Jul 8

Feature evolution

Category: windows

I was working on a work project today that involved attempting to build a mail merge from a relational database using Word. To be honest I gave up trying, especially after I saw this: http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa140197(office.10).aspx

What that page contains is these three facts:

  1. Wordperfect supported relational mail merging
  2. Word doesn’t support this.
  3. Don’t attempt it in Word.

Whilst it doesn’t explicitly say “don’t attempt it in Word” it gives you four options, the first three were really far too time consuming for the project so I tried the fourth option where Word uses a database field object to handle the relational part. Eventually through hacking things a bit and the support of importing the data into Access and creating a few queries in there I managed to get a product. The problem is that this database object seriously limits your flexibility and forces you into a table autoformat. The article comments that you have a lot of flexibility with the all of 5 check boxes and styles it presents for you to customise. The end result ended up that I managed to get my data set out with a whole heap of errors (some do not have valid entries in some other tables which caused Word to popup a warning box for those entries even though errors were supposed to be ignored) to the point that no matter the orientation the table ran across the page. What I really wanted was the equivalent of mysql’s \G command (vertical tabulation).

End result: I wrote something in PHP to output a PDF to do the same trick in less time than I wasted in building the bodgy Word solution. As I comment else where I don’t have Microsoft for doing what they’re doing, I hate Microsoft for doing what they’re doing _badly_. They copied things but they don’t do a good implementation. They copy things and omit useful features (relational mail merges are really the domain of Crystal Reports, and Microsoft is happy for it to be that way) along the way that users had under older packages. This is my gripe that things take a step forward for two step backwards.


4 Comments so far

  1. meijiyazanate August 6th, 2007 1:12 pm

    Please update blog. I will come

  2. octalina September 6th, 2007 11:08 am

    nice response.

  3. Maashu May 2nd, 2009 6:04 am

    Thank you so much for this post! By reading the link at Microsoft I was finally able to perform a relational mail merge.

    Gee, that was easy. It only took me three hours to figure it out.

    It would have taken me about 10 minutes in ColdFusion.


  4. pasamio May 3rd, 2009 12:45 am

    Yes, if you are lucky enough it seems like it’d work like a dream however its still more work than it should be. Good to hear that it was useful for someone after all of this time.

    I just noticed I said it gives you two facts and list a third, doh! Its also still in uncategorised, should probably fix that as well.

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: