Suppose you have to send out lots of invitations to a party. LOTS of invitations-we're talking in the region of 40 or so here. Now, you want to use your spiffy new computer to do all this, but you can't be assed to retype all the names forty times, all the addresses forty times...nightmare.

So instead of tediously reentering things, you do a mail merge.

A mail merge is where you take mailing information and merge it into a letter, making a personalised set of letters. For example, a typical, barebones, unmerged mail merge letter would look something like this:

<<Address1>>
<<Town>>
<<County>>
<<Postcode>>

Dear <<FirstName>>
We would be delighted if you and your wife <<SpousesName>> would attend our get together at our house on Saturday 15th June. BYOB!

Yours sincerely,
Joe J. Baldwin


Now, that doesn't look like much, does it? So you would enter all the FirstName, Address1 etc data into a database (actually your word processor pretending to be a database) then do the merge. Hey presto, you get 40 letters, ready to be printed, with all of the addresses and names put in place. When this is done, instead of the mangled mess of quasi-HTML above, you would have:

1 Spiffy Way
Niceton
Bucks
FU6 2NY

Dear Jeff
We would be delighted if you and your wife Carolina would attend our get together at our house on Saturday 15th June. BYOB!

Yours sincerely,
Joe J. Baldwin


And much more in that vein. Mail merge is in most popular word processors, such as Microsoft Word (and also Publisher. I also found (after a poke in the right direction by wertperch that it is indeed possible to use Outlook as a mail merge source-see http://www.ibiztips.com/email25JUN01.htm), OpenOffice.org and KWord (in KWords case, you have to use an actual database, instead of a WP internal one). Good thing too, as a mail merge is a semi-required project in GCSE IT.

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