April 25 Patch Fixes Email Merge Problem

The April 25, 2002 update for Microsoft Word 2002 and Word 2000 fixes a serious security vulnerability related to WordMail (i.e., using Word as your email editor in Outlook) that was brought to light several weeks ago by security consultant Georgi Guninski (who wasn't credited in Microsoft's security bulletin about the patch). But the Word 2002 version of the patch might be important for Outlook users not so much because of the security fix but because the patch makes merge to email usable in Office XP for the first time since Office XP was released almost a year ago.

Back in October, I wrote about how Office XP shortchanged users by crippling the ability to easily produce personalized email messages from either an Outlook contacts folder or some other source, such as a database ( http://www.exchangeadmin.com/articles/index.cfm?articleid=23085 ). Although Office XP expanded the email merge feature to include the HTML message format in addition to the plain text that Office 2000 supported, neither format really worked. If you chose plain text, you had to endure Outlook security prompts—one for each address in your list—and wait 5 seconds to click Yes to send each message. If you chose HTML, you avoided the security prompts, but none of the hyperlinks in your messages worked, making it rather pointless to send an HTML message.

Therefore, I was delighted to learn that Microsoft fixed the HTML hyperlinks problem in the April 25 update for Word 2002. Merging to plain text email messages still triggers the security prompts, but an HTML merge works fine, resulting in no security prompts and nicely formatted messages with working hyperlinks. Organizations that depend on Office XP email merge for personalized electronic mailings to their customers are back in business.

Unfortunately, the April 25 update didn't fix one of the other known problems with merge to email in Office XP. You still can't start a merge from Word and select a contacts folder from the Exchange Public Folders hierarchy. If you want to merge data from a public contacts folder, you must select the folder in Outlook and start the merge by using Outlook's Tools, Mail Merge command.

Starting a merge from Outlook, though, gives you other advantages, and I recommend that you go that route whenever you want to use Outlook 2002 or Outlook 2000 contacts as the data source. You'll have more fields to choose from when you set up the merge document in Word, because starting from Outlook gives you the option of choosing to merge all contact fields, including any custom fields defined in the contacts folder. Otherwise, Word exposes only a limited set of contact fields that you can add to the merge document.

If you plan to merge custom fields, before starting the merge in Outlook, use Outlook's Field Chooser or the View, Current View, Customize Current View, Fields command to determine exactly which custom fields appear on the "User-defined fields in folder" list in the contacts folder. Only these custom fields will be available to the merge document. If you know that the items in the folder contain other custom fields, you must add those fields to the folder before performing the merge. Click the New button on the Field Chooser or in the Fields dialog box, and make sure you set up each new field so that it has the same data type as the matching field in the items in the folder.

The April 25 patch also fixes many other Word 2002 bugs that have never been documented in Microsoft articles, so the patch looks like a must-have update. You must install Office XP Service Pack 1 (SP1) before installing the update.

"Overview of Word 2002 Update: April 25, 2002"
"How to Use Mail Merge to Create E-mail Messages"

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