Printing from ServiceDesk

Any business that is today still hand-writing basicorder information onto its invoices is, well, not exactly modern.  With ServiceDesk, in contrast, you're nowready to leap ahead.  With a single,one-time entry of data, you can now move seamlessly from taking and documentingthe call, to initiating a job record, entering the item into your schedule, andprinting the job invoice.  Obviously, thelast process requires some ancillary equipment and materials, not to mentionsome set-up work in ServiceDesk (at least if you want anything other than thedefault setup that it ships with). 

In regard to the last matter, please note that ifyou’re perfectly happy with that default setup, there’s positively no need toread this chapter.  However, we believemost operations will do better using pre-printed forms (rather than blank paperas the default setup is designed to work with), allowing ServiceDesk to printonly the textual job information (within spaces on the form) rather thanthe entire form image.  If you agree withthis preference, you’ll need to read in this chapter to learn how to do thesetup, as wanted for your particular invoice format. 

The physical setup

If you do not presently own aprinter suitable for printing order information onto your invoices, and are notsure what to look for, we offer this advice. First, for the typical setup you probably should look beyond printers ofthe laser, inkjet or bubblejetvariety (all of these simply fuse toner or squirt ink onto the front surface ofa page).  Even in this age, most servicersstill find it most practical to use self-carbonizing, multi-part invoices (ifthe technician's going to write information onto a paper in the field and givea copy to the customer plus return with one, obviously, he's either going tohave to write twice or else have a multi-part, carbon-transfer type of paper towrite onto). The limiting factor withmulti-part invoices is that, if you're going to print through to the underlyingsheets from any kind of printing machine, you must have one that forms itscharacters by striking the page with impact. What this means, essentially, is that you need an impact-type printer (i.e., one that actually strikes the page withforce, something like an old-fashioned typewriter).  With today's technology, this almost alwaysmeans a ‘dot-matrix’ type of  printer.

If you do not presently possess a printer of thedot-matrix variety (and yet are persuaded of the benefits involved in usingmulti-part forms), we suggest you obtain one. On the other hand, there isnothing in ServiceDesk that compels you to use multi-part invoices (we simplythink the for most purposes it’s more efficient than alternatives), and ifusing nothing but single sheets, other printer technologies (laser or inkjet)are probably preferable. 

In terms of the invoices themselves, there has beensome confusion among users as to whether ServiceDesk prints the entire invoiceimage (i.e., you just put in a blankpiece of paper while ServiceDesk prints everything on it), or if it's intendedfor ServiceDesk to just type-in specific data on an otherwise pre-printed form(i.e., a paper already having designated spacesfor customer name, address, telephone numbers, description work done, charges,etc.).  As a general matter, we intendthe latter (though the former obviously can be done, just as it is in theprovided default setup).  Indeed, forordinary purposes we intend that ServiceDesk will type only initial jobinformation onto your invoice form, mostly from the Callsheet that started thejob.  Later entries, of time spent,estimates made, work done, moneys collected, charges to the customer, and soon, will typically be hand-written by whatever party is responsible. 

In terms of the design-formatfor your invoice form, if you do not presently have a design you’re happy with,as part of your ServiceDesk package you are granted license to use the sameinvoice design as is shown in the Exhibits (last page of this manual).  It can be “stretched” to 8.5 x 11” size ifwanted.  Not to toot our own horn, but webelieve this is a very smart-looking and effective design.  If you wish to use it, we’ve even provided adigital file of the form, which you can take to your local printing company.  Have the proprietor there do the needed adaptationwork, and he should be able to quickly produce a perfectmaster image, which can then be used for printing your own similar invoiceforms (this could save you considerably over having someone else do thetypesetting from scratch).  The file is in‘.cdr’ format (produced in Corel Draw 3), which most printing companies shouldbe able to use without problem.  You’llfind the file on your ServiceDesk installation CD, in the ‘OtherFls’ folder, under the name ‘Invoice.CDR.” 

 The next question in regard to invoices is whether touse continuous forms (i.e., the kind where each invoice is connected and foldedover the next in kind of a 'Z' pattern, with perforated tapes on the side forpulling through your printer's tractor feed), or more ordinary invoice setswhere the three parts of a particular form are attached to each other by gluingat the top, but each set is entirely separate from others.  Many people are not aware of how easily thelatter can be used on modern printers. All you need is an optional cut sheet feeder to go with your printer,generally available for around $200. These hold anywhere from 50 to 150 invoices at a time, and automaticallyfeed each into your printer as needed. We highly recommend this approach, as there's no need to pull individualinvoices apart from others or from the side perforations, the parts staytogether while the invoice is in use, loading them into the printer is easier,the invoices are nicer, cheaper to produce, etc.  For most operations, we think this makes thegreatest sense by far. 

