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Chapter 4. Calculation Fields > Augmenting a Form Letter

Augmenting a Form Letter

If you have a letter header calculation field, you can use it on a form letter layout. In fact, if you create the parts of the letter as separate fields, you'll have modules that will make future layouts increasingly easy to develop.

If you're using printed letterhead sheets for your form letters, skip steps 8 through 11, since you won't need a global container field if the logo is already printed on the paper.

To create a form letter with modular fields:

Go to the file where you want to create your new layout. First create a text global field to hold the body of your form letter and a container global field for the letterhead logo if you have one

We cover creating container global fields in Chapter 3, “To create a global container field.”

Choose View > Layout Mode (Ctrl+L/Command-L), then choose Layouts > New Layout (Ctrl+N/Command-N).

In the New Layout/Report dialog box, type the layout name (in this case Letter) in the Layout Name box and select Blank layout from the layout type list (Figure 4.29). Click Finish to create the layout.

Figure 4.29. Choose Blank layout from the options in the New Layout dialog box.

An empty layout with Header, Body and Footer tabs will appear. You create a blank layout to avoid adding unnecessary parts that you'll have to delete later.

Go to View > Graphic Rulers to turn on the horizontal and vertical rulers. Rulers will make it easier to set up your letter.

Click on the Header part tab to select it. Drag it down until the header equals the margin you want at the top of your letter (Figure 4.30).

Figure 4.30. Drag the Header tab down to resize the part.

In our example, we've left enough room to add a container field with our letterhead logo and some comfortable white space above it (Figure 4.31).

Figure 4.31. This header part is three inches deep to allow for a margin and a letterhead logo.

Click on the Body tab and drag it down until it's at the 10½ inch (or 760 point) vertical mark. You'll see the dashed line indicating that you've reached the bottom of the page (Figure 4.32).

Figure 4.32. Drag the Body tab down to the bottom of the page.

If you don't need a footer, drag the footer tab up to delete it. (For most letters, you don't need a footer unless you have a letterhead design that has something printed at the bottom of the page.) Otherwise drag the Body tab back up the layout until you have enough room for the footer (Figure 4.33).

Figure 4.33. Drag the Body tab up to make room for the footer.

Scroll to the top of the layout. If you are going to use the global letterhead field, click the field tool in the tool area on the left and drag it into the Header part (Figure 4.34).

Figure 4.34. Drag the field tool to the header to place your container field on the layout.

When the Specify Field dialog box appears, uncheck the Create field label box.

Choose the global letterhead field you created in step 1 and click OK (Figure 4.35). In our example, the field is called “gLogo.”

Figure 4.35. Choose the global container field from the field list in the Specify Field dialog box.

Resize the field so it's big enough to display the entire letterhead or logo.

Click the Field tool and drag it onto the Body part. When the Specify Field dialog box appears, choose Letter Heading.

Now you need to know how much room to leave for the records in your database. To see a sample record, choose View > Show > Sample Data (Figure 4.36).

Figure 4.36. To make it easier to set the field sizes for your form letter, choose View > Show > Sample Data.

The first record in your database will appear in the Letter Heading field in the Body part on your layout (Figure 4.37).

Figure 4.37. Show Sample Data makes setting the proper size of a field much easier by displaying the data instead of the field names.

Unless you're sure the sample is the longest record, resize the field to allow for the longest and deepest address. You don't have to be precise, since you can always go back and change the layout later.

Click the field tool and drag it onto the layout below the Letter Heading field.

Choose your global letter field in the Specify Field dialog box. Resize the letter field to fill the rest of the Body part (Figure 4.38).

Figure 4.38. Leave a space between the salutation and the body of the letter.

Shift-click to select both the Letter Heading and Letter fields on the layout, then choose Format > Sliding/Printing (Figure 4.39). Sliding will get rid of blank lines on the layout.

Figure 4.39. To get rid of unused extra space you've left in your layout, choose Format > Sliding/Printing.

When the Set Sliding/Printing dialog box appears, click the “Sliding up based on” check box to prevent extra vertical spacing from being inserted because of differences in field record lengths, and the All Above radio button to take the longest body part into account when aligning fields vertically below it (Figure 4.40).

Figure 4.40. Sliding up will get rid of blank lines on the layout.

Switch to Browse Mode (Ctrl+B/Command-B). Click in the letter field and type the text of the letter.


  • The dashed line on a layout indicates the page break. Watch for it when you create a new layout! If the Body part extends past the end of page break line, every letter will produce a blank page when you print it.

  • It's a good idea to put a “g” at the beginning of a global field name as a reminder of its field type.

  • To further automate your form letters, create a global container field for the signature. Scan a signature, add it to the Global field, and place the field below the letter text.

  • The fields that are set to slide will only do so when the layout is printed or in Preview Mode (Ctrl+U/Command-U) In Browse Mode, the fields will show where they were placed on the layout.

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