<== Letter Search

Create Letter

The Letter module makes writing letters on behalf of the club much easier. The appropriate letterhead is automatically included at the top of the page. Your return address details are also automatically included with the option to override the values for an individual letter or to make changes if your role in the club changes. If you access the letter module from the member details screen then the name and address details for that member will also be included at the top of the letter.

Letters can be tagged which allows you to add a brief description of what the letter is for that does not print as a part of the letter itself but which can be used with the letter search option to locate the letter again. Saved letters can be easily reprinted or used as a template for a new letter using the copy option to copy the letter content. If you are using a tagged letter as a template for generating multiple letters then you can also update the content of the template letter where necessary and from within the update option you also have the option to delete the letter if it is a template that is no longer required.

Sender Details

The sender details are filled out for you automatically whenever you create a new letter. You can over-type these values if necessary for an individual letter without changing the values that will be loaded for the next letter. If you need to change these values for future letters then use the link below the 'from address' fields to update the defaults.

The letter date will be automatically set to today's date using the format you specified with your member defaults. You can over-type this with a different date if necessary. Note that when searching for letters it is the actual creation date and not the date that is entered in this field that gets used.

the return address fields

Recipient Details

Where the letter is to be sent to someone who is not a current member of the association you will need to fill out their name and address at the top of the letter. If you have %n in your greeting then their first name will be automatically copied from the name field into the greeting.

the recipient address fields

Where the letter is to be sent to a member then you do not need to look up the member's name and address but can instead have the system do it for you. Where you have copied an existing letter simply enter their member number in the 'to name' field and the name and address of that member will be automatically substituted into the letter.

select recipient by member number

Note that if you have JavaScript enabled then these substitutions will take place soon after you exit from the name field. If you don't have JavaScript then the substitutions will be made when you save or generate the letter.

the recipient address fields filled out automatically from the member number

If you are creating a new letter rather than copying an existing letter you can use the member lookup as your starting point and locate the member you want to send the letter to there and use the Create Letter button on the membership details screen (this button is only visible to committee members). Using that button will create a new letter and fill out the recipient details with the selected member's name and address.

starting a letter from member lookup
the recipient address fields will be automatically filled

Editing Letter Content and Letter Fragments

The letter module uses a script called tinyMCE to provide enhanced functionality for editing these fields and to act as an in page preview of how at least part of the letter content will look once inserted into the letter. This is only available where you have JavaScript enabled in your browser but all the same functionality is still accessible if you don't - you just will not see how the letter fragment or content looks until you generate the letter.

the tinyMCE input field for the letter content

To enter your letter content simply type in the text you want. The text will automatically wrap to a new line whenever the next word will not fit on the prior line of the letter. You can also force a new line (for example between paragraphs) by holding down the ctrl key and pressing enter.

To insert bold text into your letter simply press the B button or if you don't have JavaScript enabled then simply wrap the text you want to be bold inside [b] [/b] to identify where the bold content starts and finishes. To insert italic text into the letter or to underline text simply select the I or U button or if you don't have JavaScript enabled then wrap the text in [i] [/i] or [u] [/u] respectively.

You can also change the colour of parts of the text and even nest different coloured text inside one another. If you have JavaScript enabled the simply select the text to be coloured and then choose the colour from the toolbar button. Note that tinyMCE contains a bug where nested colours may not display correctly in the editor but the letter generator applies a patch so that they should display correctly in the letter itself. I have advices tinyMCE of this bug. If you don't have JavaScript then you can apply colours by wrapping the content to be coloured inside [color=#cccccc] [/color] where cccccc is a hex code value identifying the colour to use.

Where the letter you are creating is to be sent electronically as a PDF rather than your printing the PDF to send a paper copy then you can also insert working hyperlinks into the letter. If you have JavaScript enabled then use the link button to do this. If you don't have JavaScript then wrap the content you want to have as the link inside [url=] [/url] where is the address you want it to link to.

Any of the above codes can be nested inside of one another if you want to apply multiple formatting to the same content.

With the letter content itself where you want to insert letter fragments simply type the fragment codes directly in the letter content field itself. For example the code ;a- can be used to insert the text 'Australian Model Railway Association Incorporated' if that code is set up on the letter fragment screen. If you don't have JavaScript then this code will be expanded into the full text when you generate the letter. If you do have JavaScript then the code will be sent to the server as soon as you type the - to look up and return the corresponding text. This will be substituted into the content in place of the code as soon as it is received (usually before you could type an additional two or three characters). Note that in some browsers the cursor position in the content is lost when this update is applied so if that happens with your browser you may wish to wait after typing the - until the substitution has taken place and then reposition the cursor to continue typing.

Saving and Generating Letters

the save and print buttons

These two buttons work slightly differently depending on whether you are working on a new or copied letter or whether you are updating an existing letter. When updating an existing letter the updated content is saved in place of the original when either of these buttons is pressed. The updated letter retains its original create date and time. For new letters including where it is copied from an existing letter these buttons will both save the letter using the current date and time and will also remove and saved copies of letters to the same 'from name' and 'to name' saved within the last five minutes. This allows you to save the letter temporarily while working on it while ending up with only the one copy when the letter is completed.

Pressing the Print button will first save the letter just the same as if the save button were pressed and will also then generate a PDF containing the letter itself complete with letterhead and updating any of the codes in the various fields that were not updated to the final content equivalents before the button was pressed.

If you don't have JavaScript enabled then all the updates to the content you are editing that are applied automatically via JavaScript can be applied via the Save button.

Where you are updating an existing letter rather than creating a new one then there is an additional button allowing you to delete the letter. This is separated slightly from the other buttons to prevent it being pressed by accident. You should think carefully before deleting a letter as once it is deleted you will no longer have an online record of it being created.

the delete, save and print buttons

There are a couple of bugs in the content editor for the letter which are yet to be resolved (I didn't write the editor but I have reported these to the author as bugs so that they can hopefully fix them). First is that when you enter a code into the letter to have it expanded out to the corresponding fragment text the editor resets the cursor position within the text back to the beginning of the letter. If after typing the - at the end of the code you wait for the test to be expanded and then reposition the cursor to continue typing you will not end up with jumbled text. The other bug is if you nest text in multiple colours one inside the other then the code that is saved does not load back into the editor correctly and so the coloured text will need to be fixed if you need to edit the letter or letter fragment again. I have applied a patch to the code for generating the letter so that the codes get corrected to print the nested colours correctly.

Letter Templates

Where a complete letter will need to be sent out on multiple occasions the letter system offers two alternative approaches.

One alternative is to set up the entire letter content as a letter fragment. Using this method you simply create the new letter and then type in the short code for the letter content in order to create the entire letter. The advantages of this method are that all of the other aspects of creating a new letter still work. The disadvantage is that you can only populate the main content of the letter this way and any value to be put in the enclosures field at the bottom of the letter will need to be re-entered every time. For letters that do not have enclosures this is probably the better approach.

The other alternative is to create a letter without the name and address of any of the intended recipients and save that after entering an identifying value in the tag field at the bottom of the letter. You will then be able to use the letter search option to search for the tag and locate your letter template. You can then Copy the letter and enter the recipient detail. While the new letter will be saved, the tag attached to the template does not get copied and so the template will still be easy to find the next time you need to use it. This approach allows the entire letter and not just the letter content to be saved for reuse. The disadvantage is that you need to select the letter using the letter search and so cannot use the Create Letter button on the Member Detail screen to automatically fill out the recipient details. So to send a copy of a letter this way you will need to remember the member number to enter into the create letter screen. For letters to be sent to people who are not members of the association this is probably the better approach.

Letter Defaults ==>