Another factor to bear inmind (for those unfamiliar with networking, at least) is that you don't needseparate printers for each station from which you intend to printinvoices.  A single printer can easily bemade available to all the stations in your network. 

Creating a file that specifies the format needed for your invoices

As mentioned elsewhere (see page 73), most servicers use theirown, unique design for a work-order/invoice form (or at least prefer to use oneout of a myriad of stock designs out there). In ServiceDesk, our philosophy is that you should be able to print jobinformation onto whatever format you want. 

Of course, for this to beaccomplished, ServiceDesk must have a means of acquiring information, from you,regarding the invoice printout format that you, in particular, want.  In general, you provide this information toServiceDesk via what we call the Invoice-Format-Instructionfile.  This is simply a file thatcontains the specific instructions informing ServiceDesk of the particularinvoice-printout format you want. ServiceDesk ships with such a file provided for you already (the initialdefault setup), but the expectation is you’ll likely want to replace it withyour own, different file, that specifies a format as specifically designed foryour personal preference. 

TheInvoice-Format-Instruction file goes by a specific name, consisting of theunique FileNamePrefix that was created as part of your package, followed by a.PRG extension.  Thus, if your businessname was “Tri-City Mechanical,” and we setup your custom files with aFileNamePrefix of “TriCity,” the system would expect to find yourInvoice-Format-Instruction file under the name TriCity.PRG

Your Invoice-Format-Instructionfile may be located in either of two places, depending on strategy.  As first installed, theprovided, default file will be located within each station’s own \sd folder, and it’s to the filelocated that (i.e., at each such location) that ServiceDesk will look, whengoing to print an invoice.  You mightcall this the “distributed” strategy,as copies of the file are individually distributed to each station.  This was the originally the only strategyoption for locating this file, and was done in such manner with the thought that it would allow for the flexibilityof setting up for different printout formats from different ServiceDeskstations (if and when such flexibility was wanted). 

Ultimately, however, we foundthat almost all users wanted just one printout setup, and it became a nuisanceto have to update each station with a copy of the file when it was created andeach time a change was made.  So now weoffer what you might call the “centralized”strategy instead, which allows you to maintain just one copy of the file, inthe \sd\netdata folder of theServer.  The one caveat is that, if youelect to use the centralized strategy (generally recommended), you’ll need tobe sure and delete the local copies of your Invoice-Format-Instruction file(from within the local \sd folders)at each station.  Otherwise, ServiceDeskwill give you an annoying little note indicating that it’s found files in bothlocations. 

With that as background, thenext question becomes: How do you create this file?

General strategy

Fortunately, we’ve made it very easy.  It’s done with use of a little auxiliaryprogram, shipped with ServiceDesk, called SD-Tools(click on ‘Start’ in the Windows Taskbar, select ‘Programs’, then find it inthe ‘Rossware Computing’ program group). 

As you'll see on running SD-Tools, your first option isto specify whether you want to setup for 'InvoicePrintout Setup' or for the 'Source ofJobs Survey.'  Specify the firstoption, then, when queried about which file you wish to load, press your Esckey.  This will allow you to start a newfile from scratch.

At this point you're asked aseries of questions regarding the dimensions of your invoice.  Simply answer the questions as they’represented.  At conclusion, ServiceDeskwill place an image on the screen for you. First and most obviously, this image shows a sheet of paper thatrepresents your invoice.  Secondly, itshows a series of text items that may be printed to your invoice. Initially, there is noparticular arrangement in regard to either the position or font size and typefor these items.  It is your job toprovide that. 

Specifically, you should takeeach text snippet and position it (just dragwith your mouse) to the approximate location (relative to the on-screen image)where you want such item printed to your invoice.  It's very simple to do this. 

Selecting fonts

In addition to location, you should also select an appropriate font for each item to print in.  Do this for any text item by right-clicking on it.  At this point, you'll be presented with a dialog box that allows you to make your selection. 

One factor to bear in mind in regard to selecting fonts is the difference between those that are proportionally-spaced (meaning each character occupies a variable space, proportional to its shape) versus fixed-pitch (where each character occupies the same space for any given font size).  With a proportional font, the length of any line segment will vary depending on the characters that make it up.  This can make it hard to predict whether any and every line, of varying text, will fit properly within a given space.  With a fixed-pitch font, by contrast, 25 characters will always equal the same length for a given font size, no matter what characters are in the line.  Thus, you can always be sure that a given number of characters will fit properly within a given space.  For this reason, we think it's better to use a fixed-pitch font when printing to any form such as an invoice (though you may certainly do otherwise). 

Unfortunately, the use of fixed-pitch fonts has become a little archaic in the Windows environment, so there a couple of complications you should know about. 

