Merging Graphics from Access

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated April 18, 2011)

One of the big benefits to using Microsoft Office is that the programs in the suite all work together. This is not to say there aren't "bumps" in the road to blissful co-existence, however. One such bump is evident when using an Access table as the data source for a Word mail merge.

One WordTips reader wrote that he was having a problem merging OLE graphic objects from an Access table field into a Word document. He just couldn't make it work. When the question was put to our astute readers, we found out that it didn't work because it can't. It appears that Word uses DDE to communicate with Access, and DDE is unable to transfer OLE objects (like the graphic) across the DDE interface. It is entirely unclear why Microsoft didn't use OLE Automation instead, which could have solved the problem.

This problem, by the way, is not evident if you are using another Word document as your data source. This makes sense, since the cause of the problem is the DDE communication channel between Access and Word. The problem doesn't exist between two Word documents because a different type of communication channel is used.

Since there can't be a solution, there needs to be a workaround. The most obvious workaround is to not use Access, but instead use a Word document as your data source. If this is not feasible, you can just not worry about merging the graphics, but put them "in place" in the Word document. No merging of graphics is required in this solution, but it only works in those cases where the graphic is the same for all instances of the merged data on a page. If the graphic needs to change for each record being merged, it won't work.

Perhaps the most satisfactory workaround is to merge file names instead of actual graphics. If the Access table can include the names of the graphic files instead of the graphic files themselves, you can set up your merge fields in the Word document to actually go out and load the graphic for you.

For instance, let's say that you have a field in the Access table with the name "Sig." At the point in your merge document where you want the graphic to appear, you would make sure you have the following:

{INCLUDEPICTURE "X:\\sigs\\{ MERGEFIELD Sig}" \* MERGEFORMAT}

Notice that in this instance the path to the graphic file is hard-coded. You could just as easily make the assumption that the path is a part of the Sig field. When you merge and print, the { MERGEFIELD Sig } field is replaced with the contents of the Sig field from the Access table (in other words, the file name), and the INCLUDEPICTURE field causes Word to include the picture (the graphic) specified.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (673) applies to Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, and 2003.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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