Performing a Mail Merge with Google Docs (To Create Documents or Emails)

Google Docs is wonderful in many ways, however, there are a couple of areas where it has limited functionality that were issues for me recently and this is the second of a two-part series of blog posts (see the first part here) on what I did to work around those limitations.

A Google Docs mail merge is not a native capability of Google Docs. Said another way, Google Docs does not natively offer the ability to do a mail merge (that is, it does not offer the ability to use a template document with special data placeholders and create a set of documents from a set of data where the data is used to populate the values for the special data placeholders in the template document). Fortunately, Google Docs does natively offer the ability to use 3rd party extensions and the excellent DocumentMerge by PandaDoc extension will allow you to do mail merges.

The instructions for how to use DocumentMerge by PandaDoc to perform a mail merge using a Google Sheet as the data source for a template Google Doc can be found at https://www.pandadoc.com/google-docs-document-merge. I won't belabor things by repeating the instructions here; the reason I'm writing this post is that for me, the DocumentMerge by PandaDoc extension wasn't easy to find when searching for a way to do a mail merge with Google Docs and I'm hoping that this blog post will bubble up in search results in the future, making it easier for others to find the extension (if this blog post is helpful to you, please take a moment to leave a comment if you're willing). To be more specific, what I was looking for was the ability to do a mail merge that produced printable documents but all I was able to find was info on how to do mail merges to create emails (which the DocumentMerge by PandaDoc extension will do as well so if that's what you're looking for, it's good for that too).

Anyway, it's a great extension for doing a mail merge with Google Docs (though for some reason it's fairly slow). You'll see that it creates a Google Doc as the output of your mail merge and from there, that document is just like any other Google Doc (meaning you can download it, print it, whatever you need to do). In addition, DocumentMerge by PandaDoc has another capability as well: if you want to email out each of the merged documents as a PDF attached to an email, you can do that directly with DocumentMerge by PandDoc which is a great feature (albeit one I haven't used since in my case I just needed to print the merged documents).

Creating a Document of a Non-standard (Custom) Size in Google Docs

To give credit where credit is due: I became aware of this technique in the post at https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/docs/m-hUu90ZGI0.

Google Docs is wonderful in many ways, however, there are a couple of areas where it has limited functionality that were issues for me recently and this is the first of a two-part series of blog posts (see the second part here) on what I did to work around those limitations.

Google Docs only allows you to create documents from a set of standard page sizes; it does not allow you to create a document of a non-standard page size (custom page size) of your choosing. Fortunately, there is a workaround that will allow you to create a document of any page size. If you're printing (in my case, I was printing envelopes), working from a document that properly represents the size of your print media is at the very least helpful, if not downright critical.

The workaround is to create a document outside Google Docs (yeah, that's bad but it's what you have to do) with the proper page size (and get your margins like you want them as well because if you try to change those in Google Docs, you'll also be forced to change the page size at the same time and of course you'll be forced to change the page size to one of the standard sizes). I had success uploading a Word-type document (both .doc and .docx worked for me) but not uploading a PDF or a Pages-type document. Note, however, if you don't have Word on your machine, you can get OpenOffice for free. In addition, if you have Pages, you can create the document there and export it as a Word-type document and that works (in fact, that's what I did; for more on how to do it, see this associated post of mine).

One special note here: I encountered a bit of a strange issue with pages with a width of 7.25" (my custom size also had a height of 5.25" but I didn't investigate whether or not that was relevant to the issue). The issue was that Google Docs for some reason was inserting a blank page between every actual page on print/download. Very weird stuff. By using a document with a width of 7.75" with an additional .25" margin on left and right, Google Docs did not insert that extra blank page and for my situation, this was a suitable workaround because what I needed to be able to do was print and on my Mac, the key for printing was the center of the content (if in your situation, you ever see an issue like this but the key for printing is the left of the content then add additional width to the page and instead of dividing the additional width evenly between the left and right margin, just add all the additional width to the right margin).

Twitterfeed

Twitterfeed (http://twitterfeed.com) is a service that publishes tweets on your behalf (that is, using your Twitter account) from feeds (for instance, from your blog) you provide to it. This is cool but the really nice thing is that its name paints a more restrictive picture than is reality: Twitterfeed can also publish updates on your behalf to Facebook and LinkedIn. And each of these is optional so you can publish to any or all of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

I've chosen to set up Twitterfeed to publish to all of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. So that means that a notification about this, my first blog post written since I began using Twitterfeed, should get published out to my Twitter account, my Facebook account, and my LinkedIn account.

Cool, huh? How do you get updates about your blog posts out to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn?

Hang/Hook/Hold/Stick/Mount Portable Hard Drive to Laptop/Notebook Lid/Top/Case with Suction Cup

Eh...sorry if the title of this post is a little hard to read--it's because I really want others to be able to find this info when they do an Internet search 'cause I sure couldn't find any info about anything like this!

I wanted a way to hang/hook/hold/stick/mount/something! my portable hard drive onto the back of my MacBook Pro's lid/top/case/display/whatever. I wanted something that I could attach and remove quickly and easily and that, when removed, wouldn't leave any traces of its presence on the laptop (so no modifications of any type to the laptop). I was more open to modifying the portable hard drive case, but I wasn't wild about that. Really, that left me only 2 options: suction and hanging hooks--and what I discovered is that the best approach is a combination of both: suction for the portable hard drive and a hook to hang it all from the laptop lid. :) I found a wreath hook at Jo-Ann that is perfect! Check it out:

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