One of Pathagoras’ most impressive features is its ability to instantly scan a document for bracketed variables and to return those variables onto the left (‘variables’) side of the InstantDatabase screen. From there you can supply the personal information, and if desired, save the pairings of variable with personal data for reuse with a similarly variable-coded document.
But what happens when the information called by the variable is not self-evident either in terms or content or format? Creating a mask is frequently the ‘best choice.’
Advantages of a Mask:
•You can set the order in which the variable elements are completed. When you Scan for bracketed variables, they appear on the screen in the order found in the document, which is not necessarily the most convenient completion order. (Perhaps you have an intake sheet and would like to complete the elements in the order in which they appear on the intake sheet.)
•You can complete all potentially usable information regarding a client or customer in one sitting. A mask (hopefully) will contain the variables needed for all documents that the client/customer may require. Ditto the intake sheet remark from the previous paragraph.
•You can categorize your data with a mask. At the top of each ‘page’ of the mask is a text box that you can use for this purpose. Categories make it easier for the end user to understand the purpose of each variable.
•You can assign variable completion ‘tips’ and ‘examples’ to a mask. E.g., if the variable is [Date of Completion] what does that mean in terms of format? Is it “4/27/06” or perhaps April 27, 2006. With a mask you can explain it, and provide examples.
•You can attach a mask to a document assembly book. When the assembly routine is complete, and you call up the InstantDatabase to replace variables with personal data, the mask will automatically appear.
•You can add variables to any document using the variables stored with the mask. Click the Pathagoras dropdown menu and select variables. This makes neutering documents for your document assembly system faster and more consistent.
Advantages of Scan:
•A scan is quick and requires absolutely nothing in the way of setup. It is <Scan> and you are done. (Of course, the source document has to have bracketed variables within it in order for a <Scan> to return results.)
•Aside from its simplicity, scanning has few advantages over taking the time to create a functional mask. But then, there is something to be said for simplicity. If you are happy with scanning, stick with it until you perceive that the benefit of a mask outweighs the speed and simplicity of the scan.