80-Bus News


Summer 1985 · Volume 4 · Issue 2

Page 18 of 31

A Brief Guide to MailMerge

by P.D.Coker

Many readers of 80-BUS News will have heard of or used WordStar — one of a series of very useful programs produced by Micropro. Apart from WordStar, a sophisticated word-processing package, there is SpellStar, a spelling check facility, and MailMerge.

Both MailMerge and SpellStar can only be accessed from within WordStar; the appropriate files (MAILMERG.OVR and SPELSTAR.OVR) which are supplied separately from WordStar, must be available on the logged-in disk [Ed. — or the disk specified in the WordStar patch area, normally A:]. The appropriate program is called up from the ‘no file’ WordStar menu. SpellStar has a comprehensive range of facilities which are selectable from a menu. Further information is provided in section 13 of the main WordStar manual. Mailmerge is also well-documented – sections 9 – 12 of the same manual deals at length with all aspects of the facility.

For most purposes, only a small proportion of the documentation is needed but the relevant bits are often difficult to locate; this article aims to provide a simple guide to the more commonly used features of MailMerge for the non-expert user.

Richard Beal (80-BUS News vol. 2 issue 3) has dealt with the installation of WordStar on Gemini machines with the IVC (and SVC), and the same installation patches will work for the Map-80 Systems VFC.

MailMerge is, as its name suggests, mainly used for creating and printing personalised letters (the sort which Dave Hunt consigns to the rubbish bin, unopened and unread!) for multiple mailings, but it can also be used for creating letters or documents in which standard clauses feature regularly — which would be useful in Solicitors offices, for example. The ability to personalise a standard letter would be useful for many small firms and clubs, and just the job for aspiring authors to send their manuscripts (printed by WordStar) to several dozen publishers!

Both MailMerge and WordStar use ‘dot’ commands for processing text. They take the form of a full stop followed by two letters such as .pa which inserts a page break into the document (similar to Control L in CP/M or PEN). Some dot commands are followed by a number or by text; many such commands exist in WordStar and MailMerge but normally, only a few are needed and when used, they must occur at the beginning of a line. A few dot commands are specific to either WordStar or MailMerge but many are common to both.

WordStar operates in two modes — Document or Non-document and the mode required is identified by typing D or N in response to the initial display. The Document mode is used for text work and has automatic text justification among other features while the Non-document mode is used for listings and source code programs (and for setting up MailMerge data and command files). For simple mail list work, three files are needed — the standard letter, a data file with names, addresses and other information, and a command file (optional but makes life easier). The command file works in a similar fashion to a SUBMIT file in CP/M and enables the use to control the progress of the letter printing more effectively. It only contains dot commands, unlike the letter file which contains dot commands and text.

The following dot commands are most commonly used in MailMerge:
(The file names or variables enclosed in angle brackets ‘<’ and ‘>’ must be supplied by the user.)

.av <variable> (Ask for Variable)

For most purposes, this will prompt for a variable such as the date which may be altered from one mailing to another, and which would not normally be stored in a data file. The text following the .av command must match the field name in the letter file, and it is automatically inserted into the letter during each printing cycle.

.cs (Clear Screen)

Self explanatory — removes any previously displayed material from the screen.

.df <file name> (Define data file name)

This indicates the name of the data file which will be used during the MailMerge operation. It is placed in the letter file.

.dm <message> (Display Message)

This is followed by appropriate text, which will be displayed on the screen. It is normally only used in a MailMerge command file.

.fi <file name> (Define file name)

MaiiMerge needs to know what file is to be merged with the data file: .fi is followed by the name of the letter file and the command is usually placed in a command file.

.op (No page numbering)

WordStar defaults to numbering pages which may be unnecessary — particularly for a single page document. .op disables this facility.

Page 18 of 31