Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Mail Merge and Data Source Documents become Unattached.

Mail Merge and Data Source Documents become Unattached

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated November 11, 2023)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


Don creates quite a few mail merge documents in Word. The data source is invariably a Word document with the merge data in a table. Don can set up the mail merge document and the data source document very nicely, and everything works fine until he e-mails both documents to his clients. If the client opens the mail merge document, the data source document is no longer "attached," and the client has to go through the process of again letting Word know what to use as a data source. It doesn't matter how many times the client opens the main document; he must hunt for and "re-attach" the data source's file every single time. When Don opens the same mail merge document on my system, the data source is still associated, just as it should be.

This problem is probably related to the location of the data source document relative to the mail merge document. Word apparently saves, in the merge document, the full path name to the data source document. This means that when you send the two documents to a client, the mail merge document won't be able to find the data source document unless it is in the same path structure that it was on your original system.

One place this becomes obvious is if, for instance, you store the data source document and the mail merge document in the My Documents folder on your system. When the files are sent to the client, if they are then stored in the client's My Documents folder, then there will be a problem. Why? Because the path to the client's My Documents folder is different than the path to the My Documents folder on the original machine.

This can become a huge headache when you are storing the documents on a shared network drive. For instance, if you set up the mail merge using those documents, and then someone else opens the documents, then the next time you open them, they may be unattached. This is because the path to a file on a shared drive can differ based on the system being used to access the file. For one person, the file may be at F:\GroupDocs\Amanda\Mailing\ and for another person it may be at H:\Mailing\. The path depends on how the system access the shared drive, what permissions the system has, and if any drive mapping is in play.

To get around the problem, look for a "least common denominator" approach. For instance, try storing both the mail merge document and the data source document in either the root directory of the C: drive or in a folder within the C: drive. The client can then store the two files in the exact same location, and the connection between the two should remain intact when the mail merge document is opened.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (10310) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Mail Merge and Data Source Documents become Unattached.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

MORE FROM ALLEN

Printing Summary Information from a Macro

Part of the information that Word maintains about each of your documents is a summary statement, which you can define in ...

Discover More

Referring to the Last Cell

It is not unusual to use worksheets to collect information over time. As you keep adding information to the worksheet, ...

Discover More

Disappearing Ribbon Buttons

Excel allows you to configure your system, even to the point of adding macros to your ribbon area. What are you to do, ...

Discover More

Create Custom Apps with VBA! Discover how to extend the capabilities of Office 2013 (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Access) with VBA programming, using it for writing macros, automating Office applications, and creating custom applications. Check out Mastering VBA for Office 2013 today!

More WordTips (ribbon)

E-mailing from a Mail Merge

Word has a great mail merge capability. Inherent in this capability is the option to send your merged documents via ...

Discover More

Conditional Processing During a Mail Merge

The Mail Merge capabilities built into Word can appear limited at first glance. One thing that is often overlooked (and ...

Discover More

Creating Files with Mail Merge

When you use mail merge to create a document that incorporates all your data source records, you end up with a large ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] (all 7 characters, in the sequence shown) in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is four more than 4?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


This Site

Got a version of Word that uses the ribbon interface (Word 2007 or later)? This site is for you! If you use an earlier version of Word, visit our WordTips site focusing on the menu interface.

Videos
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WordTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.