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431 Chapter 14. Business Document Processing

In this chapter, you’ll learn…

The activities we want to look at in this chapter are those involved in creating the most common kinds of business documents. When you think about it, many businesses use only a few kinds of documents over and over again—things like letters, faxes, invoices, newsletters, and electronic presentations. We’ll look at all of these document varieties here, and detail the ways in which Nisus Writer’s diverse features can be integrated to produce the best and easiest results.

432 Business Forms and Stationery

The first step in simplifying business document writing is to settle on, and stick with, a basic design for all of your major document types. Your business may already have printed stationery, but considering the trend toward more electronic communication and less printing, let’s assume that your logo, address, and any other business information will need to be reproduced electronically on each document. Before we go any further, let’s test your Nisus Writer intuitions. Suppose I told you to create a standardized letterhead, memo sheet, fax cover sheet, and invoice—all using the same logo design. And suppose I also told you that your design might have to go through several rounds of changes. How would you do it? If you said, “Copy and paste,” shame on you! Nisus Writer can make short work of tasks like this in several different ways, allowing you to create easy-to-reuse templates that will all automatically remain consistent with each other no matter what changes are made to the basic design. Let’s have a look.

Keeping Your Documents Consistent

Before you do anything else, you’ll need to decide what paper size, margins, and orientation must be used for each document. You might even go ahead and create a new, blank document of each type and give it the proper setup—preparing the canvas, as it were. Now create another new document to serve as your sketch pad. In this document, you’ll design the standard element(s) that will appear in all your documents. For now, don’t worry about the fact that they may need to be different sizes or rotated at different angles in their final homes. Just create something. Remember, you can import graphics created in other programs, and you can use the tools on the Graphics Bar to add color and other graphic elements, and position your text and graphics precisely. Don’t worry about making the design perfect yet—you can always change it later. (That’s the point!) When you’re finished (or ready to stop), don’t forget to save your document.

433 Now we need to get this design into all the other documents. This is the point at which we definitely do not want to copy and paste! Why? Because then any time we make changes, we’ll have to go through the copy-and-paste procedure again. Instead, we want to put a dynamically linked image of the original in each of the individual files. There are two ways to do this—Publish & Subscribe and the Page as Graphic… command. Either way, changes you make to the original will automatically be reflected in all the other documents, saving you loads of time.

Which method should you use? Well, it depends. Publish & Subscribe has some definite advantages—such as the fact that if you publish a design from Nisus Writer, you can then use it in other applications as well, not just in other Nisus Writer documents. You’ll also be able to change the font, size, and style of text you’ve subscribed to in the new documents, if you wish. But Publish & Subscribe is limited in that you can only publish things on the text layer of Nisus Writer. If your design has to be on the graphics layer for some reason, or if it involves elements on both layers, it can’t be published. In that case, you may find it worthwhile to cut everything from the graphics layer when your design is finished and paste it onto the text layer specifically so you can publish it. Of course, you could always create a graphic in another application, like Photoshop, and publish it there. Then, any changes you make to the graphic in that application will also be reflected in the Nisus Writer documents that have subscribed to it.

On the other hand, page graphics are have a lot going for them, too. For one thing, page graphics can be cropped, resized, and rotated—things you can’t do with editions in Nisus Writer. For another, page graphics don’t care what layer the elements are on. You always get the whole picture. But page graphics cannot be used in any other programs, so if you need to add your logo to your spreadsheet too, you’ll need to resort to Publish & Subscribe anyway.

Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter that much. Choose the method you like the best, or use both—there’s no reason you need to use only one or the other! Then, in each of the new documents, either subscribe to the edition(s) you creat-434ed from the master document or insert a page graphic of this document. You’ll want to give some thought to whether you should put the linked material on the text layer or the graphics layer. For most purposes, the graphics layer is more “out of the way,” but be careful to set the text wrap, anchor, and other settings in such a way that your text will be visible when you type, but the graphic doesn’t get moved by what is typed on the text layer. Alternatively, if you’re making a letterhead, for example, the linked material could go in a header. That, too, is a good way to get it “out of the way” so that it can’t interfere with the rest of your text. But keep in mind that graphics in a header or footer are, by nature, anchored to a paragraph (since the header/footer itself is), not to a page. So if precise placement on a page is important, you will have to take extra care to get the desired result.

