Mail merge is a general term for merging information from a database with a template message, which is sent to many recipients, so that each recipient gets a personalized message.
Mail merge does two things:
- It creates a separate message for each recipient, so that recipients do not see each other's e-mail addresses.
- It optionally personalizes the message using information from the database, so that each recipient gets a slightly different message.
If you only want the first of these—to send exactly the same message to many people, so that they do not see each other's e-mail addresses, then you probably do not need mail merge—you can almost always do that using Bcc.
Thunderbird does not support mail merge directly. If you need to send personalized messages, here are some approaches that you might want to consider.
Using an extension
Two extensions implement this feature:
- Mail Merge. The add-on page explains how to use it and reference customized fields.
- Mail Tweak through its Personalize messages tweak.
Both add-ons work in a similar way:
- You provide your data set through Thunderbird's address book or with a CSV file.
- The add-on generates personalized messages.
- The messages are placed in Thunderbird's Outbox. From there, you can edit some of them if needed.
- You can send the messages by choosing File – Send Unsent Messages in the normal way.
Using a word processing program
OpenOffice Writer can read a Thunderbird address book (or some other source of addresses), merge the data with an OpenOffice document to create personalized messages, and send the messages directly to your SMTP server.
There are three steps in OpenOffice:
- Set up the SMTP server—in Writer, choose: Tools – Options... – OpenOffice.org Writer – Mail Merge E-mail
- Import the Thunderbird address book—choose: File – Wizards – Address Data Source...
- Create and send the message—choose: Tools – Mail Merge Wizard...
Using a mailing list program
A mailing list program, (for example, the open source PHPList), can merge information from a conventional database with a template message. In general, a specialized program like this is more appropriate for large lists, large messages, or other requirements like scheduled mailings.