Answer Box: Print mailing labels in Word

Answer Box

By Connie Miller

You have all your customer addresses in a data file. Now what you want to do is get those addresses onto a set of mailing labels. Here's the best way to go about doing that, with some neat tips thrown in along the way.

Applies to
Microsoft Office Word 2003
Microsoft Word 2002

A question from your comments

I just want to print a set of mailing labels so that I can mail some information to my customers. I keep running into problems. Why is this so hard?

Advice from the Answer Box

You can watch my demos first, or start reading about the finer details of this process.

The number of labels that you want to create determines how complicated it is to create them.

Address label with picture

It's pretty easy to:

  • Print one label or a set of labels all addressed exactly the same way. To learn how, click a link in the See Also box.
  • Type a few different labels on one label sheet and print them. To do this, you have a couple of different options:
    • Consider downloading one of the label templates from the Templates on Microsoft Office Online Web site.
    • Use the Envelopes and Labels dialog box to create a page of labels.
      1. On the Tools menu, point to Letters and Mailings, and then click Envelopes and Labels.
      2. Click the Labels tab, and then click Options.
      3. Choose the type of printer and the supplier of the label sheets that you'll print your labels on. Under Product Number, select the number that corresponds to the number listed on your package of label sheets, and then click OK.
      4. In the Envelopes and Labels dialog box, click New Document. A new label document opens.
      5. Type the information on the labels that you want to use.
      6. On the File menu, click Print to print the labels.

When you want to create and print more than one sheet of labels, things can get a little gnarly. Creating more than one sheet of labels involves using a mail-merge process. After you get the process down, it isn't all that difficult — but it is a process. And, at each step in the process, you face potential pitfalls.

In this column, we're going to dissect the mail-merge label process and go through it step by detailed step. As part of each step, we'll look at the potential pitfalls and discuss how to avoid or recover from them.

The mail merge label process

Creating a set of labels involves five major steps:

  1. First, you set up the label main document. The label main document is the page of labels that you start with. It's the model for the size and shape of all the labels that you eventually print.
  2. Then, you connect the label main document that you just set up to a data file that contains the names and addresses you want to add to the labels. More about data files later.
  3. Next, you add placeholders (officially called fields) to the label main document for the information (such as names and addresses) that will be different on each label. At this step, you also add any information, such as a return address or a logo or other picture, that will be the same on every label.
  4. Then, you preview the labels to make sure that information from the data file merged correctly. When you're happy with the results, you complete the merge.
  5. Finally, you print the labels.

Step 1: Set up the label main document


Demo icon Watch the demo

Next demo

You knew you were going to be creating labels, so you've probably already been to the office supply store. You bought a package of label sheets from one of the label sheet suppliers, such as Avery, AOne, or Formtec. Each sheet is a certain size and contains a certain number of labels with specific dimensions.

To set up the label main document, you need to match the dimensions of that document with the dimensions of the labels on the sheets that you brought home from the office supply store.

Here's how you set up the label main document:

  1. Start Word.
  2. On the Tools menu, point to Letters and Mailings, and then click Mail Merge to open the Mail Merge task pane.
  3. In the task pane, under Select document type, click Labels. Under Step 1 of 6 at the bottom of the task pane, click Next: Starting document.
  4. To set up a new label main document, click Change document layout.

Why Change document layout? When you open Word, a blank document opens by default. That default document does not have a label layout. If you're going to create labels, you need to change the layout of that default document to a label layout.

  1. Under Change document layout in the task pane, click Label options.
  2. In the Label Options dialog box, you have several choices to make:

Label Options dialog box

Callout 1 The type of printer that you're using to print labels.
Callout 2 The supplier that produced your label sheets.
Callout 3 The number that corresponds to the product number listed on your package of label sheets.

 Note   What if the product number for the label sheets that you bought doesn't match any of the choices in the Label Options dialog box? You can still print your labels; you just have to do some customizing. First, carefully measure the labels on the sheet you have and take note of the measurements and how many labels fit on a single sheet. Next, follow the process described in Create custom-sized labels, beginning with step 4.

