You CAN stop typing the same thing over and over again!

Businesses all over the world and of every size and type spend countless hours every day typing the same thing over again. Contracts and legal documents are classic examples of this. The tools of choice are word processors and spreadsheets, creating hundreds, or thousands of individual documents that have to be filed using a complex hierarchical filing system designed so that any document can be, relatively, easily retrieved. User’s drill down to file and then drill down again to retrieve but there’s ‘no oil in them thar hills’; just a ton of unnecessary work and effort Copying and pasting, from one document to another is commonplace but often it is easier to just type something again than find it in another document.

But why would any business or person want to type the same thing over and over again. Apart from the time wasted, and time is the most valuable commodity any of us has, it is frustrating and fraught with errors, not only spelling ones but inconsistency because somebody wasn’t paying attention.

The reason that businesses do this and use Microsoft Word or Excel is that they simply do not know there is a better way of doing things but there is. It’s called FileMaker and is the most powerful tool for business that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s owned by Apple and has been around since the mid-1980s; startling longevity in the database world. In its current iteration (Version 17) it is an absolute powerhouse with the ability to connect to almost every data source on the planet.

Yes, FileMaker™ is a relational database program and is most often used in business scenarios to process data, but it also has superb text handling capabilities which are, more often than not, completely overlooked.

FileMaker™ will produce complex documents in a matter of minutes with virtually no typing and just a few mouse clicks.

FileMaker™ will keep all of those documents in one place and allow any user to find any document just by typing in a keyword, or phrase.

FileMaker™ will allow you to type a new document once and then be able to use that same document as many times as you need, with all the right information being automatically entered.

FileMaker™ will prevent having to type the same thing twice.

START with a master document that you can use over and over again.

Each placeholder is displayed in blue so you can easily spot them.

Now all you have to do is make a few selections and, occasionally, type something.

In the master document, there are banks of buttons that you press the insert the correct placeholder for the area that you are working in.

Each button inserts a placeholder, where the cursor is in the master document, and each placeholder represents a specific field in a specific table.

In this example the left hand column is mapped to the Neighborhood table, and the right hand two columns are mapped to the Properties table.

When a placeholder is inserted, it appears in black text initially but changes to blue as soon as the user finishes editing.

If you format a placeholder in bold or italic, etc, that formatting flows through into the document but not the blue of the placeholder.

You can have as many master documents as you need, some short, some long and each can contain any number of placeholders. Below is an example of a short master document with a number of placeholders but you might only need one or two.

The data that is going to be used in the report, is entered, for the most part, by simply selecting from a variety of options. Where only one value is allowed, radio buttons or pop-up menus are used and where there may be multiple values, checkboxes are generally used. Whichever type of value list is used, no typing is required.

In cases where typing is required, that is, generally, done in a portal with a number of rows. Each time you type a value, it creates a new row for the next value until you are done. Each time, you exit a field with a value, the program checks to see if that value is new and, if so, enters it into the Library so it can be used again without typing. (If there are too many values for a specific option, those are not stored in the Library, but this is really the only time that you have to type the same thing more than once).

Each time you make a change to any of the fields above, the program automatically replaces the placeholder with the correct data, building the document as you go.

Clicking on the small button (with the magnifying glass) opens a popover where you can see the name of the placeholder, the content of that field (as it will appear in the document) and the list of options that have been selected as well as allowing you to change those options.

changing the color of the edited text to red so you can easily see what you are working on.

(Note: This is only temporary and is not reflected in the final document; it’s just to draw the eye to it).

as well as changing the color of the placeholder. (All three elements (Options, Master Document and Preview) are displayed side by side)

And when you are finished, you press a button and the document is instantly saved as a pdf.

or you can copy the entire document and paste it into a Word document.

As a footnote, what we’ve been showing here is a, somewhat, complicated document specifically created for a real estate appraisal company who need to have many different options available. Other businesses may have much less complicated situations but whatever the level of difficulty, this methodology is easily abstracted.

But there’s a lot more. Every time you type something new, that item is automatically added to the Library so you don’t have to type it again.

Then when you go to add items, all the Library items that you haven’t yet used, are available to add with a single click.

When you select the library item, it adds it to your selections and it disappears from the list of options so you can’t add it twice by mistake.

and if you’ve added all of the library items to the current record, the whole thing disappears.

All of the lists of options are easily editable (by anybody with permission to do so)

As soon as you have finished editing, the new (or updated) options appear in the appropriate value lists for immediate selection.

When you are completely finished creating all of the relevant documents, you select the ones you want, in the order you want, and the program automatically creates the entire document including a table of contents with page numbers.

How easy could it be?

This methodology allows users to have many master documents. A master document can be as short as a paragraph with a single placeholder or multiple pages long with many placeholders. Each placeholder is linked to a specific field in the database and the value of that field is automatically substituted for the placeholder, wherever the placeholder appears and no matter how many times it is used.

(for the technical minded and the curious, this entire solution only uses native FileMaker™ programming and custom functions. It does not use plugins).

Best of all, this functionality is easily abstracted, for any type of business that needs to produce the same documents repeatedly (law offices, real estate companies, consulting firms, etc.) and able to be added to any FileMaker™ solution with a minimum amount of work OR if you don’t have a solution and want to stop typing the same thing over and over again, we can build one for you.

If you’re ready to stop typing the same thing over and over again, and would like to talk about adding Document Generator to your business, please call Michael Rocharde at (303) 856-5778.

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