Thunderbird grade book mail merge on Lubuntu 11.10

Attempts to perform a mail merge to email using LibreOffice.org 3.4.4 on a Lubuntu system led only to LibreOffice.org crashing. In searching for another way to perform a mail merge, I looked into what might be possible using Thunderbird 8.0.


I rather quickly found Alexander Bergmann's Mail Merge 2.5.0. The add-on page however, and even the web site left me somewhat perplexed as to how to actually perform the mail merge. The directions were spartan and minimalist.

Fortunately a video by PleaBargain provided me the visual information I needed. Once I saw the draft email with the fields, everything clicked into place.


I pulled the specific columns I needed from my grade book and did a special paste (values only) into a blank temporary spreadsheet. I cleaned up the field names so they had no spaces, and then saved the file as a CSV file.

first,Gr,perc,cperc,max,fxp,sum,fx,mail
Nolynn,D,0.666,0.666,383,0.55,255.2,24,nolynn@wacngin.fm
Maybelynn,B,0.806,0.806,383,0.66,308.65,29,maybelynn@wacngin.fm
Yeslynn,A,0.904,0.904,383,0.84,346.2,37,yeslynn@wacngin.fm

I then composed a new email. In the To: line I put {{mail}} and the subject line was End of term update for {{first}}. Then I composed the body, inserting fields by name where appropriate.

Once done I chose Mail merge from the file menu in the composition window.

I selected the CSV file using the Browse button and the add-on performed the 74 student mail merge flawlessly, putting each individual email in my out box. I could now individually edit specific messages if I chose, or even delete a message that I did not want to send out.

As my list includes students who have not dropped the class but have stopped attending the course, I deleted those emails. The a "Send Unsent Messages" from the main file menu, and Thunderbird began sending the individual emails.

There are some nice upsides to this. In the past, OpenOffice.org did not use IMAP to put sent copies in my sent mail folder on the server, Thunderbird does. That Thunderbird is the email merge agent also means that I am no longer wed to the LibreOffice.org Calc and Writer duo to accomplish mail merges.

LibreOffice.org is a powerful package, but resource hungry on an older system. LibreOffice.org invariably eventually crashes the lxpanel. LibreOffice, however, has been a necessary evil to date as I use mail merges to provide students with updates on their grades.

With Bergmann's add-on I am free to shift to lighter footprint (in GTK) packages such as Gnumeric.

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