Mail Merge with MS Office (Mac)

I figured out how to do a mail merge! (Can you tell I’m really excited?) Mail merge allows me to send personalized emails en masse from a single template.

Part of my job responsibilities is to do outreach to the new majors in the subject areas that I am responsible for. Currently, I manage physics, astronomy, mathematics and computer science. I just received a list of newly declared majors and minors. Guess how many students there are? A lot! There’s 91! Last year, I had less than 20 majors to email so I edited and sent each email individually. This year, I decided to do a little research and get some technical assistance.

These instructions are based on the Office 2011 for Mac version* but it should also work the same way for Windows users. Make sure you have Outlook, Excel, and Word installed.

Setting the default mail application to Outlook

  1. Open the Mail application and choose “Preferences.”
  2. Under General, change the Default email reader to “Microsoft Outlook.”

This is very important to get the last step working. Word has to recognize that Outlook is your mail application.

Formatting the Excel spreadsheet

  1. Copy and paste the relevant entries into a separate sheet.
  2. Add appropriate columns and headings.
    1. I added a column to distinguish majors and minors.
    2. Also, I only want the first names of the students and the information is currently formatted in one column as “last name, first name.” There’s a really cool feature in Excel that allows you to separate that into two columns (under Data –> Tools –> Text to Columns). You may need to repeat as necessary to get just the first names into one column.
  3. Save the file.

Writing the Email in Word

  1. Start a new document in Word and choose Mail Merger Manager under Tools. A small window will popup.
  2. Under #1, choose Create New –> Form Letters.
  3. Under #2, choose Get List –> Open Data Source. Locate your Excel file. A warning about security may popup; click OK. It will ask you to designate which sheet and cell ranges you want. Notice now that your headings will populate the section under #3.
  4. Write the email letter in the document. Drag and drop the placeholders from #3 in the places where you want the respective information to appear in the email. Placeholders will look like this: <<heading name>>.
  5. You can ignore #4 unless you want to select a subset of entries. I would recommend changing your Excel file instead.
  6. You can preview your email using the options under #5. Click on the “View Merged Data” icon and the left/right arrows to preview the results in the document.
  7. Under #6, choose the third icon for “Generate e-mail messages.” Another window will popup to format your emails. In the To field, select the heading for the email addresses. Give your email a subject line. In the Send As field, select “Text” or “HTML message” (I chose the latter because I embedded a photo). Click on Mail Merge to Outbox and voila!

Protip: test this on yourself before sending mass emails! I also sent my test emails to different email providers (gmail, yahoo, bwa) to make sure my email is formatted the way I wanted.

Some things I learned

  • Outlook automatically adds my signature to the emails so I did not have to include that in the Word document.
  • The font looks different in different email providers.
  • My embedded photo does show in the body of the text, but in some providers it also shows as an attachment.


  • Mail merge using an Excel spreadsheet [link]
  • Mail merge and Office 2011 [link]

* I really dislike the Mac Outlook so I normally use the Windows version through the Parallels program, but for the purposes of mail merge, I had to use the Mac version because I could not get the Mac Word to recognize the Windows Outlook.


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