Mail merge

How to Use New Mail Merge in Pages


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Apple shouldn’t have taken eight years to reintroduce direct mail to Pages, but now it’s back. Here’s how to get the most out of the new feature.

Even if you knew how to use mail merge in Pages, it’s been almost a decade since the app let you. The 2013 release of Pages 5.0 killed off this pretty essential word processing feature, but now the 2022 release of Pages 12.1 has brought it back.

There is essential and there is essential. You may never even notice the lack of direct mail if you don’t need it.

But if you need it, if it makes your job easier, then the only thing worse than Apple omitting Pages direct mail is that it did it just fine.

Yet he does it again now. So whether you’re new to direct mail, want a refresher after all this time, or are intrigued to see what it’s all about, here’s what you can do now.

Note that this works on Mac, iPhone and iPad. It requires Pages 12.1, which itself requires macOS Big Sur or later for Mac, or iOS 14, iPadOS 14 or later, for iPhone or iPad.

What does direct mail do

It’s a term that’s only sort of self-explanatory once you already know what it means. There’s the mail, okay, and then you merge things with it.

What you are merging is something like a name, address or any other contact details. You write a letter, or write an envelope, and tell Pages to print it using a list of names.

If the list contains 400 names, Pages prints 400 letters. More helpfully, each letter has a contact name, address, etc. different.

So what you need for the mail merge is the list of names in some form, and the letter or text of the envelope you want to insert those names into.

Creating your list of names and addresses

You have already done this. By default, Pages will use your existing contact database for mail merge.

Using contacts for mail merge

You have to choose between Contacts and a Numbers spreadsheet

You have to choose between Contacts and a Numbers spreadsheet

That’s when you’ll see how messy you’ve let your contacts be. Over the years, you’ve added people’s new mobile numbers without deleting the old ones, and so on.

You really should go through your entire contact database and make sure it’s up to date, but you never will. So instead create a new group of people to whom you will send merged letters.

In Contacts, choose Case, New group, then give this group a name. Then find the people you want to add to it and drag their contact card to the name of this group.

Note that unfortunately you cannot use a Smart Group here, it must be a regular group. So there is no way to create a mail merge group that you can automatically add or remove just by, say, adding or removing a tag.

At least, however, any group you create will surely contain fewer names than your entire database. So it’s a smaller number to check.

Using Numbers for Mail Merge

You can also create a Numbers spreadsheet to use in the mail merge. The advantage is that it can be a group mailing you’re doing for someone else, and the names don’t have to go into your own contact database for that works.

It should be a Numbers spreadsheet, not an Excel or CSV sheet.

Otherwise, it’s up to you what you put in this sheet. First name, last name, business address or anything else can enter.

Using Pages Templates for Mail Merge

  1. Open a Pages template on Mac, such as a letter
  2. Click the Documents icon
  3. Scroll down and select Direct mail
  4. Click on Merge… at the top of the pane that appears
  5. Choose Contacts or Spreadsheet
  6. If you choose Contacts, you can select a group
  7. If you choose Spreadsheet, then you need to find this file
  8. Click on Insight to see what will happen
  9. When you’re happy with the preview, click Merge

Note that even on Apple Silicon Macs, mail merge is slow work. You’ll see the progress count works across all the contacts you want, but it will generally seem to freeze once it gets the batch.

This is normal and after a few seconds your one-page letter in Pages is potentially several hundred pages long. Each page having the same letter, but different information.

You can add and edit merge fields without relying on templates

You can add and edit merge fields without relying on templates

How to Add Mail Merge Fields

Apple’s page templates are very nice, but you can have your own that you prefer. In this case, you must tell Pages in which part, for example, the letter must contain the name of the recipient.

Whether you are doing this in a new, completely blank document or want to add such a field to existing ones in the template, the process is the same.

  1. Position your cursor where you want the field to go
  2. Open the Document pane again
  3. Scroll down and click Direct mail
  4. This time click Add a merge field at the bottom of the pane
  5. Choose a field type, i.e. Name, Email (Home), etc.

It is now done. This new field is automatically highlighted in the Pages document so you can see where you positioned it.

You can edit this field or any other merge field by selecting it, and there are two ways to do this. That is, there are two as long as the Document pane is open and you’ve clicked on the Mail Merge section.

When this is the case, you can simply click on any part of your letter where you expect there to be a mail merge field. So you can click where there is an address, for example, or right after the word “Dear…”.

There is a less fortunate approach, however. With this document pane open, the Mail Merge section displays a vertical list of fields named Phone, Business Address, and similar.

Click on an entry in this list and you select it, but you also highlight the corresponding region in your letter.

Apple doesn’t make it easier, just easier

It’s obviously easier now to use Apple’s built-in Pages mail merge feature than before. Previously, you had to chain AppleScript workarounds and hope.

But mail merge has traditionally been a confusing and useful word processing feature. Whenever you compile a document from external database sources, it is simple to mix up your date.

Still, with care, and probably a little practice, the new Pages mail merge feature is as easy as it gets.