|★ APPLICATIONS ★ DIVERS ★ Mail Merge Tutorial ★|
|Mail Merge Tutorial|Amstrad Computer User)||Applications Divers|
Dear Sir or Madam...
Alastair Scott lets his CPC teach him about the art of mail merging
IN its basic form, mail merging is the art of merging names and addresses into a standard letter... so begins Thompson Computers'Mail Merge Tutorial for Arnor's Promerge Plus - the CP/M+ or Amsdos mail merge program that works in tandem with Protext.
The tutorial is made up of one introductory file, four instruction files and 22 example files which are intended to teach you how to use the program painlessly.
Instruction File I introduces you to the concept of mail merging. You are shown a letter which is written with a given address. You are then shown a revised copy which allows you to produce a series of letters with names and addresses chosen from a data file.
Stored commands are explained, and there is a lengthy section on disc terminology, saving files, loading files, and how to avoid disc errors. Finally, you are shown how to read data files into variables.
Instruction File II tells you about conditional mail merging. The example is the same as that in File I, and deals with sending letters only to those members whose memberships were due for renewal in January or February. You are also told how to print out address labels using the data in the list of club members. The next section deals with interaction with the user. The example is an invoice for an electrical contractor - you supply names, cost of materials, cost of labour and so on, and Promerge Plus creates a custom-made invoice with VAT calculated and added to the total cost.
Instruction File III tackles selective mail merging and formatting names. If your list contains names such as "Mr A M Scott", having "Dear Mr A M Scott" starting off a letter would look rather odd, so you are shown how to remove the initials and produce the correct introduction.
You are taught about looping and branching. You are shown how to use Promerge Plus to execute certain commands a given number of times. Finally, in this section, there is an example of how to use the IN command, allowing you to insert data from another file at a certain point in the mail merge before carrying on.
Instruction File IV, which is much shorter than the other three, tells you how to use data from other programs with Promerge Plus. The examples given are Masterfile 8000 (a CP/M+ database) and Scratchpad Plus (a CP/M+ spreadsheet), but the information given is valid for any utility program that can save pure Ascii files.
The basics have been comprehensively covered, and you are not a passive onlooker. Instead of just reading the instruction files and printing out data, the author encourages you to alter the example files and do different things.
If you get stuck, or cannot think of the answer, there is usually another example file which contains the correct answer. All the example files are full of comments and explanations -1 would consider them to be the most important part of the program, rather than the instruction files.
One problem is a lack of memory under CP/M Plus on the 6128 - there is not enough RAM to store the Protext code plus two largish documents. If you load an instruction file and an example file, you have to wait several seconds when swapping between them while the disc drive is accessed and temporary files are stored and deleted. This is very annoying.
The solution is to print out the instruction files, and load the example files when necessary. This problem, of course, is not a feature of the Amsdos version which works in conjunction with Protext and Promerge Plus on ROM.
Mail Merge Tutorial is ideal for beginners to Promerge. The author states that all you need to use the program is a basic knowledge of how to load and save documents, and I won't disagree with him.