  1. When you've made all your label choices, click OK.

A label document opens with the insertion point blinking away in the first label, and you're ready for the next step.

 Note   If what you see on the screen just looks like a regular document instead of labels, you may have the option for hiding gridlines turned on. On the Table menu, click Show Gridlines to show lines that indicate the label boundaries.

  1. Under Step 2 of 6 at the bottom of the task pane, click Next: Select recipients.

Step 2: Connect to the data file


Demo icon Watch the demo

Next demo

If you're creating mailing labels, you must be planning a mailing. If you're planning a mailing, you probably have a mailing list somewhere that contains the names and addresses of customers, employees, or other intended recipients. This mailing list is what we mean by "data file." The purpose of this step in the process is to connect to that mailing list data file so that you can get the names and addresses from your list onto your labels.

 Note   If you don't already have a mailing list data file set up, keep reading. You can set one up from within Word, as you'll see.

Word can connect to a lot of different types of data files (to see a complete list, click a link in the See Also box), so the mailing list that you have will most likely work just fine. For example, you might have your recipient names and addresses in a Microsoft Excel worksheet, a Microsoft Access database table, or a table that you set up in Word. Or maybe you keep your Microsoft Outlook® Contacts file up to date especially for this purpose. Any of those options (and many others) will work just fine.

To learn a lot more about data files and how to use them in a mail merge, click a link in the See Also box.

 Notes 

  • Check to see how recipient names are set up in the mailing list data file. Merging names from the data file onto your labels will work best if you have first names and last names in two different columns.
  • Postal codes that start with a zero won't merge correctly from an Excel worksheet unless you type an apostrophe before the initial zero. The apostrophe won't show up in the worksheet cell or on your label; it just makes the zero behave.

To establish a connection between your label mail document and your data file

In the Mail Merge task pane, under Select recipients, you have three options:

  • Use an existing list    Click this option if you already have a data file, such as an Excel spreadsheet, Access database table, or Word table, that contains your recipients' names and addresses.
  • Select from Outlook Contacts    Click this option if you want to use names and addresses from your Outlook Contacts list.
  • Type a new list    Click this option if you don't have a data file yet that contains recipients' names and addresses.

Click one of the following options to find out what to do next.

ShowUse an existing list

  1. Under Use an existing list, click Browse to locate your mailing list data file.
  2. In the Select Data Source dialog box, locate the file, select it, and then click Open.
  3. If you see the Select Table dialog box, click the table or worksheet that contains your recipient names and addresses.
  4. The Mail Merge Recipients dialog box opens.

ShowSelect from Outlook Contacts

  1. Under Select from Outlook contacts, click Choose Contacts Folder.

If you see the Choose Profile dialog box, choose the profile that includes the Contacts list that you want to use, and then click OK.

  1. In the Select Contact List Folder dialog box, click the Contact list folder that contains your recipient names and addresses, and then click OK.
  2. The Mail Merge Recipients dialog box opens.

 Note   If you run into problems connecting to your Contacts list, get problem-solving help by clicking an Answer Box link under See Also.

ShowType a new list

  1. Under Type a new list, click Create.

The New Address List dialog box opens. Under Enter Address information, you see a list of categories, such as First Name, Last Name, and Address Line 1. What you want to do is modify this list so that it matches the categories of information that you want to record about your recipients. For example, while the list in the dialog box includes items such as Title, Home Phone, and E-mail Address, you might want your list to include only First Name, Last Name, and address information.

  1. To edit the list of categories, click Customize.
  2. In the Customize Address List dialog box, use the buttons to add, delete, or change the order of the categories. When the list looks the way you want, click OK.
  3. Type the information for the first entry in the New Address List dialog box.
  4. Click New Entry to type the information for the second entry, and so on.
  5. When you've typed entries for all the recipients, click Close.
  6. In the Save Address List dialog box, type a name for the file, and then click Save.
  7. The Mail Merge Recipients dialog box opens.

