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This recipe only works with new functionality that will be introduced in CiviCRM 4.5. Unfortunately previous versions of CiviCRM can't handle German names/greetings very well..

Enable the Formal Title field and disable the Middle Name field (under Editing Contacts) at:

   Administer » Customize Data and Screens » Display Preferences

Also change the Individual Display Name Format to this:

(We need the Formal Title field in addition to Prefix. Also, we usually don't need the Middle Name field for German contacts.)

We use the Prefix field as "Anrede". Make sure that only "Herr" and "Frau" are enabled as options at:

   Administer » Customize Data and Screens » Dropdown Options » Individual Prefixes (Ms, Mr...)

Don't include any other prefixes here. This is important, as otherwise Postal Greeting, Email Greeting, and Addressee cannot be composed properly. Use the dedicated Title field for academic titles and similar stuff. ("Prof.", "Dr.", "RA" etc.)

Many German organisations use two different communication styles: addressing officials, press contacts etc. (and possibly also unknown supporters) more formally than people with a more intimate connection to the organisation. The default set including "Formal" and "Familiar" options should fit most organisations. If not, it can be customised at:

   Administer » Communications » Communication Style Options

Postal Greeting Formats, Email Greeting Formats, and Addressee Formats also need to be set up at:

   Administer » Communications

Set the default Addressee Format for Individuals to:

(We only want the Title here, but not the gender-specific Prefix.)

For the Postal Greeting and/or Email Greeting, we can use a complex default format with conditionals to account for gender (according to the Prefix) as well as the Communication Style. The exact format will differ from one organisation to another; so just an example here:

This will produce greetings such as "Liebe Jane" (Communication Style: "Familiar"; Prefix: "Frau"; Title: blank), or "Lieber Herr Dr. Feuerstein" (Communication Style: "Formal"; Prefix: "Herr"; Title: "Dr.").

A major shortcoming of the current implementation is that the format string needs to go into the Label field in the Greeting Formats configuration -- and that field is limited to 255 characters... This puts a serious limitation on how sophisticated the conditional handling can become.
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  1. Mar 25, 2015

    Thanks a load for this article. As contact's communication style is translated (at least in my installation) I updated the greetings to:

    {capture assign=c}{contact.communication_style}{/capture}{capture assign=p}{contact.individual_prefix}{/capture}Liebe{if $p=="Herr"}r{/if} {if $c=="Formal"}{$p} {contact.formal_title} {contact.last_name}{else}{contact.first_name}{/if}