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Mail Merge

This guide aims to show you how to use Outlook and Word for mail merges. It replaces the Mach5 product that WBS has used for the last few years but is no longer supported due to its increasing unreliabliity and lack of manufacturer support. These instructions have been tested successfully with a mail merge list of 400 recipients and may be suitable for more. It is likely not suitable however for mailing thousands of contacts. If you have this requirement Microsoft recommend you use a third-party provider that specialises in such services. If you have this requirement please discuss with eSolutions.

Please note that using Outlook / Word has certain advantanges and disadvantages over the previous solution:


  • It is pretty easy to use
  • The emails go into the sent items of the person doing the mail merge so it is easy to see to whom the messages were sent and when. Equally any non delivery messages will come back to the sender's inbox so are easy to spot.


  • The messages can only be sent from the 'primary profile' set up on the computer. In most cases people set up Outlook to check their own email account and so, by default, all messages will be sent from that account. It is possible to get around this by setting up a profile for a shared account (something like but it takes a bit of time and effort [**Helpdesk** see Mail Merge - shared account in KB]
  • It is not possible to set a different 'reply-to' address
  • It is not possible to add an attachment (usually it is easy to get around this by having the file hosted somewhere on a website and adding a link to it in the message)
  • As an anti-spam measure Microsoft limit the number of messages that any account can send in a given day although these limits have risen rapidly in recent years.


Outlook mail merge from data in Excel, using a Word template

  • In this example, you will have your email account setup in the Outlook 2010 client on your Windows computer. We will also use Word 2010 to create the mail merge, which will get recipient information (names, email addresses etc.) from an Excel 2010 spreadsheet.

Preparing your mailing list:

  • Gather your recipients’ details in an Excel spreadsheet (this is important, if you try to access your receipients' details from another source you may run into problems). You only need the information that is necessary to personalise each message. For example in this very simple pretend scenario we are going to mail out made-up usercodes and passwords to a few of members of staff.

  • It is usually straightforward to get the necessary information into Excel, for example from the MIS or Alumni system. This is a very simple example only containing a few lines of information.



Start Mail Merge.

  • Open Word, and select the Mailings tab.

  • Compose your message, or open a pre-prepared message in a Word document.

  • You can put *** where you want your mail merge to pick up information from a field in your Excel document. You will replace the *** later.


  • On the ribbon bar at the top, Click Start Mail Merge, then Email Messages. The view may change slightly so you do not see a border around your document.

  • Click Select Recipients and choose Use existing list. This is where you choose the Excel spreadsheet you have created with your recipients’ information in. You also need to select the correct table in the spreadsheet and tick ‘First row of data contains column headers’. This is to make sure the correct fields are used to populate the data.


  • If you wish you can make sure you have chosen the correct recipient details by selecting Edit Recipient List.


Insert Merge Field.

  • One at a time, highlight the *** areas and Click Insert Merge Field, then choose the appropriate field for that information.


  • From the right hand side of the top ribbon, select Finish and Merge, then Send Email Messages.

  • In the To box, select the field from the Excel spreadsheet that has the recipients’ email addresses. Enter a subject line and mail format (HTML to maintain formatting or any graphics), and that you want all records to be sent. Click OK.



  • Check your sent items in the Outlook email client to monitor the messages, maybe move them to another folder afterwards.

Known issues:

  • Although your Outlook client will act like it has sent the messages, it will actually send the emails out in batches of 30 a minute, so you must leave your Outlook client online until all messages are in the sent items, and not the outbox. Therefore a mail merge to 300 people should take about 10 minutes to complete. Due to this factor we recommend keeping to 100-150 recipients per mail merge.

  • You can not validate email addresses prior to sending without installing an address validation add-in for Word, which is not installed as standard.

  • You must have the same versions of Outlook and Word, e.g. 2013 for both.
  • You must have Outlook set as your default mail client in Windows, otherwise it will act like it has worked but Word will not communicate with Outlook and nothing will be sent.
  • If you do not use Excel to get your mailing list of recipients, and you use another program (non-Microsoft, e.g. Calc) you are likely to encounter the following Outlook warning upon the moment that each email is sent. For every single email it will ask this, you will have to wait 5 seconds, then click the Allow button.



But I used to use Mach5, why did you remove it?

Mach5 has acted as a reasonable solution for the many years since WBS purchased a licence. Unfortunately recently its use has become ever more problematic to the point where it can no longer be relied upon, in particular:

  • When we reimage a computer (i.e. wipe it clean and reinstall Windows and key applications) Mach5 no longer works. Although we have made multiple attempts to contact the supplier we have not received any response leading us to believe the company is no longer active and thus is not able to resolve issues with the latest versions of Microsoft's products.
  • Email logs are not reliably produced which prevents the sender from knowing with any certainty whether all the emails expected to have been sent have actually gone.


The default mail client must be set to Outlook for this to work, otherwise when you click send nothing will happen.

Either do this in 'Set program access and computer defaults' or in the registry at

HKLM\Software\Clients\Mail - Default to be "Microsoft Outlook" instead of "Windows Mail or Nothing".

This has been now (4th July 2014 - see AR) set by the GP called 'Default mail setting' on the BS container so the problem should no longer occur.