Tips

  • By default, if you don't change the location, the mailing list data file that you just created is saved to the My Data Sources folder in your My Documents folder. This is a convenient location. If in the future you want to create a new set of labels by using the same data file, Word will automatically look first for the file in the My Data Sources folder.
  • If you want to add to or change the data file that you just created, you have a couple of options. You can open the file in Access and modify it there. Or you can make changes to the file from within Word during a mail-merge process. Go through the steps in the Mail Merge task pane until you come to Select recipients. Click Use an existing list, and then click Browse. Open the mailing list data file that you created. In the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, click Edit. The Customize Address List dialog box opens, and you can change categories, add new entries, and more.

The Mail Merge Recipients dialog box gives you the opportunity to filter or sort the entries in the data file. For example, you might want to do a mailing only to customers in a certain postal code or city. Or, you might want to create labels for a mailing to employees who joined the company within the past year.

If you want to create labels for all the recipients in your data file and you don't need to do any sorting or filtering, just click OK to move on.

If you don't want to print labels for all the recipients in your data file, you can do some or all of these things before you click OK:

  • To eliminate one recipient, click the check box at the beginning of the recipient's row to clear it.
  • To sort the rows according to the ascending or descending order of information in a particular column (for example, if you want to create the labels in alphabetical order by last name), click the column heading.
  • To filter the list according to specific criteria (for example, all the people who live in a certain postal code), click the arrow next to a column heading. When you click the arrow, you see a list that looks similar to this one:

Dropdown list to narrow recipients for a mailing

Callout 1 Click (All) if you previously filtered the list and now want to include all the entries again.
Callout 2 Click the value by which you want to filter the list. In this example, the Postal Code column contains only two unique codes. In the case of your data file, the list of unique entries would most likely be much longer.
Callout 3 Click (Blanks) to filter the list to only those entries in this column that are blank.
Callout 4 Click (Nonblanks) to filter the list to only those entries in this column that have content.
Callout 5 Click (Advanced) to open the Filter and Sort dialog box, where you can narrow according to more complex criteria. For example, you can narrow the list to three postal codes or two cities.

 Note   Any filtering and sorting changes that you make in the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box don't affect the original data file.

After you close the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, you'll see «Next Record» fields on all the labels in your starting document. Don't delete them. They won't show up on your printed labels and they're important in the next step of the process. Under Step 3 of 6 at the bottom of the task pane, click Next: Arrange your labels to move to the next step.

Step 3: Add placeholders and information that stays the same


Demo icon Watch the demo

Next demo

At this step in the process, you add content to the label main document. This content includes:

  • Information that will be the same on each label     For example, you might want a company logo on each label. You can just type or place this information right on the label main document.
  • Information, such as the recipient address, that is unique to each label     You can't type information unique to each label on one label main document. Instead, you add placeholders, or fields, to the label main document. These fields correspond to categories (columns) in your mailing address data file. When you complete the mail merge in the next step of the process, information from each row in the data file replaces the fields to create a set of unique labels.

Here's how a label main document might look with a picture and a field on it:

Label main document with Address Block field and picture

Click one of the following options to find out what to do next.

ShowAdd a picture

These steps assume that you have the file for the picture you want to use stored on your computer. Your label main document should be open with the insertion point blinking in the first label.

  1. On the Insert menu, point to Picture, and then click From File.
  2. In the Insert Picture dialog box, locate the file, select it, and then click Insert.

The picture appears on the left side of the label. Don't worry about adding the picture to any of the other labels. That will get taken care when you update all the labels.

  1. If you have to resize the picture, drag one of the corner sizing handles.
  2. On the Format menu, click Picture, and then click the Layout tab.
  3. Under Wrapping style, click Square. Under Horizontal alignment, click Left, and then click OK.

Click the first label so that the insertion point appears just to the right of the picture you added, and you're ready to add fields.

ShowAdd placeholder fields

For your mailing labels, you'll most likely have to add only one field to your label main document: an Address Block field.

 Note   If you want to learn more about how to add a postal bar code or electronic postage, click a link under See Also.

At this point, take a few seconds to look at the Mail Merge task pane. Notice the list of links under Arrange your labels. Clicking one of these links adds a field to your label main document. Also, notice the section in the task pane called Replicate labels with the big button that says Update all labels.

