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Chapter 4. Calculation Fields > Augmenting a Form Letter

Augmenting a Form Letter

If you have a letter heading calculation field, you can use it in 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 8–11 below, 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. Create a text field and set its Storage option to Global Storage. This field will hold the body of your form letter. If you have a logo and/or letterhead, create a container field to hold the logo and set its Storage option to Global Storage.

We cover creating container fields with the Global Storage option in the section “To use one graphic on many layouts” in Chapter 3, “Layout Enhancements.”

Choose View > Layout Mode (Control+L/Command+L), then choose Layouts > New Layout/Report (Control+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 “Select a layout type” list (Figure 4.36). Click Finish to create the layout.

Figure 4.36. Choose Blank layout from the options in the New Layout Report dialog box.

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

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

Click 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 4.37).

Figure 4.37. 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 4.38).

Figure 4.38. This Header part is 3 inches deep to allow for a margin and a letterhead logo.

Click the Body tab and drag it down until it's at the 10¼-inch (or 760-point) vertical mark. You'll see the dashed line indicating that you've reached the bottom of the page (Figure 4.39).

Figure 4.39. Drag the Body tab down to define the page.

You don't need a footer unless you have a letterhead design that has something printed at the bottom of the page. If you don't need a footer, click the Footer part tab and press delete. If you do, drag the Body tab back up until you have enough room for the footer (Figure 4.40).

Figure 4.40. Drag the Body tab up to make room for a footer.

Scroll to the top of the layout. To use the container field you made in step 1, click the Field tool in the tool area on the left and drag it into the Header part.

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

Choose the global letterhead or logo container field you created in step 1 and click OK (Figure 4.41). In our example, the field is called “gLogo.”

Figure 4.41. 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 into 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 in Layout Mode, choose View > Show > Sample Data (Figure 4.42).

Figure 4.42. To make it easier to set the field sizes for your form letter in Layout mode, 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 4.43). 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.

Figure 4.43. Show Sample Data makes setting the proper size of a field much easier by displaying the data instead of the field names.

Click the Field tool and drag it into 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 4.44).

Figure 4.44. Leave a space between the salutation and the body of the letter.

Shift-click to select both the Letter Heading and Letter fields in the layout, then choose Format > Sliding/Printing (Figure 4.45). Sliding will get rid of blank lines in the layout.

Figure 4.45. 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. Click the “All above” radio button to take the longest Body part into account when aligning fields vertically below it (Figure 4.46).

Figure 4.46. Sliding up will get rid of blank lines in the layout.

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

✓ Tips

  • The thick 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 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 field name with the global storage option set 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 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 (Control+U/Command+U). In Browse mode, the fields will show where they were placed on the layout.

  • If you use many form letters, you may already have them as text in another application. Using FileMaker's batch processing (see Chapter 12, “Importing Data”), you can import multiple files of text at once, instead of retyping or cutting and pasting individual sections.

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