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OpenOffice.org Form Letter  

You can either do a query and export the result, or you can link directly to the database.

Query Export
You can do a query from within Open Dental and export the resulting table. It will normally be saved as a text file in your OpenDentalExports folder on your local C:\ drive. The first row of the text file will contain the names of the columns, and the fields are separated by tabs. This makes it easy to open in OpenOffice.org. Once the text file has been created, use the following instructions to use it as a datasource for a form letter.

Step 1: Open a new "database" in OpenOffice.org.

Select the last option as shown and change the type to text. Click Next.

Browse to the path where your text file is located. It won't let you actually choose your file, but just the folder where it's located. So it makes sense to use the OpenDentalExport folder which is the same one you set up in Data Paths. The result will be that this connection will also work for any future text files you may save to the OpenDentalExport folder. Also, change the field separator to {Tab} as shown above.

The next window gives you the opportunity to save the connection details as an .odb file. Save the file anywhere you wish, maybe in the OpenDentalExport folder.

Step 2: Open a new or existing template document in the word processing portion of OpenOffice.org. Once the document is open, go to Tools | Mail Merge Wizard. The wizard has 8 steps. On step 3, you will be attaching the datasource you created above.

Look at the name of the current address list (we have outlined it in red). The name should match the datasource you created earlier. If you need to change it, use the button above to select a different address list. Then, make sure the address in box 3 looks good. You may need to match fields.

Mail merge is complex, but it is very powerful. There are many other techniques and features you could take advantage of to generate quality merge letters. See the instructions for OpenOffice.org to learn more about those other features.

The instructions below were from an older version of OpenOffice.org, but they might still be useful.

Direct Link
Another way to use the data is to directly link to the database. You would not normally need to do this since the text export is simpler, but here are instructions in case you need to. First, set up the ODBC data source on the computer where you want to access the data. Then, open a new Text Document and the Data Sources as shown above.

This time, select the database type as ODBC. Then use the search button at the right and select FreeDental from the list.

Creating the Form Letter
As you are creating the letter, you can select Insert | Fields | Other...

You can leave this window floating over your main window as you work, inserting field names as placeholders. You would only insert fields from one table or file within the same letter. Once you have inserted at least one field, you will be able to select File | Form Letter...

From here you can print your form letters. There are many other options and features in OpenOffice.org that will enable you to create high quality form letters. There are templates, variable fields, hidden text, etc.


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