Let me begin by saying The Form Letter Machine (TFLM) is a fantastic peerless program. I use it everyday for a wide range of correspondence in a professional setting. Because I am using it for such a wide range of tasks, I have encountered a few aspects with variable management that are slightly inconvenient.
For one of my configuration trees, I have almost 40 variables, and the variables are expanding. So far as I can tell, the variables displayed in the “Key” / “Value” portion of the screen are displayed in the order where they are first found within the configuration tree. This usually means they are displayed in a random order and, with 40 variables, it can mean quite a bit of hunting to find the correct variable.
Also, the displayed variables are shared between trees even if a given variable isn’t present in the currently viewed configuration tree.
4 modifications / features would make this program vastly easy for configuration trees with many variables.
- Display the variables in alphabetical order.
- Only display the variables used in the currently activated portions of the tree. For example, if my currently selected checkbox items and radiobutton items make no use of the %MeetingDate% variable, the variable should be hidden.
- Allow variables to be clicked on and filled in as in a form in a word document. When looking at the entire document (the bottom left area where the entire letter is shown), it would be much easier to type in the information there than hunt for, and then update the variable from the variable list.
- Clearly mark unfilled variables in the ‘completed letter preview’ area. I find myself spending the majority of my post TFLM proofing time checking to make sure I have not forgotten to included / replace all of the needed variable names.
As I have said, I love using TFLM, but if something similar to these steps outlined above was implemented, it would make its use much easier.