Setting Document Attributes

Once you’ve placed your design in each of the new documents, and given it the size, orientation, and location you want it to have, you’re ready to work on styles and rulers. Go back to your master document, and type in something, as though you were preparing a real letter or fax. Apply the styles, and rulers to your text that you would normally use. When you’re satisfied that you have them the way you want them, you can delete the text you typed in. Now go to each of the dependent documents and select each of the styles from your master document using the Style menu—this will transfer them to the other documents. Finally, insert any variables (date, page number, etc.) that you’d like your documents to have.

Saving the Stationery Files

All right. Your new documents are all exactly the way you want them to look, and they all have the styles and rulers they need. And in case you haven’t caught on yet, they are also dynamically linked to the master document. If you change the original in any way, all the other documents will automatically update themselves to match, so you never need to worry about going through a lot of hassle when the design 435 (or address or phone number…) changes. But there are a few things left to do. First, think of how you will want the window to look when you use these documents in the future. How big do you want it do be, and where do you want it positioned? Do you want the Text Bar or the Info Bar showing? Do you want the Space, Tab, & ¶ marks to be displayed? Set all the display attributes exactly the way you want them to be. And then think about where you want the insertion point to be when you open this template. Where do you want to actually start typing? In the “subject” field of a fax stationery, perhaps, or in the “return address” portion of a letter? Wherever it is, place your insertion point there, and make sure the proper style and ruler for that portion of the text is selected. Now, the big moment: choose Save As… from the File menu. Give your new document a name, and choose Nisus® Stationery as the file type. Then click Save. Repeat this for each document. Congratulations! You now have a set of dynamically linked, easy-to-use, ready-to-fill-out forms.

The enclosed CD-ROM includes a set of sample stationery documents based on a single master design as described here. You can examine these files to get a better idea of how the process works.

But wait, there’s more! You’ve taken all this time to create several stationery documents to simplify your life later…so take the last two steps to really make your life easy. First, choose Essential Files… from the File Access submenu of the File menu, and place each of the stationery files you just created on your Essential Files list. That way, you’ll be able to open a new document based on any one of them with a single mouse click! And finally, the icing on the cake: assign a keyboard shortcut to each of the new files on your Essential Files list. Now, the next time you want to send a fax, it can be as easy as Command-F-A-X!

Combining Stationery and Macros

You now have a complete set of stationery files for your major document types, any of which you can access with a single mouse click. Every document you create is dynamically linked to that master document, so you can change the design any time you like and update all your files at once. Does life get any better than this? Hey, we’re just getting started! The final step in dealing with your business documents is automating the process of filling them in! Below 436 we’ll see how to use mail merge for form letters. But first, let’s look at some ways of using macros to perform more mundane tasks.

Making Forms

One challenging type of document to create is a form. The reason it’s challenging is that you need to have blanks, or boxes, that will be filled in later—but you need to be able to fill them in without disrupting (or obscuring) the lines and boxes that are already on the page. And, of course, everything needs to line up. But there’s a trick to making forms, and once you’ve done it, you can fill them in very quickly either by hand or using a macro.

