The only thing you cant do with Google Apps that you can do with Office is mail merge, right?
Here is how….
Create a spreadsheet and organize your data in columns that include one row per individual that you want to create a personalized document for. Make sure each column has a header. Individualized data might also be fed by a Google form.
Go to Tools->Script Editor and delete the existing code, pasting in the script from the attachment below.
Save the script with a name. I like to call it the “autoCrat”;)
Use the small dropdown in the scripts editor to Run the “onOpen” function. This will prompt you to authorize the script.
In order for the script to work, you will need to create a Document to use as a template for the merge.
Create a new collection for your templates. I like to create a collection called “Merge Templates”
Include double bracketed tags for any personalized data you want to populate from the spreadsheet. Ex) <> . It doesn't matter what you call the fields, because you will map them to your spreadsheet headers in a few steps.
Refresh your spreadsheet in your browser. Wait a few seconds and you should see a new menu item to the right of “Help”, called “Document Merge.” If you don't see it, try running the onOpen function from the script editor again.
In the “Document Merge” menu, select “Settings” and complete the settings. If you don't have a collection that contains a template file with <> in it, go back to step 5 and come back to this.
Now you will see a new “Document Merge” dropdown item, “Set Field Mappings.” Map each <> to the spreadsheet column you want to use to populate it. Save the mappings.
Another new “Document Merge” dropdown item will appear: “Test/Run Merge”. Select it and decide what type of merge you want to try…there are a number of combos and cool possibilities. Look to the bottom of the panel for a clue as to the $variableNames that are available for any of the fields you want to populate dynamically per row.
Here are some basic options to play with. Checkbox allows you to test on first-row only if you like.
ONLY saving merged Docs to a collection, either as PDF or Doc format.
Saving to a collection AND emailing PDF as attachment.
Saving to a collection AND emailing recipient a link to individually shared Docs as View-only
Saving to a collection AND emailing recipient a link to individually shared Doc as Editor
Note that as of Version 1.1.0, Date formatting can now be handled. You must use the Format->Number menu from the spreadsheet to format any dates. Currently only three formats are supported: “M/d/yyyy”, “MMMM d, yyyy”, and “M/d/yyyy H:mm:ss” … i.e. 1/30/2012…January 30, 2012, and 1/30/2012 9:32:34.
Note: As of Vertion 1.2.0, the document Header and Footer can now contain merge tags.
1.2.1 fixes a silly bug that occurred when the document didn't contain a header or a footer.
We also recently discovered that non-alpha merge tags don't work. Eg <<90>> will not work. Needs to be <>. So avoid using anything in your merge tags that's not a letter.
When dealing with large numbers of emails it can become frustrating to be redirected back to your inbox everytime an email is replied to, deleted, or moved. Luckily, Google has a nifty feature called 'Auto-advance' that will solve this.
Another nice feature of Google apps is the ability to create default email footers/signatures for each group within the organisation. This can be very useful for identifying staff and students within your school.