To add placeholder fields

  1. Make sure that the insertion point is in the first label at the position where you want to add an address field. In the Mail Merge task pane, click Address Block. If there is any sample address text on the label, select the text.
  2. In the Insert Address Block dialog box, make choices for what you want the address block to contain. Click Match Fields.

In the Match Fields dialog box, address block elements are listed on the left and categories (column headings) from your data file are listed on the right.

For addresses from your data file to display correctly on your labels, each address block element that you care about has to be matched by a column from your data file. If some of those elements show (not matched) on the right rather than a column name, click the arrow in the box that says (not matched), and then click the correct column name in the list that appears.

  1. When you're finished matching, click OK, and then click OK again.

An «Address Block» field appears on your label.

  1. In the Mail Merge task pane, under Replicate labels, click Update all labels.

The «Address Block» field (and the picture, if you added one) are automatically replicated on all the other labels. You're ready to preview your labels.

Step 4: Preview the merged labels and complete the merge

(This information is covered in the next demo.)

Next demo

When you click Next: Preview your labels at the bottom of the Mail Merge task pane, information from the data file replaces the placeholder fields on the labels. You'll be able to see right away if the addresses are being displayed properly. You can also click the double-arrow buttons in the task pane to page through the labels, or you can click Find a recipient to locate a specific label.

Mail Merge task pane, Preview step

 Note   As you page through the labels to preview them, what happens on the screen can be a little disorienting. Let's say that you're starting from the first label in the upper-left corner of the page. When you click the right double-arrow button, you move across the page horizontally until you reach the label at the right edge of the page. Then you move down a row to the label at the left edge of the page, and so on. On the screen, though, the label that you're currently previewing always ends up looking like it's at the top-left corner of the page. This is just a previewing convenience. The labels haven't actually shifted around on the page or anything spooky like that.

Some things that might need fixing

  • Missing address elements    If you don't see all the elements of an address, you might need to match a column heading from your data file with an element from the address block. Click the Previous link at the bottom of the Mail Merge task pane. Right-click the «Address Block» field in the first label, and then click Edit Address Block on the shortcut menu. In the Insert Address Block dialog box, click Match Fields. In the Match Fields dialog box, be sure that each element you're using from the list on the left has a matching column heading on the right. If (not matched) appears opposite any important elements, click the arrow in the box that says (not matched), and then click the correct column name in the list that appears. Click OK, and then click OK again.
  • Unintended recipients    If labels have been created for some recipients whom you don't want to include in this mailing, click Edit recipient list in the Mail Merge task pane to open the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box, and then filter the list of recipients.
  • Missing recipients    If only a subset of the records (rows) in your data file merged onto the labels, click Edit recipient list in the Mail Merge task pane to open the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box. Make sure that you haven't inadvertently filtered the list of recipients. Click the arrow in the column heading for each category that you don't want to filter, and then click (All) in the list. If you haven't filtered the list of recipients in any way, check your data file to be sure that it is organized correctly.
  • Most of the labels are blank    If you only see one label with an address in it and the rest of the labels are blank, you probably forgot one little step when you were arranging content on your label main document. At the bottom of the Mail Merge task pane, click Previous: Arrange your labels. In the task pane, under Replicate labels, click Update all labels to copy the fields that you added to the first label onto all the other labels on the sheet. Then click Next: Preview your labels to return to the preview step.

When you're satisfied with the way your labels look, click Next: Complete the merge at the bottom of the Mail Merge task pane.

Step 5: Print the labels


Demo icon Watch the demo

At the Complete the merge step in the process, you're ready to print your labels. You have two choices. You can:

  • Click Print in the Mail Merge task pane to print the labels.

Do this if you are satisfied with the previews and ready to print the final labels.

  • Click Edit individual labels in the Mail Merge task pane to create a new document with all the merged labels in it.

Do this if you want to review the labels more thoroughly before you print the final labels, or if you want to make custom changes to specific labels. When you're satisfied with the labels, you can print them right from this document.