First, draw your form—on paper—the way you’d like it to look. Unless you’re designing next year’s 1040 Pro, this should be pretty quick and easy. Now, fill in your imaginary form with some sample text. When you’re done, look at the text you filled in (just the filler stuff, not the form itself). Now create a new document and duplicate just the text on the screen. Be sure to use indents and tabs to line your text up, rather than spaces, and set the font, size, style, and line and paragraph spacing so that the layout of the text looks just the way it does on your paper. (See Figure 14.1 for an idea of what I’m talking about.) Now, leave your text right there, display the Graphics Bar, and create the fixed elements of your form around the text you just typed in. Draw lines, boxes, or anything else you’ll need, and use the text tool to add text to the form. Use page graphics if necessary to maintain consistency with your other documents, as described above. Make sure all your graphic elements have the attributes Fix to Page and Behind Text. When you’re finished, your screen should look like the piece of paper. When you’re satisfied that it does, go back to the text layer, and carefully delete the text you typed in, without deleting any tabs, returns, or rulers you may have used to get the text there. Last of all, place your insertion point wherever you are most likely to want to start typing when you use the form.


Figure 14.1. A sample form.

What you just did was make a form, but instead of drawing the lines and boxes first and trying to squeeze the text into them, you saved yourself some effort by designing the form around the text. You left all the tabs, returns, and so on in place so that you can be sure any future text you enter will go in exactly the same place, with exactly the same characteristics. Now save your form as a stationery file, and put it on your Essential Files list.

Next comes the fun part. Your mission is to write a macro that will help you to fill in as much of the form as possible. Exactly what this macro does will depend on the type of form you have. But let’s just take an easy example. Say you want to fill in a fax cover sheet. We’ll assume that your name and fax number, the date, and the page count are already there (as part of the template). And your insertion point is right where it needs to be to start typing in the recipient’s name. The first thing the macro will do is open the template from your Essential Files list. Then it might display a dialog box asking you to type in the recipient’s name. When you do, the macro will paste it into the document and move the insertion point to the “subject” field. Again, you’ll be asked to type in a subject, and it will paste it in the proper 438 place. Repeat this procedure for each piece of information the form needs. Since this is a fax form, of course, you can even add a few lines to the end of your macro that will send the message using your computer’s fax modem!

The great thing about filling in forms with macros is that you never have to think about where a piece of information goes. The macro knows. Plus you can add things to the macro like saving and printing, so that you can open, fill out, and print or fax an form without ever touching the document yourself. If you do decide to fill in forms manually, though, a word of caution: don’t touch that tab or return key! Since you carefully left returns and tabs in your template, adding new ones will throw off the formatting. Move around using the arrow keys instead.

If you want to go a step further to make form-filling as automatic as possible, follow these steps. First, copy your form-filling macro and paste it at the beginning of the document itself. Make the first and last lines empty comments (//). Apply the style Invisible to the macro before saving the file as stationery. Now create a macro named InitNew which finds any invisible text at the start of a document beginning and ending with empty comments, then performs the Execute Selection command. You’ve just embedded a macro in a document!

You’ll find a few sample forms, along with macros to fill them in, on the enclosed CD-ROM.

Using Mail Merge for Form Letters

Back in Chapter 7, we saw how a basic form letter can be constructed and merged with a database of names and addresses. While this is great for simple mailings, your needs may be more complex. Fortunately, Nisus Writer’s Merge feature can handle even complicated merging tasks. For instance, for a given record, you can check to see whether certain conditions are met, and either modify the text of the document or skip that record altogether depending on the results. You can optionally insert one document into another, and you can even ask the user for input while a merge is in progress.

To explain how some of these special commands work, I’ve prepared a fictional letter (Figure 14.2), which will serve as a host document. The data document can be created in the same fashion you saw earlier. (You might want to actually open this document from the CD-ROM and choose the Merge… command yourself to see how this works a little more clearly.) In addition to regular field names (like the 439 ones in lines 10–12 and 17), there are some other commands enclosed in the same chevrons («») used for fields. Let’s look at each of these commands and what they do.

Figure 14.2. A host document containing several advanced merge commands.

As you can see, merge operations can be quite complex. To learn more about the available merge commands, consult your Nisus Writer manual. But I do want to mention one other command here that is of particular importance: NEXT. The NEXT command says, “Get the data out of the next record without inserting a page break or starting over with the template again.” This is what you’d need to include to put, say, a dozen mailing labels on a single sheet of paper. Just list the fields you want on each label, and include a line that says «NEXT» after each label except the last one.

