple envelopes, remember to never turn the paper advance knob while the printer’s power is on.

With a little practice, you’ll be able to perform this loading operation in a few seconds. If you have a macro program like TimeOut UltraMacros, you can use it to automate the Apple Works end. Printing envelopes has never been easier, and I think you’ll be pleased with the results.


You can use a similar mail-merge technique for many other applications. Here are some ideas:

  • 1 Large labels of the type used on 9″ x 12″ envelopes, including both your return address and the recipient’s address on a single label.
  • 2 Name tags with a heading like ” 1993 Apple Users’ Convention” and including attendees’ titles, names, company, and city and state.
  • 3 Personalized file cards for recipes, memos, or other standardized forms.

A variety of paper colors and sizes and even pin-fed labels will spark your imagination. Don’t just print it-Mail Merge it!

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