ShowPrint the labels

  1. When you click Print in the Mail Merge task pane, you open the Merge to Printer dialog box. You have three choices:
    • All     Click this option if you want to print the entire set of merged labels.
    • Current     Click this option to print only the labels on the page that is currently displayed.
    • From...To     Click this option to print a range of labels. This could be any range across any number of pages.

The trick is that you have to put record numbers in the From and To boxes. The first label in the upper-left corner of the first page of labels is record 1. Record 2 is the label to the right of the first label, and so on until you reach the right edge of the page. Then you move down a row and back to the left edge of the page. For example, if you're working with label sheets that have three columns of labels across the page and 10 rows of labels down the page, this is what the record numbers would be for one page:

Record numbers for a sheet of labels

  1. When you've chosen the labels that you want to print, click OK.
  2. In the Print dialog box, choose your printer and other options.

Make sure that your label sheets are ready to feed into the printer and that you have chosen the appropriate paper source (for example, the tray that contains the label sheets). Also, make sure that your printer is set up to print on only one side of the sheets. You usually indicate the paper source by clicking Properties in the Print dialog box.

  1. Click OK.

ShowCreate a new label document and then print the labels

  1. When you click Edit individual labels in the Mail Merge task pane, you open the Merge to Document dialog box. You have three choices:
    • All     Click this option if you want to create a new document that contains the entire set of merged labels.
    • Current     Click this option to create a new document that contains only the labels on the page that is currently displayed.
    • From...To     Click this option to create a new document that contains a range of labels. This could be any range across any number of pages.

The trick is that you have to put record numbers in the From and To boxes. The first label in the upper-left corner of the first page of labels is record 1. Record 2 is the label to the right of the first label, and so on until you reach the right edge of the page. Then you move down a row and back to the left edge of the page. For example, if you're working with label sheets that have three columns of labels across the page and 10 rows of labels down the page, this is what the record numbers would be for one page:

Record numbers for a sheet of labels

  1. When you've chosen the labels that you want the new document to contain, click OK.

A new document opens that contains the labels you chose. Each page of labels is a section in the new document. This won't affect the way the labels print.

  1. In the Print dialog box, choose your printer and other options.

Make sure that your label sheets are ready to feed into the printer and that you have chosen the appropriate paper source (for example, the tray that contains the label sheets). Also, make sure that your printer is set up to print on only one side of the sheets. You usually indicate paper source and printing preferences by clicking Properties in the Print dialog box.

  1. Click OK.

Some problems you might encounter when you print

  • Fields are printed instead of information    If you see fields in your printed labels (such as «Address Block») rather than values for those fields, you might need to change a setting. On the Tools menu, click Options. On the Print tab, make sure that the Field Codes check box under Include with document is cleared.
  • Printed results don't match the preview    If the printed result doesn't match what you saw in the preview, most likely you are using an outdated or damaged printer driver. You can download the latest printer drivers from your printer manufacturer's Web site.

Before you close the label main document

You've just gone to all the trouble to set up a label main document and connect it to a mailing list data file. By saving the label main document, you can preserve the effort that you've put in and make it easier and faster to create a set of labels the next time you need one. When you save a label main document, you save the document's connection to the data file.

The next time you open the document, you'll see a message that information from a data file will be placed in the document. Click Yes to continue. If you used an Outlook Contacts list as your data file, you'll also see the Select Contact List dialog box. Select the Contacts list folder that you connected to originally, and then click OK. On the Tools menu, point to Letters and Mailings, and then click Mail Merge. The Mail Merge task pane opens at the Select recipients step, where you can choose the data file that you want to connect to.

  • If you want to use the same data file without any filtering or sorting, just click Next: Arrange your labels, and continue through the mail-merge process.
  • If you want to filter or sort the list of recipients from the data file to create a new set of labels, click Edit recipient list.
  • If you want to merge recipient information from a different data file, click Select a different list.

Wishing you much happy labelling,

Connie, the Answer Box monitor

About the author

Connie Miller, a writer on the Microsoft Office User Assistance team, collects and responds to issues that come to the attention of the Word Answer Box. To submit a detailed question of your own that we may be able to respond to, send feedback.

 
 
Applies to:
Word 2003