The enclosed CD-ROM has a complete set of macros to simplify the creation of your host and data documents, plus a Merge Macros floating tool bar that gives you one-click access to most of these shortcuts!

Desktop Publishing

In addition to the kinds of documents we’ve talked about so far, there are a number of projects falling under the heading “desktop publishing” that you may want to accomplish with your word processor. Since Nisus Writer claims to have great page-layout capabilities, we should take a brief look at what this means and how it will affect your document preparation.

First, what distinguishes page-layout or desktop-publishing tasks from ordinary word processing? In a word processor, the most important part of the document is the text itself, which simply starts at the top and keeps flowing until the end. Sure, you can add graphics to your text or adjust its formatting, but your main objective with a word processor is generally entering, editing, and outputting text. In a page-layout program, though, the most important part of the document is the page. You have very fine control over where everything is placed on 442 the page, and the text itself is just another piece that can be placed wherever you want it to go on the page. Sure, you can type in and edit text too, but your main objective is to give the page a certain look.

In recent years, this distinction has blurred a lot. Text editors built into page-layout programs have gotten better, as have the layout tools built into word processors. Still, page-layout programs are better at some things (like handling color or linked text blocks), and word processors are better at others (Find/Replace, macros, and most text-editing tools). Ironically, one area in which page-layout programs win big over word processors is typography—controlling the appearance, style, and position of individual characters and ranges of text. In general, the more control you need over editing text, the better a word processor will serve you; the more control you need over the final appearance of the page, the better off you’ll be with a layout program.

Importing to QuarkXPress or PageMaker

Because of this pairing of strengths, it’s common to use both tools together when working on large documents—the text is prepared in a word processor, and then poured into a page-layout program for large-scale design tasks. In fact, this book was created that way—written in Nisus Writer, but with layout done in QuarkXPress. If you need to do the same thing, you’re in luck, because Nisus Writer ships with import filters for both PageMaker and QuarkXPress. The filters allow you to import fully styled text, complete with any character graphics that may be there. And the Quark filter even converts any paragraph style names you’ve defined into its own style names. (FrameMaker will import the text of your Nisus Writer document but not its formatting.)

Even if you need to use a page-layout program for your design, there is another tactic you may want to try: our friend Publish & Subscribe. Picture this. You create your text in Nisus Writer, but it’s destined to appear in a PageMaker file. Instead of using PageMaker’s Place… command, publish 443 the text in Nisus Writer and subscribe to it in PageMaker. Now true PageMaker pros would bristle at this idea, because it would mean that they’d have no control over the text itself from within PageMaker; all changes would need to be made back in the Nisus Writer document. But that’s also the beauty of the arrangement. As long as your text is in a Nisus Writer document, you have all those cool Find/Replace, macro, and text-manipulation tools available that PageMaker doesn’t have. For some types of projects, this could be an ideal arrangement.

Page Layout with Graphics Tools

If your design tasks are not elaborate (or if you can’t afford a high-end desktop-publishing program), you can accomplish many of the same things within Nisus Writer. The keys to Nisus Writer’s layout abilities are the tools on the graphics layer and the Page as Graphic… command. We discussed these in Chapter 5. But let’s look at their use in simulating page layout.

The first thing to remember is that page layout should be done primarily on the graphics layer. The reason is that you can position elements of your document more easily and precisely here. Start by displaying the grid (choose Display Grid from the Grid submenu of the Graphics menu), so that you will have a guide to align your page elements. Next, begin placing your text and graphic elements. If you want to insert a simple piece of text, like a headline, which is all in the same font and style, you can create it using the Text tool. But for text in mixed styles, or where formatting is critical, use a page graphic. To do this, choose Page as Graphic… from the Insert menu, and click New. Resize the box that is placed in your document to the size you want it to be, and double-click it. This will open a new document of the correct size and shape for the block you need. Place your text in this document, then close and save it. An “image” of this document will appear in your page layout, which you can then move, crop, rotate, or scale as needed. Repeat this procedure for each block of text you want to use. You can flip back to Chapter 5 for a more detailed discussion of page graphics.

