Correspondence and Recording - Introduction


As well as recording the financial comings and goings of landlords, tenants and suppliers it is necessary to keep track of what we will call "correspondence".  This could be kept as paper files and diary notes but why not use the Aspect Property Manager to do this task, thereby keeping everything in one place.  The extensive range of facilities available to perform that aspect (lovely word) of the record keeping are introduced in this topic and detailed in a series of other topics.

Attempting to discuss all facets of document handling in one topic is unrealistic.  Instead it has been broken down into a series of separate topics which may be accessed directly from this one.  In the "Where to from here?" section below you will find a list of headings which act as links to the related help topic.  Each heading is followed by a brief description of what is at the other end where more detail is provided on how to use the various screens and functions making up the correspondence, communication and recording facilities within the Aspect Property Manager.  The topics build from simple use to more sophisticated use at which point you should be able to utilise the external communications fully.

Some topics are "learn by doing" and you may like to make use of the Training module when working through those topics.

First let's define some terminology used in this group of help topics along with a very brief comment about each.

Means any document or message and could possibly be a record of a phone call or conversation.
There are two distinct types of correspondence and recording, internal and external.
A record of the correspondence should usually be saved in the database.

Used to describe any one, or all, of letters, emails, faxes, SMS (TXT) messages used primarily for external communications.
Unless the text deals with some aspect not common to all of the above "document" will generally embrace all of the above.
There is another style of "stored message" termed a "Note" which is not included in the term "document" and is used primarily for internal communications.

Create and Produce
The words create and produce are used to indicate the difference in the time to which the text is referring.
Create refers to the "putting together" of a new document.
Produce refers to the point where the document is being printed, or faxed, or sent as an email, or sent as an SMS message.

Letterhead and Body
Most documents will usually consist of two sections, a letterhead and body.
The letterhead may be omitted from some documents.
The body is where the text of the message resides.

Ad-hoc or One-off document
A document, the general content of which will "never" be repeated.
Usually created and produced "on the spot".
It may contain data merged from the database.
It may be sent to one individual recipient or to many using "mail merge".
Whether it is, or is not, saved in the database will generally depend upon content.

Standard document
A document where the wording and layout is "fixed" and is stored where it can be used without change.
Sometimes called a form letter, template, boilerplate, or canned text.
It will usually contain data merged from the database.
Typically it will be used repeatedly being sent to different recipients.
The content will contain data pertinent to the recipient.
It may be used to communicate with one individual recipient or to many using "mail merge".

Mail Merge
Where data pertinent to the recipient is extracted from the database is merged into a (usually) standard document.
The same general process is used to extract and export data from the database and place it in an external file such as a spreadsheet.
The Report Writer uses the same process to extract data from the database to create simple reports.

Correspondence File
A file where exact copies of documents are stored.
The saved document may be re-printed, re-sent as an email or fax, edited, or copied to another document.
Whether documents are saved to the Correspondence File may be preset or the decision made when the document is produced.
Each of the four document types may have different saving presets.

This is a special form of "stored message" used to record information relative to, and attached to, a landlord, property, tenant or supplier.
It is possible to have "Administrative Notes" which simply exist in their own right and are not attached to, a landlord, property, tenant or supplier. 
The content is free format text only, without any formatting capabilities such as bold, underline etc.
Considered them as much the same as handwritten notes made in your diary.
They can be used to record contemporaneous notes of telephone or face to face conversations.
Any Note may have an "electronic" diary reminder set on it in which case the Note is usually termed a "Bring Up". 
When letter, email, fax, SMS document types are produced they may also, or only, be saved a Note which may also have a Bring Up date.

Saving Documents and Notes
When letter, email, fax, SMS document types are produced they may be saved to either or both the Correspondence File and as a Note.
How and whether letter, email, fax, SMS documents are saved may be preset or the decision may be made at the time.
When a Note is created it will always be saved to the Notes file.

