How to create mail-merge files for bills, renewal notices, and order acknowledgements

If you don't want to use the standard format for all—or any—of your bills, blanket renewals, order acknowledgements, or renewal notices, you have two alternatives:

  1. Change the standard format using the QuickFill Form Designer application. Using this approach you will be able to print your customized bills and renewals from the 'Print saved reports' screen without the use of any additional software. Click here for more information on the Form Designer.

  2. Use the mail merge facility of your word processor and the mail-merge files QuickFill provides. In your word processor you create one or more document files that you'll "merge" with the QuickFill files to produce bills and notices.

In this topic we will discuss the second approach.

Setting up mail-merge bills

When you select 'Billing' under 'Definitions' on the main menu, and then select 'Packages'. You'll notice on the 'Billing packages' screen the 'Mail-merge' and 'Mail-merge format code' fields in the 'Bill format' section.  When you select "Mail-merge" for the bill format and enter MMERG1, MMERG2, MMERG3, or MMERG4 in the 'Mail-merge format code' field, QuickFill produces a mail-merge file for any billing effort that uses this package.

Setting up mail-merge renewal notices

To tell QuickFill to produce mail-merge renewal notice files (including blanket renewals), select 'Renewal' under 'Definitions' on the main menu, then select 'Packages'. You'll notice on the 'Renewal packages' screen the 'Mail-merge' and 'Mail-merge format code' fields. When you select "Mail-merge" for the notice format and enter MMERG1, MMERG2, MMERG3, or MMERG4 in the 'Mail-merge format code' field, QuickFill produces a mail-merge file for any renewal effort that uses this package.

Setting up order acknowledgements

The format for order acknowledgements depends on the 'Bill format' for the first billing effort in the billing series used to create the acknowledgements. To create mail-merge order acknowledgements, link the series to a billing package that has a 'Bill format' of "Mail-merge" and MMERG1, MMERG2, MMERG3, or MMERG4 in the 'Mail-merge format code' field.

File formats

QuickFill has the ability to produce four different formats (MMERG1, MMERG2, MMERG3 and MMERG4) for mail-merge bill and renewal notice files. The MMERG1 format contains the same data as the standard QuickFill bills that are printed from 'Print saved reports'. The MMERG2 and MMERG3 formats contain all of the fields that are in the MMERG1 format, plus additional fields for postal presort. The MMERG4 format is similar to the MMERG3 format, but uses a different method of laying out the pricing fields. Click here for details on the contents of the bill and renewal mail merge files.

Mail-merge templates

Sample mail -merge templates for bills, renewals (including blanket renewals), and order acknowledgements are provided with your QuickFill installation; they are located in your QuickFill program directory. The templates are named as follows:

Document type

File format

File name

Acknowledgments

MMERG1, MMERG2 or MMERG3

Ack123.dot

 

MMERG4

Ack.dot

Bills

MMERG1, MMERG2 or MMERG3

Bill123.dot

 

MMERG4

Bill.dot

Renewals
(for publications using unit pricing)

MMERG1, MMERG2 or MMERG3

Renewal123.dot

 

MMERG4

Renewal.dot

Renewals
(for publications using stepped pricing)

MMERG1, MMERG2 or MMERG3

RenewalSteppedPricing123.dot

 

MMERG4

Renewal.dot

These templates are facsimiles of QuickFill's standard bills, renewals, and order acknowledgements and are also used when 'Mail merge' is selected for replacement bills, renewals, or acknowledgements. You can use them as they are or use them to create your own templates.

If you choose to create your own mail-merge templates (because you decided to design your own forms), you should copy and rename one of the templates using the following naming convention. It is important to use this naming convention in order to take advantage of QuickFill's ability to automatically activate a mail-merge template and print or preview a mail-merge file. When searching for mail-merge templates, QuickFill looks for files with a DOT or DOC extension that are located in your database directory (or in your program directory) that are named TTTTTTT_PPPPPP_FFFFFF.DOT where "TTTTTTT" is the type of file ("Bill," "Renewal"—for regular and blanket renewal, or "Ack"—for acknowledgement), "PPPPPP" is the publication code, and "FFFFFF" is the form ID (or "BLANK" if there is no form ID). If a file is not found, QuickFill then searches for files named TTTTTTT_PPPPPP.DOT. If a file still is not found, QuickFill searches for files named TTTTTTT.DOT. If this final search fails, you will be asked to specify the mail-merge template that you would like to use. (Click here for more information on printing or previewing mail-merge files.)

Mail-merge preferences

On the 'Mail merge' tab of the Preferences screen you can specify some options for mail-merge files:

The default mail-merge format is comma delimited. You can specify other delimiters if you wish. Alternatively you can specify that you want dBASE files to be created. Microsoft Word can be quite slow when processing comma delimited files, so choosing dBASE format is a good idea.

Vertically centering customers' addresses helps to keep the addresses centered in envelope windows.

If you use the MMERG4 format and would like QuickFill to create separate files for each publication, check the 'Create separate mail-merge files for each pub' field.

If you choose this option the prices and offers on the renewal notices will be centered vertically within the space allotted. If you do not choose this option the prices and offers will be aligned to the top of the area. The ability to center renewal price data applies only to mail-merge renewals using the MMERG4 format.

Location of the mail-merge files

QuickFill saves the mail-merge bill files it produces in the mail-merge directory displayed on the 'About QuickFill' screen. It assigns names for these files in the format Bills_xxxxxx_nnnnnnn.txt for delimited files and BILLnnnnn.DBF for dBASE files (xxxxxx is a publication code and nnnnnnn is a number). QuickFill saves mail-merge files for renewal notices in the same directory with file names in the format Renewals_xxxxxx_nnnnnnn.txt for delimited files and RENnnnnn.DBF for dBASE files. Click here for more information on the location of the mail-merge files.

Printing mail-merge bills or renewal notices with differing formats

If you want to use several different forms for your mail-merge bills or renewal notices, QuickFill has to produce one mail-merge file for each form. So you use a unique "Form set code" on the 'Billing packages' screen or 'Renewal packages' screen for each form.

Here's an example. Say you've designed two mail-merge templates—one for your active bills and one for your cancel bills. Now you define two billing packages—you might call the package for your active bills BILACT and the one for your cancel bills BILCAN. You select the Mail-merge' field and select one of the codes in the Mail-merge format code' field for both packages. For the BILACT package, you enter ACT1, say, in the Form set code' field. And for the BILCAN package, you enter CAN1. When you run your billing update, QuickFill produces separate mail-merge files for ACT1 and CAN1. Now you can use different template files when you use your word processor to print these mail-merge files.

Technical details

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If you are using fixed pitch fonts, this formatting allows you to specify the left-hand edge of a column of dollar fields and have all the decimal points line up. (Note, if you are using variable pitch fonts, you can get the decimal points in the dollar amount fields to line up using the decimal point tab feature of Microsoft Word.)

This identifying information appears in the customer address fields of the dummy records. QuickFill uses the address fields because any mail-merge document you design is bound to include the address.

 

See Also