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I was asked to find out how to send an email to a list of people while making it look like it was addressed to each of them individually--i.e., so they wouldn't know it was a mass mailing. Using the "bcc" feature wasn't good enough, since the "to:" field would be blank (or would have the sender's name), which would look suspicious and tip them off.

I couldn't find a clear answer in the Microsoft Office help files (big surprise there), nor on webpages. I asked the I.T. department. They didn't think there was a way to do it, except maybe through some complicated method involving Mail Merge. So I investigated, and through the Mail Merge hint, and the murkiness of the Help files, I finally came through with a concrete set of instructions that do in fact work. So if you use Outlook and need to perform this task, here they are. I put this here as a public service. I still hope there's an easier way, however.

Sending email to multiple people, while making it look personalized for each, without disclosing the entire recipient list: A tutorial

1. Enter all the recipients as contacts in Outlook under a temporary subfolder.
a. Make a subfolder by clicking File, New, Folder and giving it a name.
b. Enter each contact individually or import the contacts from a Sellen database.

2. In Outlook, click your subfolder to view its contents, then click Tools and select Mail Merge. This will bring up a new box.

3. In the new box, make the following selections:
a. Select “All contacts in current view”
b. Select “New Document” if you have not written your letter yet, or "Existing Document," and then "Browse" to select the letter if you have written it.
c. Select “E-mail” under the Merge To heading at the bottom of the box. You will be prompted to enter a subject line for the email.
d. Click OK. If you selected “New Document”, Microsoft Word will open for you to type your message. Begin doing so by clicking “Edit Mail Merge Document” on the Microsoft Office Assistant that comes up.

4. Optionally, you may use Mail Merge fields to personalize the message; for instance, "Dear <>." You can do this by doing the following:
a. Click "Insert Merge Field," at the top of the document
b. Select "First name” (or any other merge field you prefer).

5. When you are done typing your message in Word, click "Merge" at the top of the document. Make sure under "Merge to" it says "Electronic mail," and then click the "Merge" button. Word may tell you that "A program is trying to access email messages you have stored in Outlook," and ask you if you want to allow it. Click "Yes." (NOTE: You may have to click "Yes" twice for each recipient.)

6. The messages will be sent, one at a time to each recipient, and will be stored in your "Sent Items" folder in Outlook.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 5th, 2004 11:37 am (UTC)
Actually there is a simpler way and it even avoids having to click "Yes" to the "A program is trying to access e-mail messages you have stored in Outlook, will you allow this" for each message.

1. Open Excel
2. In cell A-1 type "E-mail Address"
3. Enter the e-mail addresses that you want to send to, one in each cell down column A.
4. Save the file.
5. Open Outlook and click "New" to start a new e-mail message
6. From the tool bar of the new message window choose View > Toolbars > Mail Merge (the mail merge toolbar will be show)
7. On the Mail Merge Toolbar, click the "Open Datasource" button and choose the excel spreadsheet that you have the e-mail addresses stored in.
8. Type the text of your e-mail message
9. When ready to send, first go back to the Main Outlook window (not the e-mail message window) and choose Tools > Options.
10. On the options menu, select the Mail Format Tab.
11. Uncheck the Use Microsoft Word to edit e-mail messages box.
12. Click Ok to close the menu.
13. Go back to the e-mail message window
14. On the mail merge menu bar, click "Merge to e-mail"
15. A box will open with a few options. Enter the subject line for the e-mail messages.
16. Click OK

Your messages will be sent from Outlook and you won't have to approve each message before it goes out.

Aug. 5th, 2004 12:40 pm (UTC)
Now, this is proof of why everyone needs a Microsoft employee on their friends list. :D

However...hmm. When I tried this, I got stuck at step 6, because there is no "Mail Merge" option under the Toolbars for our version of Outlook. We get Standard, Formatting, Clipboard, and Customize. Hmf.
Aug. 5th, 2004 12:48 pm (UTC)
Try going to the main Outlook window Toolbar > Options, then the Mail Format tab. Check the Use Microsoft Word to edit e-mail, then click OK. Open an new e-mail message window and you should now have some more toolbars availab.e

Yes, you'll have to uncheck it later on, which is a bit weird, but it should give you the Mail Merge menu to start the process.
Aug. 5th, 2004 12:49 pm (UTC)
Opps, fromthe main Outlook window it's Tools, not Toolbar.
Aug. 5th, 2004 12:54 pm (UTC)
I do indeed have more toolbars available now, but none of them are called "Mail Merge"...
Aug. 5th, 2004 01:08 pm (UTC)
Hmm...could be a difference in the version that you're using. Alternate route: From the new mail message window, select Tools > Letters & Mailings > Mail Merge. If it's grayed out, then enter a couple characters into the new message and try again.
Aug. 5th, 2004 02:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah...I don't get a "Letters & Mailings" option, grayed out or otherwise, so it must be that we have an old version. Think we're running Office 2000, if that makes any difference. Oh well! Was definitely worth a try.
Aug. 5th, 2004 02:33 pm (UTC)
Yikes. Yeah, that was 2 versions past.
Aug. 5th, 2004 11:56 am (UTC)
Interesting. I always thought that the recipient's name showed in the to: field and then nothing in the BCC field when they GOT the message....Thanks!
Aug. 5th, 2004 03:07 pm (UTC)
I use PINE.


Move cursor to To: line.

Hit alt-b, or ctrl-b, I can't recall which and it doesn't matter since one gives me a bcc: line and the other does nothing.

Enter addresses or nicknames.


I like PINE.

Ekatarina, whose email program is too dumb to get sick.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )