Standard Documents - Letters, Emails, Faxes and SMS Messages


Location... Setup menu > Standard Documents.

Use the standard documents screen to:-
  • create new standard documents
  • edit (change) the content and layout of existing standard documents
  • create new standard documents
  • indicate whether a letterhead is to be used.
  • indicate whether Live Spell Check should be invoked when the document is used.

    Skip to the description of the screen elements

    What are Standard Documents?
    The term Standard Document is used in this version of the Aspect Property Manager Help to replace the term Standard Letter used in previous versions.  The terminology change is to emphasise that the template can be used for much more than just letters and the document is just a starting point.

    To expand a little more on the points made in the Correspondence and Recording - Introduction topic, a standard document:-
  • Is a common stored document where the content and layout is more or less the same irrespective of the recipient.
  • Typically will be used repeatedly and is sent to many different recipients.
  • Will usually contain data merged from a database, even if it only your name, address and the date.
  • Is used to tell the same story each time so the wording is usually unchanged.
  • May be used to communicate with one individual recipient or to many using "mail merge".
  • Is also known as a form letter, template, boilerplate, or canned text.
  • An example you may be familiar with is the letter from the bank stating your mortgage is due for renewal and here are the new terms.
  • A number of sample standard documents are supplied with the Aspect Property Manager and have names starting with "z".  

    Sample Standard Documents
    If you go to Setup menu > Standard Documents you can see the sample standard documents supplied with the Aspect Property Manager demonstration system which all have names starting with "z".  From version V3.17.6.x these are no longer editable.

    Although we have found that many users use the sample documents just as they are provided, it is recommended that you create your own documents from those samples by using the [Copy] button and naming the copied documents using a method such as that covered in the naming convention section and then, if needed, modify the new document.  By doing so you retain the untouched template and have documents which use your words and reflect your style and we can re-issue sample documents when changes are required.

    At the point where a standard document is being used, any of the text, or merge codes used, or their resulting data, may be over keyed, extra comments entered, or text deleted, or additional merge codes added without affecting the original standard document.  The modified document as produced may be saved in the recipient's Correspondence File or as a Notes.

    Creating a Standard Document
    When you communicate with a landlord, tenant or supplier individually you do so from the recipient's [Mail] button, so that is the viewpoint to use when creating a standard document.  A major reason for using standard documents is the ability to have "merge codes" within the document where data pertinent to the recipient is extracted from the database and inserted into the document text by magic.  Merge codes are covered fully in the Merge Codes topic.

    Before writing a lengthy complicated document, particularly if you intend to merge data from the database, consider doing a "skinny" version first and see you get the results you expect.  Even when the document is intended for use with Mail Merge the output should be tested from an individual [Mail] button because if it won't work for one person it certainly won't in a mail merge situation.

    Rather than starting from a blank canvas you may find that copying an existing document then modifying it is easier, but if you take this route please read the document modification Caution below before doing so.

    When creating a completely new standard document I believe the simplest method is to compose it as you would when doing so by hand.  Complete it exactly as you want to see it go out the door.  Include any title, name, address, date, the wording and data content, the sign off and any information that you want to appear under the sign-off or signature.  You may even like to use your favourite word processor to do this, but if you do so, do not copy and paste the content of the word processor document directly to the standard document.  You must save it as a plain text (.txt) file and copy and paste the content of that file.

    Irrespective of the method used eventually you should have the new document as "written out" saved in the Standard Documents.  At this point all the personalised variable data in the document should be replaced with merge codes.

    If the document is to have a letterhead tick the Use Letterhead box.  If the wording, as opposed to the merged data, of the document will generally be modified tick Live Spell Check to ensure your changes are checked.  Both these selections can be overridden during production of the document.

    Only when you have the document producing what you want should you format the text with bolding, underlining, font changes, bullets and any justification wanted.  See Text Enhancement. for more details.

    Summary so far  You are communicating with a "type" of recipient, most commonly a landlord, tenant or supplier so the merge codes inserted must be the ones associated with that type of recipient AND when the standard document is used it must be used from that type of recipient.  If you do not do so you may get unexpected results.  There are exceptions and consideration must be given to whether the document is to be used for mail merge and whether it will be saved to either or both the Correspondence File and / or as a Note.  There is more on this in the Which MailMerge selection to choose section of the Producing Documents topic.

    Now let's look at a very simplified example of the process so far:-
    The "handwritten" version is:-

    Mr W Bloggs
    24 Beach St
    Sandy Bay

    27 October 2011

    Dear Bill,

    You owe us $450 rent.

    Yours sincerely

    S Daze
    Property Manager
    ASL Demo Realty

    The Standard Document version becomes:-



    Dear {Tenant|ContactName},

    You owe us ${Tenant|RentDue} rent.

    Yours sincerely

    {Property Manager|Name}
    {Property Manager|Position}

    This standard document can now be used to write to any tenant.

