Whatever happened to …

… mail merge?

Last week’s post had me thinking a great deal about Filemaker Pro and the uses that I had for it.

I’ll attribute this to my background as a Business education teacher where the topic is certainly on the curriculum.

But there was one use that I think worked out so well. Don’t hate me but it goes back to the days when I would send a lot of paper out to schools and to the Computer Contacts therein. Everyone pays just a little more attention when a covering letter comes personalized to them as opposed to the “Dear Occupant” ones.

In our department, there were four secretaries shared among the group of thirteen consultants. Doing personalized letters was a big deal and I recall one day when the four of them were off to learn about “advanced word processing” skills. Three of the four were new to the world of Windows and so working with Microsoft Office was a big challenge. Up until this time, they had been using typewriters and ClarisWorks to get the job done!

One of the “advanced” topics was about how to do a mail merge where one letter could be personalized, at least in the salutation, to make things look good. As I recall, the instructor wasn’t an educator (go educators) and so the “training” was all about do this, then do that, then do this, and voila. Of course, the concept never stuck.

Now, being on my own for that day, there was a mailing that I needed to get out and I wanted it personalized. I already had mailing labels created in Filemaker Pro and so doing the cover letter was a piece of cake – create a new document and bring in the desired fields. Then, send all 70 or so of them to a printer and that was it.

The next day, my secretary returned and was into my office to complain about the training and I still had the letters sitting on my printer. It caught her attention…

How’d you do that?

So, I showed her. She had a wonderfully analytic mind and noted that it was so much more convenient and made so much more sense than the hoops that they had gone through at their “training”. She went back to her desk and the rest is history; she became the district master of Filemaker Pro. Remember the old adage “When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like nails?”. She came up with solutions in Filemaker Pro to problems that people never knew they had!

These days, of course, the only mass mailing letters that we get seem to be those in the mail soliciting money. The rest of the mailings come electronic. People have turned to services like MailChimp or any of the functionality that exists online with email clients.

So, for a Sunday, your thoughts please…

  • Have you ever done a mail merge? If so, with what tool?
  • Before computers, how did mass mailings happen?
  • Have you ever used a system like MailChimp to do personalize mass mailings? Which ones? Any successes / failures to report?
  • Do you use the mail merging feature in your GSuite or Office 365 instance?
  • Let’s get a bit philosophical here – is mail merging a wordprocessing or a database function?
  • Our English language has expanded with the technology – open rate, bounce rate, mail receipts, … Do you use these terms regularly? Any others?

I’d be most interested in your thoughts.

This is part of a regular Sunday feature here at doug — off the record. You can read all the past issues here.

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If you read it anywhere else, it’s not original.


6 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. Well that brought back the memories! Before I became a teacher one of the jobs I had was project manager for a landfill site search project. We certainly had the need to do a lot of mass mailings! I got really good at it, using word perfect when you still had to use the keyboard commands. I am ashamed to admit I cannot for the life of me figure out how to easily do a mail merge in office 365! But as with many kinds of technology, there is more than one way to do something. So I make a lot of use of the existing system level groups with in our email system. Sometimes I make up my own groups for projects that will last over the course of the school year… As well, using office 365 Forms, you can export the responses to Excel and then copy the field that includes the email addresses and then paste that into your email. This may all sound very creative, but this is how lazy people like me cope:) Looking WAY back, I worked for a variety of arts organizations, and we had to do a lot of publicity, marketing, and fundraising mailings. We would photocopy the main body of the letter onto our letterhead, and then manually type in the address and salutation to the recipient. Wow that sure was fun 🙂 I would say mailmerging is definitely a database function not a wordprocessing function. I sure do not miss the good all days!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m humbled with your experience, Anne. As I sit here after reading your comment, I don’t ever recall doing a mail merge with WordPerfect. Wow.


    1. I had to periodically do mailmerges in WP but my first experience with mail merge was I think with Wordstar!!!!


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