Initial Design 3

The mail merge feature should be integrated with the word processor, because it is the tool with which users are most comfortable for all of the uniform content creation tasks. Creating a sidebar in Word is a excellent idea, but the current implementation is significantly limited by its inconsistency. The solution is to provide a minimal sidebar without all of the explanitory text, so that all of the neccessary controls can fit on the sidebar at once, like they do on the mail merge toolbar.

Because many users of mail merge do not use the feature frequently, directions should be easily accessible. These directions could be customized to provide accurate, specific, step-by-step instructions based on a few simple questions. Then the directions could be printed or viewed on screen.

Data should be formatted within the mail merge tool in a spreadsheet window, because it allows for automatic updates of data sources. If the user modifies field names or performs other tasks, the mail merge program should note this and be able to perform the same steps in the future automatically. The data that makes up a merge document should be saved within that document, but also it should be exportable for use with other documents. This allows the complex data formatting to be reused. Custom fields with room for extra descriptive content should be available, and this content should be remembered if the data is later re-imported. These custom fields could describe the level of formality that should be used for letters to particular people from a particular person or personal notes that should be inserted into certain letters.

To eliminate complex data formatting, advanced filtering tools should be included that are highly efficient and intuitive to those without programming knowledge. One way to do this would be to provide collapsable tree structures with blocks that represent fields, operators, and groups. Building blocks could be dragged into the document to create fields, and then fields could be dragged back to a dock for later use with other documents. The overall document properties, such as a filter for recipients or the subject of an email should be contained in a universal block that is edited in the same manner as blocks within the document.