Important Concepts
Documents, that is - letters, emails, faxes, SMS messages, are to all intents and purposes indistinguishable and are processed in exactly the same way apart from the actual delivery method.  They are created the same way, produced the same way, and are stored the same way.  Other options are also applied the same way.  Any limitations, such as the size of an SMS message or emails are imposed by external considerations and do not change the way the Aspect Property Manager, and therefore you, handle them.  Documents can be saved to the Correspondence File and / or optionally as a Note.

Notes, as commented previously, are text only "stored messages"  intended for internal use.  There is no formatting within a Note.  They can not be saved in the Correspondence File.  They can not be emailed, faxed, or sent by SMS other than by copying the content to a document then dispatched by your chosen method.

Notes can have a Bring Up date set so the electronic diary reminds you to attend to a task on a particular date.
Documents have no such capability.  If you want to be reminded to follow up on a document save it as a Note with a Bring Up date.  It may, of course be saved to the Correspondence File as well.

Where to from here?
This section is in effect a table of contents for correspondence and recording topics.  Each entry has a clickable heading followed by a very short outline of the topic content.  If you work through the topics in sequence you will find some topics with references to items not yet covered but that is the way things are because of the interwoven nature of this entire subject.  As a result you may find you need to jump around a little.

Reading the Word Processing Features and Speed Keys topics before continuing will pay off.

The internal correspondence is provided by Notes and I suggest you read the Notes and Bring Ups topic to see where they fit into the overall scheme of things.

Two reminders - "document" refers to any or all of a letter, email, fax, or SMS message unless otherwise specified and remember to click the heading to go to the full topic.

The first two "link headings" are going to demonstrate how simple it is to produce a document, firstly one equivalent to a short hand written letter and the second a more "official" letter, both to a landlord.

Creating, producing and storing a simple document
Step through producing a simple ad hoc or one-off document.

Creating, producing and storing a document using a standard document
Step through producing a standard letter containing merge codes.

Saving Documents
This topic covers preset saving rules for documents.  By default the system will ask when any document is produced if it is to be saved to the Correspondence File and / or as a Note. 

Each of the remaining sections deal with one of the component parts of the correspondence and recording capabilities in much greater detail.  Each topic builds on preceding topics so reading them in order is advised.

Most external documents consist of two basic parts, a (company) letterhead and the "body" or text of the communication.  The letterhead may of course be on pre-printed stationery or retrieved from a file and printed as part of the document being produced.  This applies primarily to hardcopy documents and emails to a lesser degree.  Generally emails tend not to have letterheads at all and often an "official" document is attached to an email as a Word document or PDF file.  Faxes, like letters, tend to be documents already printed and so would usually contain the letterhead if one exists.  SMS messages definitely don't have letterheads, at least in the context being covered here.  

Creating letterheads
A more detailed overview of letterheads, how to create them, the use of default letterheads for different purposes, pre-printed and graphic letterheads are covered in this topic.  A learn by doing section works through creating a letterhead for letters.

Standard Documents
The advantages of using standard documents, what a standard documents is, how to go about creating them and how data pertinent to the recipient can be merged into such a document is covered. 

Merge Codes
Merging up to the minute data extracted from the database into a document ensures the communication is relevant and, assuming valid data has been entered, correct without needing to hand enter those details.  This is achieved by inserting "place holders" in the document when it is created which are automatically filled when the document is produced.  Merge codes may be used in both standard documents and one-off documents.

Producing Documents
The outcome of the previous topics culminates in this one where the output document is put together from a standard document or is a one-off document created on the spot, dispatched by the preferred method and saved as your organisation's policy dictates.  Both individual and mail merge letters use this same process.

Mail Merge, Export and Report Writer Record Selection
This topic covers the methods used in common to extract data from the database for use in the Mail Merge, Export and Report Writer functions.

Mail Merge
This topic is the culmination of what has gone before where recipient specific data can be merged into a document and sent by post, email, fax or SMS message to many people at one time.

Report Writer
Sometimes data tucked away in the system can only be produced as a complex report when all you want is a list of "things".  The Report Writer allows you to print this data in a simple report format.

The function extracts data from the database and places it in an external file.

Related Topics
Word Processing Features