This feature is usually employed in a word processing document which contains fixed text (which is the same in each output document) and variables (which act as placeholders that are replaced by text from the data source).
Mail merge dates back to early word processors on personal computers. WordStar was perhaps the earliest to provide this, originally via an ancillary program called Mail merge. WordPerfect also offered this capacity for CP/M and MS-DOS systems; Microsoft Word added it later on, as did Multimate.
Going beyond words, in 2018 the New York Times detailed a further instance of "mass customization" - personalized videos.
The data source is typically a spreadsheet or a database which has a field or column for each variable in the template. When the mail merge process is run, the word processing system creates an output document for each row in the database, using the fixed text exactly as it appears.
The mail merging process generally requires the following steps:
- Creating a Main Document or and the Template.
- Creating a Data Source.
- Defining the Merge Fields in the main document.
- Merging the Data with the main document.
A common usage is for creating "personalized" letters, where a template is created, with a field for "Given Name", for example. The templated letter says "Dear <Given Name>", and when executed, the mail merge creates a letter for each record in the database, so it appears the letter is more personal. It is often used for variable data printing. It can also be used to create address labels from a customer relationship management database, or for mass emails with pertinent information in them, perhaps a username and password.
- "Cambridge Dictionary Online". Retrieved 14 May 2016.
- "Frequently asked questions about the mail merge feature in Word".
the result is that each row (or record) in the data source ... listed in a spreadsheet ...
- "Mail Merge". iSchool.uTexas.edu (Tutorials).
- "WordStar Training Guide" (PDF). BitSavers.org.
M Run Mail Merge. S Run SpellStar
- "Software Spotlight: WordStar". WinWorld PC.
wordStar was the first microcomputer word processor to offer mail merge
- "I Love WordPerfect Contest".
I was introduced to Wordperfect DOS when I bought my first computer in college. ... I have watched WordPerfect evolve from the ancient MS-DOS ...
- "WordStar MailMerge". Retrieved 20 May 2016.
- "Early" magazine articles about Multimate's Mail Merge were largely 1988-1990"
- "dBase, MultiMate: Mailmerge". PC Magazine. February 29, 1988. p. 222.
... a must for dBASE users who need to mailmerge ... MultiMate Advantage II's mail-merge capabilities work nicely with dBASE.
- "Multimate Mail Merge". InfoWorld. January 23, 1989.
- "MultiMate V4.0". InfoWorld. January 29, 1990. p. 112.
Multimate, Version 4.0 This significant upgrade ... a strong performer when producing office correspondence and mail merge
- "Mailmerge using Windows 3.0". PC Magazine. February 25, 1992.
Requires: 2MB RAM, DOS 3.1 or later, Microsoft Windows 3.0. ... Unlike the programmable mail-merge constructed with dot commands in the DOS version, the ...
- "Unit 2, Basics of MS Word" (PDF).
2.8 Mail Merge ... as an icon in the Application group (Windows 3.1) ...
- "Perform mail merge on selections".
Tip: If you are performing a mail merge and sending the same letter by post to many recipients, it is a good idea to sort the list of members by postcode.
- "How To Use Yesware's Mail Merge for Gmail".
Yesware's Mail Merge for Gmail allows users to send hundreds of personalized ...
- "Moovly fully integrates into Google's GSuite". NYTimes.com. September 25, 2018.
Moovly has experienced strong growth ... into the Moovly Studio Editor, making the publishing of their video content ...
- "Word 2007: Creating a Data Source". KeyStoneLearning.com.