Apple Finally Brings ‘Mail Merge’ to Pages for iPhone, iPad, and Mac | What It Is + Why It’s So Important

Whats new in Pages 12.1 Credit: Jesse Hollington
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Apple’s free suite of iWork apps offers an excellent way for Mac, iPad, and even iPhone users to create newsletters, spreadsheets, and presentations. However, as intuitive and attractive as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote are, it’s also fair to say they’ve always lagged behind their well-known Microsoft counterparts.

Apple’s iWork apps are free, whereas Microsoft’s Word, Excel, and Powerpoint have to be purchased separately. Of course, these apps are much more powerful and may be well worth it if you can find a good deal

With today’s update to Pages, though, there may be one less reason to use Microsoft Word; Apple has finally brought Mail Merge automation to its writing app.

Mail Merge, which lets you create a single document or envelope template that can be used for dozens of recipients, has always been a conspicuous omission in Apple’s word processing app. It’s something that’s been a core feature of other word processing apps for over 30 years, and many Pages users are shocked when they find it missing. 

This feature is so in-demand that enterprising developers have built third-party apps to fill the gap. Thanks to Pages’ support for AppleScript, more tech-savvy users have also been able to cobble together their own homegrown solutions. However, all of these have been hacks to make up for a feature that Apple really should have baked in from the beginning.

Worth the Wait? 

While it’s been a long time coming, Mail Merge has finally arrived in Pages 12.1 — and it’s not only available on the Mac; iPad and even iPhone users can take advantage of it, too.

That’s a nice improvement over Microsoft Word, which offers a solid Mail Merge feature on the desktop, but not on the iPhone or iPad. That’s not surprising since Apple works hard to deliver feature parity across its entire family of devices as much as possible. 

Word, Excel, and Powerpoint for iPhone and iPad are quite functional for standard editing, but they lack the advanced features of their desktop counterparts. On the other hand, there’s very little in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that you can do on the Mac that you can’t also do on your iPad or iPhone.

Apple has also integrated its Mail Merge feature much more tightly into the entire macOS and iOS experience. Most significantly, if you’re sending out a letter to a group of friends, family, or colleagues, you don’t need to create a separate spreadsheet; you can pull the info directly from the Contacts app on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac. 

When setting up the Mail Merge in Pages, you’ll be able to drop in name and address fields that correspond to your contacts, and when you perform the merge, you can select which contact list or group you want to pull the names from.

Nearly any field in your contacts is fair game for a Mail Merge in Pages; the only exception is the Notes field. This includes things like birthdays, anniversaries and other dates, social media handles, related names, and even URLs.

Of course, you can still use a traditional spreadsheet, in which case you’ll be able to create whatever fields you want. This could be useful if you were sending out thank you letters for gifts or donations after a fundraising event, for example, where you might want to list the amount or gift given within the body of the letter. 

What Else Is New in Pages, Numbers, and Keynote?

While Mail Merge is undoubtedly the most significant new feature to come to Pages this time, Apple has also added some “stylish new templates for event invitations and student certificates” to help folks get ready for grad season. You can also now export your Pages documents to plain text files.

Numbers get some performance improvements when inserting rows and columns in large tables, while Keynote adds dynamic backgrounds that move as you transition from slide to slide, plus some additional animated themes to feature these new backgrounds. It’s also now possible to skip or unskip all slides in a collapsed group.

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