Prototype Overview

User Interface Actually Implemented

Our prototype begins by assuming that the user has opened Microsoft Word and has selected the mail merge option in the regular way. The first screen that is supposed to pop up is the data collections screen, but the user must click 'Modify...' under the 'Data Collection' heading to get here in this prototype. Here the user is presented with all the all of the options pertaining to setting up the data. The data collections segment shows which data collections currently exist and allow the user to create a new collection. Our prototype does not actually save these files, but the interface is present. When the user clicks on a data collection in this list, the grid below is automatically populated with the information from that collection (another feature not shown in the prototype). The options in the 'Current Data Collectino Box' are also not yet functional. By default, the current word document is associated with the data collection, meaning that this document can easily be called up when future documents access the same data collection. Clicking on 'Add...' would allows the user to select another document to associate with the selected data collection, but this is also not yet functional--we plan to implement the standard open dialog box for this, something with which the user is familiar.

The bulk of the screen is devoted to the actual data in the data collection. There will be a grid layout just like in Excel, but it will be colored differently so that the user does not assume it has Excel functionality (all in what is now a blank space). Buttons on the side allow the user to edit the data in the grid. The user can also add a database to the grid with a standard open dialog box. Once the database is selected, the user is presented with a dialog for choosing which fields from the database should be included in the data collection. All fields are checked by default, and the user may customize these as he wishes. Notice that the 'Add Data...' button has changed into the 'Add More Data...' button. Thus, if the user is adding a second database, this button brings up the database-linking screen. Here, after selecting a field from each database, the databases can be linked together. If the new data has associated meta-data, the bottom part of the form allows a user to put the meta-data into a new, explicit field. The user can also manage the databases from the modify data collection. Clicking this button would open a screen from which the user can choose to remove or add databases and also change the color displayed in the data grid for each database, but this was not implemented. Finally, the user will be able to edit the data with simple tools shown in the 'Edit Fields box.'

Once the user is finished manipulating data, the main interface sidebar in Word comes up. The user can easily change whether to create letters, e-mails, labels, or envelopes, but the actual functionality is not yet in place. The user would then type up a document or labels as normal. The 'Fields' area would be populated with the fields from the data collection, and they could be dragged into the document to be easily inserted. The user could also group items by highlighting them and clicking on the group button, but this is also not yet functional. Additionally, the user could click on the 'New Condition' button to create conditions of what text to insert.

Finally, when the user wants to complete the mail merge there are several output options to choose from. "Preview and Edit" mode can be engaged to view individual documents if desired. The button does not work, but it remains depressed when the user enters this mode. The sorting order for the merge can be altered by clicking on the 'Modify...' button under 'Output.' Unfortunately, this does not yet work either. For advanced options regarding output, the 'More Options...' button is available and will bring up an additional dialog. There the user can filter which recipients get the merge, whether to collate the printed documents, and the order that the documents are printed in. Lastly, the document can be printed or emailed to the desired recipients with the 'Send All...' button.