    The braces { } or curly brackets and the "words" inside them are "merge codes" and as you can see the entire document consists of merge codes, except for the five words and the $ sign,  "Dear", "You owe us $" and "rent".  The rest of the document will be replaced with data specific to the tenant being written to.  Our very simple example document could have been enhanced by bolding or underlining or other formatting functions.

    Hopefully a few immediate advantages will come to mind including:-
  • Documents will be laid out consistently
  • There should be no spelling mistakes and that includes people's names and addresses
    Always assuming you took care to enter the data correctly in the first place.
  • The data extracted from the database is accurate and up to date
    This also assumes you have all the data entered correctly.
  • You don't need to enter the entire document afresh every time, or hack about a copy of a document already sent to someone else.

    Remember the same standard document
  • can be used for letters, emails, faxes and SMS messages
  • can be used when writing to a single person or when using mail merge to write to many people
  • can be saved in the Correspondence File and / or as a Note.
  • overall provides consistency, much greater speed and accuracy.

    The Aspect Property Manager allows you to modify the standard text "on the fly", after the document has been selected and before the document is actually produced.  This permits one-off "tweaks" but without changing the actual standard document.  As an example you could be writing to a tenant using a standard document and add in "congratulations on your new child".  The document going to the tenant (and saved in the tenant's records) will contain the add-in but the original standard document remains untouched.

    Creating a Standard Document by Copying
    As stated elsewhere the supplied sample standard documents were not expected to be used directly and from version V3.17.6.x they can no longer be modified, however, like any standard document they may be copied by pressing [Copy] and bingo you have a duplicate to modify to meet your requirements.  The name is the same but with COPY, COPY2 etc at the end which can be changed to place it wher you want in the document list.  Read the following section for ideas.

    Document Naming
    The sample documents supplied in the demonstration system have names starting with a lowercase "z", followed by a letter, then a number, then the document name.  This method allows documents to be grouped and easily re-ordered as discussed below.  It is suggested you adopt some similar system but without the "z" so documents can easily be located.  Because the documents are displayed in the order of the name you assign locating the one you want can be difficult when general documents, to landlords, tenants and suppliers all jumbled up together.

    A suggested system is to use the first four characters to place your documents in a sequence you prefer.  The sample documents are more or less in the order in which they are likely to be used.  You may prefer to have the common ones first or in a group of their own.  It doesn't really matter providing you can locate the documents you want easily without having to read the text each time.

    So the suggested system names documents this way - Xnnn Cccccccc where:-
    X = G or A for General or Administration
    L =  Landlord
    P = Property
    T = Tenant
    S = Supplier
    nnn = numeric sequence for display order
    step up in 10s, 010, 020, 030 etc. to allow for inserting
    Ccccc = the document name or description

    T030 14 day Rent Arrears notice
    T040 Rent Arrears Final notice

    T030 14 day Rent Arrears notice
    T035 Rent Arrears Reminder notice   <<< Inserted later
    T040 Rent Arrears Final notice

    Using a system such as this means you can reorder the documents simply by changing the numeric sequence number.  Similarly if you think another textual description is better just the document name text can be changed and the document will stay in the same numerical position.

    Document Modification CAUTION
    Some of the supplied standard documents have "unusual" spacing or "objects" embedded and even when copied care must be taken.  In particular do not modify the Tenancy Agreement Master or the Property Inspection Reports.

    The bulk of the supplied documents will cause no difficulty because one font is used throughout and the text within one paragraph is continuous.  The text shuffling necessary when the merge codes are replaced, with the generally much smaller data requirement, leaves the print preview looking fine in documents.  However, when it comes to laying out forms it is a different matter.

    The Sample Tenancy Agreement
    A variety of font sizes, bolding and underlining are used in the Tenancy Agreement, full stops are used for manual entry lines, spaces are used to align headings.  Because most fonts in use these days use proportional spacing, individual characters occupy different horizontal space when printed on paper, for example an "i" requires one unit of space a "w" needs seven, a "W" eleven and when bolded the "i" requires two units a "w" needs eight , a "W" twelve.  Capital letters can occupy more space than their lower case equivalent too as evidenced by "l" (ell) and "L".  Spaces between letters also vary in width between bold and non bold text and a doubling the number of spaces in a sequence does not necessarily double the gap on the paper.

    The result of the merge code insertions and these spacing variations is demonstrated in the Tenancy Agreement standard document itself and in the print preview screen where both have a definite "raggedy andy" look, but when printed on a piece of paper the alignment is correct.  When trying to get a "form look" to a document it is necessary to print the document on paper then add spaces etc and print it again, repeating the exercise until the printed version is what you desire.

    With the sample Tenancy Agreement changing items above Clause L (Terms and Conditions) will need the "adjust and print" routine to be repeated as discussed above.  Clause L and below are just like document text and can be changed quite readily without needing to print a hard copy to see the result.

