I help run a nonprofit that we keep lean and distributed meaning that
volunteers (nobody gets paid) can do their various functions from
wherever they live. That includes printing membership cards and other
documents that go out as members join, renew and earn ratings. The need
has been growing which is a mixed blessing, especially the ratings,
since each new rating means a new card. That's obviously our goal, and
we're thrilled it's happening, but workload has increased dramatically.
That makes it important for our processes to work anywhere.
MS Office does mail merge brilliantly simple but it costs hundreds of
dollars. To equip 4 or 5 people with it would cost well over a
thousand $ so we've opted to use free OpenOffice package for our documentation and printing. It's free but it's distinctly
These instructions must be followed extremely closely, including
closing and opening the document near the end. At least on two computers
we have, it will otherwise throw an error. Also, the Mail Merge Wizard
does NOT work on documents having graphics.
Inport the data into a valid text file
Copy members into the file "PutMembersHere.txt"
below the field names. The 1st line
of headers must be intact since the field names there must be
matched to the field names used in the form letter.
Keep the same file name, this file will be
used by the spreadsheet program.
Create a Spreadsheet with the data
Open SpreadSheet program.
File|Open, select the file type
by scrolling down to “Text CSV” on the spreadsheet part of the list.
It won't work with any other file type, even if they say “Text”.
Then select PutMembersHere.txt as the file.
It will ask for a delimiter, put the
tilde in "Other". There is no need to erase
the default tab.
File|Save As Change the type
from .csv to spreadsheet .ods, use a file name that's
yyyy-mm-dd-members (or something similar that's easy to remember).
Make a Database
Open the Database program. A Wizard
In the Wizard's dialogue box, select
radio button "Connect to an existing database", choose "Spreadsheet"
from the dropdown box then press Next. (see
screen shot below)
On the Set up Connection
dialogue, Browse to the spreadsheet file you created earlier and
On the Decide how to Proceed
dialogue, deselect "Open the database for editing" and click Finish.
On the Save As dialogue, enter
filename yyyy-mm-dd-members and press save. This will save an ODF
database file such as “2010-03-21-members.odf” and exit.
Make the LetterWithCard
Caution: Do not,
at any point, use the built-in Mail Merge Wizard. That will cause
the graphics to disappear.
Start Open Office Writer and open the
IMMEDIATELY save as it as
Press F4, a list of databases should
come up. Hopefully, the database you just created will be in that
list. Click on the little plus sign next to it, then the plus sign
next to “Tables” then click on “Sheet1”.Edit|Exchange
Databases, On the right side under “Available Databases” select the
plus sign of the database you just created. If that database isn't
there, browse for it. Click on “Sheet1” then click on “Define”.
program. Restart and reload the text document you were just working
File|Print. It will ask if you
are doing a mail merge. Select YES and finish printing. Consider
printing to a PDF to make sure it worked then printing the PDF.
If this doesn't work, probably throwing the error
about a connection could not be established, curl up into the fetus
position and try the following:
Browse for the ODF database document you just created.
Click the little plus sign beside it's name then click on “Sheet1”
then click on “Define”.
Close the program. Open the letter file you just exited (
1. When opening the spreadsheet program make sure to
select the Text CSV file format before selecting the file.
2. You're only opening the database program to bind
the spreadsheet to a database. The spreadsheet MUST have been saved as
an ODS file.