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Chapter 4. Calculation Fields > Formatting Form Letter Modules

Formatting Form Letter Modules

If you've created form letter layouts before, you know that it's relatively easy to use merge fields to personalize a standard letter. However, if you depend heavily on form letters, you still end up repeating the same tasks over and over when you use this tactic. Form letters usually follow the same basic concept—a salutation (Dear), a courtesy title (Mr., Ms., General or Exalted Leader) and a last name. Then comes the body of the text, followed by a sign-off (Sincerely) and a signature name. Replace many of these form letter elements with calculation fields and you can minimize duplications.

If you're clever about creating options with the all-purpose If function, you can trim the number of different layouts and letters you need to create as well.

For example, if you have a Greeting Name field, you can set your salutation to auto-matically create either a formal or informal heading. You'd still use If and IsEmpty functions to check for text in a field (like the MI field), but substitute the Greeting Name field instead. If there is no text in the Greeting Name field, the salutation would default to the standard formal format (Dear Mrs. Jones). If it is supplied, the less formal greeting name (a first name or a nickname) would be used (Dear Karen).

One of the most useful next steps in putting the Label calculation field to work is to put it on a letter layout. Most well-composed letters include the addressee's name and address as a block of text (just like the label). Following the block of text is a greeting line, and occasionally a date. Since the elements and their positions are standard, they're a prime target for another modular calculation field.

You can adapt the techniques below to create layouts such as business forms, statements, invoices and other printouts that combine global and standard fields.

To create a standard letter header:

1.
Follow the steps in “To create a label field” on page 57.

2.
Choose File > Define Fields (Ctrl+Shift+D/Command-Shift-D).

3.
When the Define Fields dialog box appears, type the name of your header field in the Field Name text box, select the Calculation radio button, then click Create.

We use Letter Heading as the field name in this example.

4.
When the Specify Calculation box appears, double-click on the name of your label calculation field—in our example, Label. From the operators keypad, click the ampersand button.

5.
From the operators keypad, click the quotes button and then the paragraph () button two or three times to create enough space between the header address and the letter salutation. Click to the right of the quotes and click the ampersand button from the operator keypad (Figure 4.22).

Figure 4.22. To create a letter header, use the existing Label field, then add paragraph markers to separate the addressee information from the rest of the letter.


6.
From the operators keypad, click the quotes button. Between the quotes type Dear followed by a space. Click to the right of the quotes. From the operator keypad, click the ampersand button (Figure 4.23).

Figure 4.23. Put different portions of the header calculation on different lines so you can read them easily later.


7.
From the field list, double-click your courtesy title field.

This example uses MrMsMrs.

8.
From the operator keypad, click the ampersand button, then the quotes button. Type a space inside the quotes.

9.
Click to the right of the quotes and click the ampersand button again (Figure 4.24).

Figure 4.24. Always remember to add a space within quotes whenever you are merging several text fields on one printed line.


10.
From the function list, double-click Trim. With “text” highlighted in the formula box, double-click your Last Name field in the field list.

11.
Click to the right of the parentheses. From the operators keypad, click the ampersand button, then the quotes. Type a colon inside the quotes.

12.
Make sure your Calculation result is set to Text, then click OK, then Done.

You now have a standard letter header and greeting in one field.

Tip

  • Once you get the hang of the concept, you can start combining modules of calculation fields to help you streamline your layout creation. For example, many invoices have two address sections: the ship-to address and the bill-to address. Sometimes these addresses are the same, but occasionally they're not. If you created one calculation field for the shipping address (usually the same as the label field), you can create another for a bill-to address. If the bill-to address exists, it would be inserted on the layout. If the bill-to calculation field is empty, the shipping address could be inserted instead.


To create a customizable letter heading:

1.
Follow the steps in “To create a label field” on page 57.

2.
Choose File > Define Fields (Ctrl+Shift+D/Command-Shift-D).

3.
When the Define Fields dialog box appears, type the name of your header field in the Field Name text box, select the Calculation radio button, then click Create.

We use Letter Heading as the field name in this example.

4.
When the Specify Calculation box appears, double-click on the name of your label calculation field—in our example, Label. From the operators keypad, click the ampersand button.

5.
From the operators keypad, click the quotes button and then the paragraph button two or three times to create the visual space you'd like between the header address and the letter salutation. Click to the right of the quotes again and click the ampersand button from the operator keypad (Figure 4.22).

6.
Click the quotes button. Type Dear followed by a space between the quotes. Click to the right of the quotes. From the operator keypad, click the ampersand button (Figure 4.23).

7.
Double-click If to choose it from the function list. In the formula box, double-click the “test” parameter in the If statement to select it. From the function list, double-click IsEmpty (Figure 4.25). The IsEmpty function looks at a field to see if it contains any data.

Figure 4.25. To create a formula to choose between two options depending on whether there's data in a field, select the If function, then select IsEmpty as its test parameter.


8.
With the “field” parameter highlighted in the formula box, double-click Greeting Name in the field list (Figure 4.26).

Figure 4.26. To use a Greeting Name if one exists, select it as the test parameter for IsEmpty.


9.
In the formula box, double-click to highlight “result one.”

10.
Double-click the courtesy title field in the field list.

11.
In the operator keypad, click the ampersand button, then the quotes button. Type a space inside the quotes.

12.
Click to the right of the quotes and click the ampersand button.

13.
Double-click Trim in the function list, which highlights “text” in the formula box, then double-click your Last Name field in the field list (Figure 4.27).

Figure 4.27. If the Greeting Name field is empty, the calculation will use the standard formal greeting of Mr/Ms/Mrs plus a space and the Last Name.


14.
In the formula box, highlight “result two” and double-click the Trim function. With “text” highlighted in the formula box, double-click Greeting Name in the field list (Figure 4.28). Click to the end of the line.

Figure 4.28. Choosing Greeting Name as the field for “result two” inserts it instead of the formal greeting whenever you want to use an informal name for the addressee.


15.
From the operator keypad, click the ampersand button, then click the quotes button and type a colon between the quotes.

16.
Make sure your calculation is set to Text, then click OK. When you're finished, click Done.

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