A sample newsletter created using these techniques is installed with Nisus Writer. It can be found in the Example Documents folder inside your Nisus Writer folder.

444 Of course, there are limitations to this approach. Page graphics are images of individual pages, and you can’t get the text to “flow” from one page graphic to another. So they’re best suited for short portions of text. And at present, there is no good way to do a two-page spread in which a table or graphic is on both pages at once. But for many simple tasks, this can be a good way to produce nice-looking layouts without the expense of a desktop-publishing program.

Presentations and Multimedia Documents

We just saw that while Nisus Writer is no PageMaker, for some tasks you can achieve essentially the same effect in either program. In the same vein, if your need is for presentations or multimedia documents, Nisus Writer is no Persuasion or Director. But, depending on your needs, you may be able to get similar results. We’ll look at two multimedia applications here: “slide show” presentations, and interactive presentations.

Slide Shows

You’ve seen these a thousand times: the presentation or seminar in which slides (or overheads) are shown one after the other, each with three or four bulleted points to reinforce what the speaker is saying, and maybe a few graphics for good measure. You can create the same kinds of slides in Nisus Writer, either for printing to transparencies (most likely on a color printer) or for display on a video projector connected to your Mac. You already know how to create bulleted lists (Chapter 4) and insert graphics. Here are some additional hints for making slide shows:

If you will be giving the presentation directly from your computer, also consider these hints:

A brief sample presentation is on the CD-ROM to show you how it’s done.

446 Multimedia Presentations

To add a little more excitement to your presentation, use sounds, QuickTime movies, or text-to-speech (see chapters 5 and 6). When your document contains sounds or movies, you’ll need to interact with the program to get them to play at the desired time. Once again, macros are the key. You can record a macro to speak some text or play back a recorded sound by name. (Refer to Appendix C to learn which commands are used.) You can even have a macro highlight the key points as it plays back attached sounds. Again, for best results, assign easy keyboard shortcuts to each of these macros to simplify playback when you’re giving your presentation.

If your presentation contains sounds, don’t forget to include the “<document> snds” folder along with the document if you transfer the file to another disk. Without that folder, Nisus Writer will not be able to play any of the recorded sounds.

Documents with graphics, sounds, and/or movies are, by definition, multimedia documents. And the applications of these kinds of documents don’t stop with presentations. They’re also ideal for things like personal training programs and educational materials. But if you (the Nisus Writer pro) are not going to be the one working with the document, you need to make it obvious to the user how to play sounds, movies, etc. One very helpful technique is to use the special macro names Option, Command, and CommandOption. When the user presses the key(s) in the macro’s name and double-clicks the mouse, the macro will be executed. Since double-clicking also selects a word, you can have a series of keywords in a special style in the document, with the single instruction, “option-double-click any keyword.” Then, your macro can copy the word that was selected, and branch to a different activity based on what that word is. And of course, these macros can do anything you like—not just playing sounds and movies.

As with forms, multimedia documents can be made to play automatically when opened. Put an Invisible macro at the beginning of the document, and add instructions to your InitOpen macro to find this text and Execute Selection.

The sample presentation on the CD-ROM includes sounds, text-to-speech, and macros to run the whole thing automatically!


By now, I hope you’re starting to see how the diverse features of Nisus Writer can fit together to simplify many kinds 447 of document creation tasks. But business documents—be they forms, letters, or presentations—are only part of the picture. In the next chapter, we’ll stretch our skills in a different direction as we look at how Nisus Writer can help you create long documents like books and academic papers.

Copyright © 1995, 1996, 1999 by Joe Kissell

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