    The Property Inspection Reports
    The Initial Property Inspection Report and the "periodic" Property Inspection Report, the latter being a variant of the former, are really two Standard Documents set out to be sample reports.   As they stand, both reports have the same layout and form content only the introductory text is different.  They are not as complex as the Tenancy Agreement but are unique in that they consist of a little text plus three forms, each form separated by two blank lines to keep each form on its own page.  These forms look a bit like a spreadsheet an in fact that is where they come from.  You can find both reports in the Excel spreadsheet found on this button PropertyInspectionReports  and located in the ...\PropMan\Utilities directory.

    Modifying the Property Inspection Reports
  • You can modify the content in the fields of the three forms directly in the standard document(s), or in the outgoing document as it is being produced.
  • You can not delete or add lines to the form parts.
  • You should not delete the blank lines between the forms on the standard document(s) or the forms will join together and can not be separated.
  • To add or delete lines or columns use the spreadsheet forms after which copy each section separately from the spreadsheet and paste into the standard document.
  • Create a new copy before pasting in modified spreadsheets.
  • Do not merge fields in the spreadsheet.
  • Print on hard copy the new standard document to see that you have not made it too wide or too deep.
  • Tip. Insert lines at the top (or bottom) of any section by copying a line one or two lines below (or above) and use "Insert the Copied Cells".  This will not upset the border formatting.  The same concept applies to deleting lines or modifying columns.

    Obviously the "Seq" column (used as an aid to manipulation), nor the inter-form blank lines should be copied , only the actual cells required.


    Defaulting Fields
    When producing documents the Aspect Property Manager will fill in some fields using information based on the user name entered when starting / logging in to Windows.  If it is incorrect it may be over keyed or different selections made, such as selecting a different Property Manager.  However, this new information will now be stored and offered next time a document is produced.  So where a terminal is shared between different people care should be taken that the "automatic" selections made are correct or each user should have their own login.

    The Aspect Property Manager fills fields based on fixed relationships which exist but where there is more than one possible selection a pop up window will permit a choice to be made.  An example would be when writing a letter to an individual landlord regarding one of his several properties you will be required to select which property is involved and possibly which tenant.

    The sample standard documents contain three templates, one each for landlords, tenants and suppliers.  I suggest you set up three standard documents similar to these templates and name them for example, "010 Landlord Document Template", "010 Tenant Document Template" and "010 Supplier Document Template", in the style you want for your one-off documents .  The reason for using "010 " in the document name is to force these three documents to the top of the selection list making writing an ad-hoc document easier as only the text needs entering.  See also the section on document naming.

    Document Fields
    There are three sample documents called "Landlord Letter Fields", "Tenant Letter Fields" and "Supplier Letter Fields" which display the merge field labels and the resulting content.  Follow the instructions in each of these documents to see what each merge code produces.

    Printing on pre-printed forms
    In general this is not recommended, however, it is possible to do by setting up a standard document and careful placement of text or merge codes and manipulating the font size.  As with other documents variable vertical spacing can be achieved by changing the font size prior to pressing "Enter".

    Description of the Standard Document screen

    Location... Setup menu > Standard Documents

    Document Name
  • Each document must have a unique name.
  • Use this field to describe the document and its purpose.
  • See the Naming convention section for suggestions.   XXXX

  • This field is inserted into the Subject of emails and may be over keyed if necessary when emails are being created.

    Use Letterhead
  • This check box indicates if the Document Default letterhead is normally used at the point of production.
  • When a document is being produced the box is pre-loaded with the standard document's setting which may be changed at the time.  An example is a document which is normally printed and mailed being sent by email where only the body of the document is wanted.

    Live Spell Check
  • When the Live Spell Check box is ticked the spelling will be checked as words are being entered.
  • This happens both when the standard document is being created and when the document is being produced.

  • Displays or prints the document text and general layout without leaving the Standard Document screen.
  • When [Print] is pressed you will be given the option to print the document showing the merge codes, braces and all, or to have the merge codes replaced with data extracted from the database.  In the latter case the system will use data from the master records currently selected on each of the four main screens.  There may be no logical connection between the selected records, in which case the data inserted may make no real sense other than giving an indication of what may be inserted, a landlord name but details of a property that is not the landlord's and a tenant completely unrelated to either.

    Inserting Merge Codes
    To insert merge codes into the Subject field or body of the document:-
  • Ensure you have pressed [Edit]
  • Position the cursor where the merge code is to be inserted
  • Right mouse click and select the required merge code from the sub menu selections available.
  • A Quick Format option loads a standardised format for the top and bottom of the document leaving just the body text to be entered.
  • If the data printed by the merge code is to be formatted (bold, underline, italics, different font) the entire merge code including the braces should be selected.

    Related Topics     XXXX
    Correspondence and Recording - Introduction
    Producing Documents
    Saving Documents
    Creating Letterheads
    Merge Codes
    Producing Documents
    Mail Merge, Export and Report Writer Record Selection
    Mail Merge
    Speed Keys
    Word Processing Features