How to create a merge document using a text data source in Word for Mac

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For a Microsoft Word 98 version of this article, see 178716.
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This article provides detailed instruction on creating a simple data merge using data stored in a text document. By following these instructions you will create a form letter (main document), select the text data document, and merge the information in the two documents into a third document.


The following is general information about the appropriate format for a text document that will be used as a data document in a simple Microsoft Word for Mac data merge.

The data should be separated by a special character called a delimiter. The most common delimiters are tabs or commas. When a comma is used as a delimiter, the text in each field is usually enclosed in quotation marks so that a punctuation mark inside a field will not be interpreted as a delimiter.

What Is a Record?

A record consists of a series of fields separated by delimiters. Each record ends with a paragraph mark. Records may appear to extend over multiple lines but each record ends at the first paragraph mark. In a text data source, each record must have exactly the same number of delimiters in it, as in the following example:
   Betty<Tab>Smith<Tab>1401 A St.<Tab>Apt. 5<RETURN>
   George<Tab>Jones<Tab>345 Pile Ln.<Tab><Tab><RETURN>
In this example, the first record has four fields separated by three <tabs>(delimiters). The word <RETURN> represents the character you get when you press the RETURN key. This denotes the end of the record. The first record, known as the header record contains the field names that will be used for the merge. The second and subsequent records contain the actual data. Notice that the last field in the third record has no information in it, but the delimiter (tab) is still required to hold its place. There must be the same number of delimiters in every record. Any field can be left empty in any record except the first record, which must contain a field name for each field. The delimiters on each side of an empty field must be in place.

Field names should contain no punctuation and usually consist of one word. Spaces can be used in field names but it is better to use one-word field names until you are more familiar with the process.

TIP: Combining information in separate fields in a merge document is easy; however, separating information in a field is difficult. So, when you create a data document, create as many fields as is practical. For example, you may want to put the first name in a field separate from the last name to make it easy to sort the records in the data document by last name. Keeping the first and last name separate will also make it easy to use only the first name in a salutation.

Once you have created and saved your data document, use the following instructions to create a form letter and perform a mail merge using the data stored in the text document.


To create the main document, follow these steps:
  1. Start Word for Mac.
  2. In the Project Gallery, click Word Document.

    The insertion point should be blinking in Document1. This indicates that Document1 is the active document.
  3. On the Tools menu, click Data Merge Manager.

    The Data Merge Manager appears on the screen.
  4. In the Data Merge Manager, click Create and then click Form Letters.

Selecting the Data Source

  1. In the Data Merge Manager, click Get Data, and then click Open Data Source.
  2. Select the data document and click Open.
  3. If the Header Record Delimiters dialog box appears, select the correct field delimiter and record delimiter and click OK.


The insertion point should be back in Document1 (that is, Document1 should be the active document) and the Data Merge Manager should be visible.

To edit the main document (Document1 in this case), follow these steps:
  1. Type some text in the document.
  2. Click where you want to insert the first field. In the Data Merge Manager, under Merge field, drag the field name that you want to use into the main document.

    Repeat steps 1 and 2 as many times as necessary to create the appropriate text and insert the merge fields you want in the main document.

    NOTE: When you merge data, you can use as few or as many of the data fields as you need to and you can use them in any order. Also, each field can be used more than one time.
  3. To save the main document, click Save or Save As on the File menu.

    TIP: Use a name that identifies this document as a main document (for example, name the file "My Main Document"). The document should be stored in the same location (folder) as the data document.


To perform the merge, click the Merge To New Document button in the Data Merge Manager. This creates a new document containing the results of the merge. This new document can be printed, saved, or deleted without affecting either the main document or the data document.

TIP: Once you have a simple merge working correctly, you can change details one at a time to increase the complexity of the merge. Be sure to test the merge after you make a change.


For more information about data merge and data document types, click the Office Assistant, type data merge, click Search, and then click a topic to view it.

NOTE: If the Assistant is hidden, click the Office Assistant button on the Standard toolbar.


Article ID: 275014 - Last Review: October 6, 2011 - Revision: 3.0
  • Microsoft Word 2004 for Mac
  • Microsoft Word X for Mac
  • Microsoft Word 2001 for Mac
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