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Word: Reporting for Duty

We could use Access to design a report for displaying our movie database. But that defeats at least part of the purpose, which is to spend as little time in Access as possible. Instead, let’s use Word to set up a document for displaying the database. This has the advantage of letting you work with a familiar and less-terrifying application: Word.

I’ve been assuming all along that you’re as unfamiliar with and terrified of Access as I am. I’m assuming also that you’re as thoroughly comfortable with Word as I am. If this assumption is wrong, take a couple of years to familiarize yourself with Word before continuing. We’ll enjoy a nice cup of tea while we’re waiting.

In Word, choose File, New, Blank document. Choose Tools, Letters and Mailings, Mail Merge. In the Mail Merge task pane, shown in Figure 9 (Step 1 of 6), choose Directory and then Next: Starting document.

In Step 2 of 6, choose Use the current document; then select Next: Select recipients. Word’s designers couldn’t be troubled to change the verbiage for different mail merge types. Why be clear, when opportunities to confuse users are so much more fun—right? Here, recipients really means directory entries. In our case, it’s entries for our movie list.

In Step 3 of 6, with Use an existing list selected, click Browse. Navigate to where you stored your Access database. Click on the .mdb file and choose Open. (If you’re not certain where the file is, open Access and hover the mouse over the .mdb file at the top of the Open list to see where it’s stored and what it’s called.)

Clicking Open opens the Mail Merge Recipients dialog box shown in Figure 10. Again, Word can’t be troubled to say "Directory Entries" for the dialog box title. Here, I have one movie listed (there will be more once I finish this article) and it’s checked. So, I click OK. Now back at the main Word window, I click Next: Arrange your directory at the bottom of the task pane.

In Step 4 of 6, choose More items, which displays the Insert Merge Field dialog box, shown in Figure 11, with Database Fields already selected.

To save time, alternately click each field and the Insert button. This inserts the fields all scrunched together, but it’s easier to do them all at once and then insert carriage returns, etc. later. Otherwise, it means repeatedly summoning the Insert Merge Field dialog box. When you’re done, click Close. You likely have something like what’s shown in Figure 12.

At this point, it’s easiest to dismiss the Mail Merge Wizard in the task pane, which gives you more screen real estate and puts you more in control. So, close the task pane, right-click any toolbar, and choose Mail Merge. In the document window, click where desired to place the fields however they make sense to you. You might even consider using a table to organize them. I decided on a table (shown in Figure 13 without data and shown in Figure 14 with data). Use the View Merged Data tool on the Mail Merge toolbar to toggle the display between merge fields and data.

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