In this tutorial, we'll have an in-depth look at how to mail merge in Outlook 365, Outlook 2021, Outlook 2019, Outlook 2016 and earlier.
Whenever you need to send personalized emails to multiple recipients, mail merge is a real time-saver. It works great for sending out business updates, season's greetings, and the like, so that every recipient gets a personal email with their own information, without knowing who else this message has been sent to.
There are a few ways to do a mail merge in Outlook, and we are going to look closely at each method.
Mail merge is a process of creating mass emails tailored for each recipient by taking data from a database, spreadsheet, or other structured file.
Basically, you prepare your message template putting placeholders where appropriate, and a mail merge pulls the recipient's details (such as a name, email address, etc.) from a source file and inserts them into an email in the place of the placeholders.
Eventually, everyone's happy - recipients feel unique and valued getting an individual message addressing their specific concerns, and you enjoy an improved engagement rate ;)
If all the people you want to address are already in your Outlook Contacts folder, you can perform a mail merge directly from Outlook. For convenience, we'll break down the whole process into 6 meaningful steps.
First off, you need to choose which of your contacts to send an email to. For this, switch to your Outlook Contacts (the CTRL + 3 shortcut will take you there right away), select the desired folder on the left pane, and then pick the people of interest.
The screenshot below shows Outlook contacts grouped by category, with the Business category contacts selected:
With the contacts selected, go to the Home tab > Actions group, and click the Mail Merge button.
In the Mail Merge Contacts dialog box, select the options that work best for you.
Under Contacts, choose one of the following:
Under Fields to merge, select either:
Under Document file, select either:
Under Contact data file, select the Permanent file check box if you wish to save the selected contacts and fields for future use. The comma-delimited data will be saved in a Word document (*.doc).
Configure Merge options in this way:
Here are the settings for our sample mail merge:
Note. If you've selected the Contact fields in current view option, make sure all the fields intended for the merge (including the Email field!) are displayed in the current view.
When done, click OK. This will open the mail merge document in Word.
Normally, the document opens in Word with the Mailings tab selected, ready for you to choose the merge fields. You can think of them as kind of placeholders that will tell Word where to insert personal details.
To add a merge field to the document, use one of these buttons in the Write & Insert Fields group:
As all good communication starts with a greeting, this is what you need to add in the first place. So, click the Greeting Line button on the ribbon and select the desired greeting format for your email. Additionally, specify what greeting to use when no information is found for a particular recipient.
Click OK, and you'll have the «GreetingLine» placeholder inserted in the document.
After the greeting line, press Enter to start a new line in your document and type the text of your message. Remember to add a signature at the end, as your default Outlook signature won't be inserted.
To include other personal details in a message, insert the corresponding merge fields where appropriate. Here's how:
As an example, we are adding a mobile phone:
When all done, your finalized document may look something like this:
Tip. If some important fields are missing in the Insert Merge Field dialog box, though you are pretty sure you set up the contacts right in Outlook, try exporting your Outlook contacts to Excel first, and then use an Excel sheet as data source. Regrettably, you never know exactly what is going on inside of Outlook :(
Before sending out your personalized mailings, it's a good idea to preview the results to make sure the content of each email is okay. To have it done, click the Preview Results button on the Mailings tab, and then use the arrow buttons to view all the emails.
Just a couple more clicks, and your mailings will be on their way.
Clicking OK sends email to the Outbox folder. The sending will be performed based on your current settings: immediately when connected or every N minutes.
Tip. If you are looking for Outlook Mail Merge with attachment, then try out the Shared Email Templates tool that includes this and many other useful features.
In situation when you already have the text of your email written in Word, you can start a mail merge process from there. The final result will be exactly the same as when started from Outlook.
In Word, a mail merge can be done in two ways: by using the Mail Merge Wizard or the equivalent options on the ribbon. If you perform the merge for the first time, the wizard's guidance may come in handy, so we are going to use it.
Note. To be able to use Outlook contacts for mail merge from within Word, Outlook should be set as your default email program.
Click OK to run the mail merge.
In case the information for the mail merge is stored outside of Outlook, you can use an Excel worksheet or Access database as a data source when doing a mail merge in Word. The steps will be exactly the same as in the above example. The only difference is step 4 of the Mail Merge Wizard, where you select the Use an existing list option, and then browse for your Excel file.
For this example, the following Excel sheet is used:
In the result, you get this personalized message:
If you feel like you need more detailed instructions, please check out this end-to-end tutorial: How to mail merge from Excel to Word.
If you are looking for a way to send custom-tailored bulk email campaigns from your personal Outlook mailbox, then you will surely appreciate the brand-new Mail Merge feature included with our Shared Email Templates. How does it differ from Outlook's one? Here are the key points:
They say a look is better than a thousand words, so let's see it in action :)
Your distribution list is an Excel table that contains the recipients' email addresses and personal data for merge fields.
Here's an Excel table that we are going to use for this example:
To create a mail merge template, this is what you need to do:
Tip. When copying from another source, use the Ctrl + Shift + V shortcut to paste text without formatting.
Email personalization is done with the help of the ~%MergeField macro. In our online docs, you can find the detailed instructions on how to use it. Here, I will just show you the result:
As you see, we have inserted two merge fields: First name and Link. The first one is obvious - it pulls the information from the First name column to address each contact by name. The other one is a lot more interesting - it creates an individual link for each recipient based on a webpage address in the Link column. Because we want not just to insert a contact-specific url, but make it a beautiful hyperlink, we switch to the HTML viewer and place the macro inside the href attribute like this:
<a href="~%MergeField[Link]">subscription plan</a>
Tip. To add attachment to your mail merge, use one of the ~%Attach macros. The complete list of available macros is here.
Setting up a mail merge campaign is a piece of cake - you simply put all the pieces together:
That's it! When your personalized mass mailings go off, you can be absolutely confident that each email will look good in whatever email client app the recipient opens it (of course, if you've used our adaptive layouts).
In Outlook itself, there is no limit to a maximum number of recipients. However, such limits exist in Office 365 and Outlook.com.
For more details, see Microsoft 365 receiving and sending limits.
For free accounts, limitations vary depending on usage history.
For Microsoft 365 subscribers, the restrictions are:
For more details, please see Sending limits in Outlook.com.
Additionally, limits to the number of outgoing messages are set by Internet and email service providers to reduce spam and prevent the overloading of email servers. So, before doing a mail merge, be sure check with your mail admin or Internet service provider how many emails you are allowed to send per day and within an hour. Generally, you are unlikely to run into any issues as long as you stay under 500 messages per day.
That's how to mail merge in Outlook. I thank you for reading and look forward to seeing you on our blog next week!
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