Yesterday was exciting day for SharePoint Syntex as Content Assembly (aka Modern Mail Merge) finally came to my tenant and I was able to test it out. Content Assembly allows licenced Syntex users to from a document library to convert existing documents into templates and then generate new documents from a SharePoint list or by entering the data manually.

This is an exciting release for Syntex as it helps complete the “content lifecycle” of numerous steps from creation and classification of content to whatever actions are needed for your business processes. Before this SharePoint Syntex has only been about extraction of metadata and classification but now with Content Assembly the whole process is now automated. Read more on a great Microsoft blog here Syntex content assembly and the content lifecycle – Microsoft Tech Community

The Content Lifecycle is continuous: starting with content creation and flowing through classification, search, response and back through creation.
Credit SharePoint Syntex Blog:

Testing Syntex Content Assembly Out

I am now going to try and use Content Assembly to populate an existing letter that I have and show you the steps involved and any observations I have along the way. I am going to use a SharePoint list as my data source for Content Assembly – so I created a clients list and then filled it with some client data. I will then use this list data to generate individual documents.

My M365 tenant is on Targeted (first) release so it gets updates early, and this is before the Roadmap entry for Syntex Content Assembly has even changed to rolling out

So I’m expecting a few niggles with the release and for some areas not to be perfect – that’s targeted release for you! I also know that Syntex uses a lot of Azure resources behind the scenes and it’s pretty complicated so deployment of all the resources fully can take a while. Will update this blog as and when I can if something is broken!

Create modern template

Ensure you log in with a licenced Syntex user to M365 and go to a document library in a SharePoint site where the user account has permissions to manage SharePoint lists. Check the New menu of a document library and there should be a new option at the bottom called “Create modern template“.

Select a existing document that you have already to upload:


  • Currently, only Microsoft Word documents (.docx extension) are supported for creating a template. Before uploading the document, ensure that the Word document doesn’t have Track changes enabled or comments. If your document contains text placeholders for images, ensure that they are not text-wrapped.
  • The template and the document are associated with one document library. To use the template in another document library, you will need to create the template again in that document library.
  • You can create placeholders only for text. Currently, images, smart art, tables, and bullet lists are not supported.
  • Once a document is created from a template, it is not associated with the template.
My Template Letter

The Content Assembly configure template interface will then be displayed. Highlight a placeholder word in the document in my case [Name of recipient] as I want to add the name of the person to the address block on my letter. Give the placeholder a name i.e. Address: Name. Select either Enter text or select a date to ask the user to enter this field in manually when creating documents or Select from choice in a column of a list or library to get the data for the letter from a SharePoint list or document library item. I selected the latter as I want to get my data from the Clients list I created.

Select the SharePoint site and list/document library.

Select the source column to match the placeholder to – the name value that I want is in the Title Field

Once the field is selected check the values on the confirmation and whether you want to allow authors to add new choices i.e. replace a given name and then click Add.

I’ve added four fields in the address block of the letter. I am able if I want to adjust these using the Content Assembly configuration page.

Note: by adding the placeholders it seems to have added lines between each line of the address – when before each of address lines were directly above/below each other with no line breaks between.

UPDATE 15/02/2022: This extra lines being added now seems to be resolved and my templates no longer have extra lines added between placeholders.

I do like how the Headers and Footers are available in Content Assembly configuration page. So I could customise the Header or Footer if I like.

I now want to add a manual entry placeholder to my letter for the letter date. I highlighted the [Month, Day, Year] on the letter, then entered the name for the placeholder of Letter: Date and selected Enter text or select a date then selected Date and time from the dropdown. Then clicked Add.

I then renamed the template by clicking the pencil icon in the top left hand corner. Then once I was happy with the name and template – clicked the Publish button to publish the template.

A confirmation message then appears to confirm the template has been published.

Create a document from a modern template

The letter we just created is then available from the new menu. Click on the menu item to load the modern template.

The Content Assembly configuration tool will then be displayed with the modern template just created for our letter but this time it is from the user perspective. Go to one of the Placeholder text boxes which is linked to the SharePoint list i.e. Address: Name then click the list icon in the far right corner of the text box.

A popout then loads with the list and allows me to select a particular row in the list i.e. in my case select a particular client that I want to use their details for in the letter. I hope in the future I will be able to select multiple rows and create multiple letters rather than having to do it one by one. I select a user and click Ok.

It updates the document with the clients’ details I selected on the SharePoint list. The date field as it is a manual entry has not been entered so I need to fill this in before I can save the document.

Select a date from the dropdown

I can then rename my document and then click Create Document to finish creating the document

The letter is then available in the Document Library and here is the letter we just created. This has great potential – I just need to figure how to fix the formatting issues so there is not spacing between address lines – this could well be a bug or there may be a workaround.

My completed document with Content Assembly from a SharePoint list.


Content assembly has so much potential and makes it easy for people to create modern templates and then generate their own documents. I’m already see lots of demand for this from customers who already have scenarios where they would like to implement this. So I’m excited to road testing this shortly with a customer and reducing the workload of staff members.

It’s a great addition to the Syntex suite and does indeed form the missing piece of the content lifecycle. I’m looking forward to building integrated Syntex solutions for example:

  • Classification and extraction of metadata on say an statement of work,
    • Which then asks for approval (via Power Automate) to directors etc
      • Once approved
        • Updates a SharePoint list (Requests) with the SOW & client details
          • Content Assembly is then used to generate a letter to the client – with the data gathered from the Request list for this SOW.

My Wishlist/Things I’d Like to See Improved

  • When I add placeholders on the letter using Content Assembly it seems to add new unwanted lines under the placeholder, so the address appears spaced out.
    • This may be a bug or I might be missing a crucial step/may be an issue with my template perhaps.
      • UPDATE 15/02/2022: This extra lines being added now seems to be resolved and my templates no longer have extra lines added between placeholders.
  • In the Content Assembly configuration page where you can assign placeholders etc it renders the document in Word web viewer. You can make alignment tweaks (although not with full control) – wouldn’t it be nice if the full MS Word Toolbar was displayed and I could make changes to the Font Size, Font and make other changes to the document.
  • Would love the ability to create more than one template document at a time – currently you have to create each letter individually and there is no option to select say 10 names from a customer list and create 10 documents at once.
  • APIs for Content Assembly – it would be great to automate the creation of documents – likely via REST API which can then be turned into PowerShell Cmdlets or Power Automate Actions
  • By default the document is saved with the name of the modern template, you can change this before generating the document by clicking in the top left hand corner but this is not immediately obvious..
    • Might be good to have a prompt when generating to set the filename and even use data from the placeholder so you could use one of those fields in filename i.e. CustomerLetter-Leon Armston.docx

As mentioned previously the product is still under development so there will be lots of further updates and design tweaks. Its very useful now and looking forward to seeing how it developers.

Feel free to get in contact with me if you have any Syntex questions. Do you have plans or have you already implemented this in your organisation. Give me a shout if you need any help?

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