Want to customize your own Word or PDF forms so that they will autofill with AbacusLaw data, but a field you want to use is not available as a merge field? Follow the steps below to add a new merge field.
- For New Fields: Add the New Field to the Database Structures and Screen(s)
- Add the Field to your ALF File
- Add the Field to the Form
For New Fields: Add the New Field to the Database Structures and Screen(s)
If the field you want to add does not exist in your Abacus database at all currently (i.e. you do not currently have this field available to fill out on your name or matter screen), follow the steps in this article to add the field to your database structures, and then to your name or matter screen(s) so that you can fill it in: How to Add a New Field to a Name or Matter Screen
Add the Field to your ALF File
For the field to be available as a merge field to add to your forms, the field must appear within the AbacusLaw Format (ALF) file used by that form. This file is a master list of merge fields available from the AbacusLaw database.
To add a new field to your ALF file:
- First, verify the ALF file that is being used by your form. Open the Forms Library by clicking Forms on your toolbar.
- Right-click on a form that you would like to add the field to, and click Edit properties.
- Check the ALF file specified. By default, it is Abacus, but a different ALF file can be specified by clicking ALF file, and browsing to it, if preferred.
- Navigate to Documents > Setup ALF Files.
- A browse window should open to your Abacus\vXX\dataXX\layouts folder. This is where all ALF files are stored. Select the ALF file that you are using for the form (found in steps 1-3).
The default Abacus.alf is also dynamically included in any Abacus-supplied specialty ALF files (such as fam.alf for Family Law, or pise.alf for Personal Injury), so any fields added to it will also be available if you are using those ALF files.
If you are performing your Word merges using the legacy Print button, rather than the Abacus Forms Library (the Forms button), you will need to edit the DEFAULT.ALF file.
- The ALF Editor appears listing the Records to Output. Each row represents a different record that information can be pulled from. An explanation of each of the common records is below:
- Primary Matter – these are the merge fields pulled from the matter that is open at the time that you are performing the form fill. These merge fields have the prefix File_.
- Names linked to the Matter as – these fields pull from linked names on the matter. It is split into a separate section for each link type. For example, a different merge fields list is maintained for names linked to the matter as CLIENT than names linked as PET (for Petitioner).
- Notes linked to the Matter – these are merge fields available from notes linked to the matter which have the particular note type specified (e.g. EMAIL or GENERAL).
- The Court linked to the Matter – these are merge fields available from the court that is set on the matter (e.g. the court's name and address).
- Primary Name – If the form fill is being done with a name record open, rather than a matter record open, these are the merge fields that will be available from that open name record. These merge fields have the prefix Contact_. If a matter record is open at the time of the form fill, the Contact merge fields are pulled from whatever name is highlighted on the Linked Names tab within the matter record that is open.
- Primary Event – this pulls information from the event record currently open. This is rarely used as it would only be used by a form designed to pull information from an event, rather than a name or matter.
- My Firm – these are pulled from whatever name record is currently set as the firm's MYFIRM record via File > Setup > MyFirm (or, whatever is set as Override “MyFirm” under File > Setup > User Preferences on the Queries & Misc tab), such as the firm's address.
- Abacus special items – these are various other merge fields pulled from special locations in Abacus, such as information from the user record of the user currently logged in (such as your name and email), or dynamic date fields (such as a field that always fills with today's date).
- Include ALF file – Another ALF file can be “included” by specifying it here. This means that any merge fields in that ALF file will be available on forms that use this ALF file. Typically, this is used to include Abacus.alf on specialty ALF files.
- Highlight the record to output that corresponds to the record you want to pull the field from (e.g. if you want to pull a matter field, highlight Primary Matter). Click Edit.
- In the ALF Record Properties window that appears, click Add.
- In the window that appears, click Select. Select the database field that you would like to add as a merge field.
- Enter the Expression that you would like to be used. This will be how the field will be labelled in the merge list, following the prefix set on the ALF Record Properties window (e.g. File_Accdate).
- Click Done, then Done again.
- If you would like to check if the merge field you added is pulling in the expected information, click the Test button on the initial ALF window. Ensure that you have a matter window open that has that field filled in (the Test function will run for whatever record is open).
Add the Field to the Form
Once the field is added to your ALF file, now you will be able to add it to your form:
- Open the Forms Library by clicking Forms on your toolbar.
- Right-click on a form that you would like to add the merge field to, and click Design form (or click Design on the toolbar).
If it is a Word form
- Under the Mailings tab in Word, click Insert Merge Field. The new merge field should now be available on the list to insert into your template.
If it a PDF form
- Click Add Field at the top of the window.
- Drag-and-hold to draw the field where you would like to on your form.
- After creating the field, right-click on it to see the list of available merge fields that can be inserted.