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How To Create A Letter

This document discusses how to create your own letter.

There are two methods to create a new letter. You can modify an existing one or create your own. Let's discuss creating a new letter.

tip.gif To Edit or modify an existing letter, see the topic How To Edit Reports Or Letters.

Have a sample letter in front of you that you would like to use. Using your sample letter, this exercise will familiarize you with the Report Writer, introduce the basics of designing reports, and show you how to print your letter.

Opening The Report Body Editor

1. Pull down the Print menu and choose Customize Printing, Edit Report Templates. The Report Definition list will be displayed.

2. Press F3 to create a new report definition.

3. Put a name that means something to you in the Name field.

4. Click in the Start On field and choose Debtor. This is the form your letter will start on.

5. Click in the Report Body section of the form. The Report Body editor will open where you can type in codes and text.

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Printing A Report

Using your sample letter as a guide, let's design a letter and print it.

1. Copy your letter into the Report Body. Type it exactly as it is in your sample.

tip.gif We will not worry about centering and other formatting right now. Just type the letter, line for line into the report body. We will change this "template" to pull information from your database. For now, we just want to get a feeling for the report writer and printing.

2. When you have finished typing your letter, press the Print button at the top of the screen. The Print Report form is displayed.

3. Choose Printer or Screen and press Print.

4. Your letter will be printed.

Does it look as you expected it to? If not, make any changes that you want to make and print it again. When you are reasonably satisfied with your letter, we will replace each line of information with the code that will pull information from your database.

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Pulling Information From The Database

1. Put your cursor at the beginning of the first line that you want to pull from your database, for example, you Company Name.

2. Press F2 to display the Choose Report Item form.

3. Select Database field and press Next.

4. The Printable Field list displays all the fields that you can use in your reports and letters. Press F1 to see an explanation of this form.

5. Scroll through the list until you find the code for the field you want to pull into your report body.

6. Select the field and the printable field code for that field will appear in the report body.

7. Delete all the text that you typed in, after this code, on that line.

8. Go to the next line where you want information to be pulled into your letter. Press F2 and proceed as above to find the printable field code for field and select it.

9. Delete all the text that you typed in, after this code, on that line.

For instance, if a line reads @cd.na, Your Company's Name, after you have inserted the code, you will delete the words "Your Company's Name", leaving only the code for your company's name on that line.

10. Continue until you have replaced every piece of information with the code for the printable field that will pull information from you database. Be sure to delete any text after the code so that only the code remains on each line.

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Text In Your Letter

The actual text body of your letter can be left as it is. For now, leave alone any line that does not contain information that you can pull from the database.

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Date

1. To replace the Date with a code, put your cursor at the beginning of the Date that you typed in.

2. Press F2 to bring up the Choose Report Item form.

3. Choose one of the two date formats and press Next to insert the code into your letter.

4. Delete the rest of the text after the code, that is, the actual date that you typed in.

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Try Out Your Letter

Now, let's preview the letter to see what we have so far.

1. Press F8 to save your work and return to the Report Definition form.

2. Press the Print button at the bottom right of this form.

3. Choose 'NO' from the prompt that is displayed. At this point, we only want to view a sample of your letter, so we won't select Debtor records.

4. When the Print Report form is displayed, select 'Screen' and press PRINT. You will see a sample of your letter displayed to the screen.

Does this look like your original letter? Are there additional changes that you would like to make?

5. Press F8 to return to the Report Definition form.

6. Click on the Report Body section of this form to open the Report Body again, so that you can edit your design.

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Editing Your Design

One thing that you may have noticed, when you previewed your letter, is extra space at the end of some fields that your code pulled from the database. This is because Collect! knows how many spaces to leave for each field that you pull into a report. However, since you do not always use all the spaces allotted for each field when you enter information into your database, this results in extra spaces showing up in your reports.

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Trimming Spaces

We will format several fields to trim extra spaces from your letter design. Use the << symbol at the end of a code to trim trailing spaces.

For instance, you probably need to tidy up the Debtor's address.

If you found that extra blank space spoiled the look of this part of your letter, try the following.

@de.ad< @de.a1<
@de.ci<, @de.st< @de.zi<

tip.gif The << symbol is one of many formatting symbols that you can use in your designs. See the end of this topic for resources you can refer to learn other formatting tricks.

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Next Steps

This exercise is a very basic introduction to using the Report Writer. This is a very powerful and flexible tool for creating many different kinds of letters and reports. Start with simple basic designs when you create your own letters and reports and use pre-defined samples wherever possible to get you started on more complex solutions.

Always preview a sample of your results before you try out "live data" as we will now.

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Going Live

Let's try out your letter on "live" data.

1. Close the Report Writer, the Report Definition form and the Report Definition list.

tip.gif Press F8 to close each form until you are at the Main Menu!

2. Pull down the Browse menu and choose all Debtors. The list of all Debtors is displayed.

3. Using the arrow keys and the spacebar, select several Debtor records.

tip.gif When you press the spacebar, a line is "tagged". It turns yellow, then blue when you move off of it with the arrow keys. All records that are highlighted in blue are selected.

3. Pull down the Print menu and choose Reports and Letters. Find your letter in the list that is displayed.

4. Click on your letter to select it. You will be presented with a prompt.

5. Choose 'ALL' to print a letter for each of the Debtors that you selected.

6. When the Print Report form is displayed, select 'Screen' and press PRINT. You will see a sample of your letter displayed to the screen for each Debtor in your tagged list.

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Summary

Remember to return to samples whenever you design a new letter or report. You may find one that closely fits your needs. It is faster and more efficient to change an existing "template" that to start all over again.

As you design your own letters, you may find that you are creating your own templates that you can reuse again, with slight modifications, for other needs. For example, you may only need to change the Text part of your Report Body and your letter will serve another purpose.

At the end of this topic, you will see references to other topics. Choose Report Sample to see sample letters. Choose Report Topics Index to see all the report and letter help topics. In this document, references will be made to other topics that will give you specific details about different areas.

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See Also

- How To Pull Information From Different Fields
- How To Use Basic Codes In Reports And Letters
- How To Edit Reports Or Letters
- How To Copy Reports To Master Database
- How To Print A Sample Report Or Letter
- Report Sample to view all the sample reports and letters
- Report Topics Index to view a list of all report topics

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