Sunday, November 1, 2009

Email your holiday greeting without losing that personal touch


By Sanjay Singh

The holiday season means the same thing to most of us...way too much great food, not enough exercise, hangovers (hopefully only a few), and catching up with family (mostly enjoyable unless you're suffering from one of the previously mentioned hangovers).

It is also the time of the year when many of us send out batches of email messages in the form of invitations, holiday greetings, family newsletters, and so forth.

It's a digital world now. Great aunt Mildred might want to get a physical card, but these days, email is the way to go. It's becoming more and more accepted. Just because you send out email holiday greetings, that doesn't mean you don't really care. In this article, I'll show you some tricks for looking like you care as much as you really do, even though you're using email instead of dead trees.

The old, lazy (and suprisingly ineffective) way to do this is to write one email and then put everyone's email address in the BCC field. It gets the job done but it is neither personal nor very professional.

Worse, if you've got a pile of email addresses in a BCC field, many email filtering programs will think you're a bad guy and try to block your family messages.

This year, I'd like to show you how you can send out personalized, individually addressed copies of the same email to as many people as you want. Each recipient will get an email that has only his or her name in the To field, with personalized content as well if you want.

I'll show you how you can do all this from inside Outlook using an easy wizard and it will take you no more time than filling up the BCC field with email addresses.

You can do this using an add-in called EmailMerge for Outlook. Personally I think it is the best Outlook add-in in the world. To be fair, I may be slightly biased since I designed the application (and fine-tuned it with the input of several thousand users).

Don't worry. I'm not trying to pitch you on this program. Instead, as the program's designer, I'm going to show some secret tricks for how to get the most out of it, and save yourself some time.

Can I do this without an add-in?

Before I show you EmailMerge, I'll answer a question that the folks at OutlookPower asked me. Is there a way of doing this without using our add-in?

The answer is yes. The Microsoft Outlook Team Blog has detailed instructions for doing this, and it doesn't require an add-in.