First, it's not obvious (simply from looking at the font name in a list) which are fixed-pitch and which are proportional.  Often times, you must look at actual text rendered in the font to find out.  Hint: look at a small 'i' or 'l' and note if it takes less space than say a large 'B' or 'O'; if so, you've got proportional spacing.  Also, if textual segments with an equal number of characters (such as the address-line snippets compared to the city/state-line snippets on your SD-Tools graphical layout) are in the same font yet are unequal in length, its a tip-off you've got a proportional font. 

Second, as typically setup, most Windows installations offer very few fixed-pitch fonts (the list you'll see in the font dialog box is of those fonts that already exist in your Windows installation).  Typically, you might see fixed-pitch offerings limited to just Courier, FixedDys and SmallFonts, for example—and none of these are particularly attractive for use in an invoice.  Fortunately, it is not difficult to add new fonts to your Windows selection.  We purchased a package from Expert Software called CD Fonts, for example, at a cost of just $9.99.  It contains 1500 different fonts, a few of which are fixed-pitch and fit our purposes nicely.

In regard to setting your invoice font (or fonts) from SD-Tools, you should note that each text snippet sets font characteristics for itself only, with one exception.  When you set font characteristics from the CustomerName text snippet, you'll find you're given the option to make whatever you've set there apply to the other primary fields as well.  This is to make it easier for you to change the font characteristics for everything at once, when such is your purpose.  Generally, we think it looks best to use a uniform font type and size, with the exception perhaps of the InvoiceNumber (where it looks more sophisticated, we think, if this is set apart in a different, typically larger style; see invoice example on last page of this manual).  

Additional tools, testing, saving the file, etc.

Another design tool allows you to change the invoice dimensions, in an existing setup, by right-clicking on any portion of the page face that's not covered by a text-snippet.  This brings up the same dimension-setting dialog you began with when starting from scratch.  Also, you can move all fields at once (up, down, left or right) using the special nudge buttons you'll see located up in the tool/menu section of the form. 

Basically, you're going to be using "eyeball" techniques to position the text items about where you think they should fit on your invoice page, and of course your first approximation may not be precise.  Conveniently, we've added a button labeled "Do a Test Print."  Simply click on this button when you want to see how your existing setup prints out.  If some text items print too high, drag them a little lower and test again, repeating the process until you get everything just right.  One hint: use blank paper during this process, and simply hold it up to the light against an actual invoice to check for positioning: blank paper is much cheaper than invoices. 

When you finally have all the text items printing exactly where and how you want them, your final task is to save an appropriate file representing your work—and, essentially, describing it to ServiceDesk.  Simply click on the 'Save Changes' button and you'll be presented with a dialog for this purpose.  At this point, you’ll need to decide whether you’re setting up under the centralized or distributed strategy (see page 269).  Unless you’re wanting to output with different formats from different stations, the former will generally be easier and more convenient. 

Assuming the former, save your file to the \sd\netdata folder of the server (otherwise, it would need to be saved to the \sd folder at each individual station).  Be sure to save it under the required name, and your task will largely be done. 

The one major qualification is, if this is your first setting up—and if you’re using the generally easier centralized strategy—you’re going to need to remove each of the distributed Invoice-Printout-Setup files from within the individual \sd folders at each station.  Otherwise, users at each will get an annoying message (asking which of the two different files they want to use) each ServiceDesk starts up.

Adding items from the Optional-items Garage

With ServiceDesk Version 3.4 and above, we've added the ability to optionally print several new items of text information to your invoice.  These items will display on the same Invoice-Setup-Page as the standard and traditional direct-from-a-Callsheet items as described above, only they are shown off to the right-side in what you might conceptually think of  as the "Optional-Items-Garage."  So long as such items are left in this garage, they do not become part of your invoice-printing setup, and the connected info will not print to your invoice.  If you want any such item included, however, the task is no more complicated than to simply drag it from the garage (again, using your mouse) to whatever location as is wanted on the invoice.  Set font characteristics just as you would for any other item. 

In case the purpose of any of these new, optional text items is not obvious, here is a description pertaining to each:

  • EXT1, EXT2 . . . EXT4    These four little snippets are for the Tel#Notations that may optionally be connected with each of the four telephone numbers on a Callsheet or JobRecord.
  • *00000*    This is for a second printing of the job's invoice number—useful in any context where you want this number printed more than once on the invoice, particularly if you want the second printing to be in UPC, bar-code format (simply position it in the correct place and select that as its font). 
  • DEPARTMENT    Will print the name of the company department to which the job is assigned (assuming, of course, you are using that option).
  • ASSGND TECH    Prints the name of the tech assigned to the job (but, bear in mind, at present the tech assignment is evident to ServiceDesk only in the context of initially creating the job, when such box is filled-in from the CreateJob form; if the invoice is subsequently re-printed from the JobsCurrent form, for example, that initial assignment was not tracked, and this item will be left blank).
  • PRCHS ORDER #    If you want a client's P.O. Number printed in a location separate from the right-end of the CustomerName line (where it still must be inserted from the Callsheet), use of this option will pull it (as printed to the invoice) from that location and print it where so specified. 
  • CNSMR CNTRCT #    Same as for client's P.O. Number above, except in reference to a homeowner's Contract Number (as in a home-warranty situation, for example) which on the Callsheet would be listed at the right-end of the LocationName line. 
  • MODEL NUMBER, SERIAL NUMBER, PURCHASE DATE, SELLING DEALER     These items all involve text that's taken from any UnitInfoSheet that's attached to the job.
  • SERVICER #    Identification as given to your company by a specific major client, and so indicated in connection with that client's QuickEntry form.
  • STATE ID #     Identification as given to your region by a specific major client, and likewise indicated in connection with that client's QuickEntry form.
  • $S.CALL     Amount of your service call for the location involved, under the variable S.Call rate system (see page 93).
  • EXTRA NOTES     Will print text from the "Extra Notes" section of the initiating Callsheet's MoreInfo form.  Notice that this item is special because you can size it to your taste (i.e., for the capability of more text or less, and to fit a given space in your invoice, including multiple lines).  To do this sizing, first drag this item to the approximate location you'll want it, then double-click on it.  A dialog will ask for desired width and height. 

The addition of these optional items represents a substantial enhancement in both flexibility and capability.  It is also in response to numerous requests.  In such regard, let us provide just a little more explanation in regard to the last item.  Some users have wanted the ability to include, as typed to the printed invoice, substantial additional notes (more than could be fitted or seemed contextually appropriate in the Callsheet's ‘Description of Complaint/Request’ box).  Some have wanted to have special directions typed in, for example, others a brief description of previous work at the same location.  Whatever the need, you can now include as much space as wanted on your invoice for such extra text, setup the printout for it, and, when wanting such text to be included simply type it into the box, provided for the purpose, in the Callsheet's MoreInfo form. 

Dealing with a Reversed-Assumption Invoice-Format as regards Customer/Billing/Location Issues

For almost all servicers, situations arise where there are essentially two parties that you are serving on a job, one of whom is paying for it, and the other who lives at the location.  Whenever this happens, there is obviously a need to have both parties referenced, not only within the internal documents of your software system (as is done, for example, in the ServiceDesk Callsheet and JobRecord format), but also upon the printed work-order/invoice.  This need has long been recognized, and nearly every software system has addressed it.  Nothing new there so far as ServiceDesk is concerned—except for one thing. 

Most of the earlier software systems made an assumption in regard to these two parties (either one or both of which might in some senses be called a “customer”) that is precisely opposite that made in ServiceDesk. 

Specifically, it has typically been the practice, where two such distinct parties exist, to refer to the one at the service location as the “customer,” and to to the remaining party (the one being billed) as a simple “bill to.”  At the same time, forms were typically setup so that the primary name/address/telephone space was intended for information pertaining to the location—with a secondary name/address/telephone area being available, for optional and conditional use, only in those instances where there was a separate bill-to. 

Again, that’s opposite what’s done in ServiceDesk—where we figure that the party who’s paying is really the one that should be considered your “customer.”  After all, they’re the one that’s ultimately going to write the check.  They’re the ones that control what work you can do (and how much you can charge) if you’re to be paid at all.  They’re the ones that may give you more business if you make them happy, etc., etc., etc.  So, we’ve structured it to give that party the prominence it deserves.  The “go to” name and location, on the other hand, is a mere third-party beneficiary of your relationship with that true customer. 

Because of this, ServiceDesk is structurally opposite from those older systems.  While they use the primary name/address/telephone space always for the location info, we use it always for the paying party’s.  And while they use a secondary space for bill-to info if it happens to be different, we use the secondary space for go-to info if it happens to be different. 

We explain this partly to “sell” you on this different strategy in ServiceDesk, and partly to explain the context for an accommodation we’ve made for those still using the old.  In particular, if, as you’re adopting ServiceDesk, you’re still left with thousands of old invoices that were configured for the old assumption (or even if you simply insist on keeping that as the format for your invoices), ServiceDesk will need to make some accommodation when printing to those invoices.  We have allowed for exactly that. 

Specifically, in the top gray area of the SD-Tools form, you’ll see a little checkbox labeled “On SD printout, reverse standard Cstmr/Blld/Lctn Assumptions.”  If you simply check this, and save it as part of the appropriate .prg file, it will accommodate printing to invoices that still have that old assumption. 

With this done, ServiceDesk will pull a little “switcheroo” as it prints your invoice, in particularly needed circumstances.  Specifically, if there appears to be a legitimate “go-to” address in the Location-Info area (from the originating Callsheet or JobRecord), it will place all of the Location-Info text into the positions that, in your .prg form, you’ve designated for the “Customer”—while placing its Customer-Info text into the spaces you’ve designated for the “Location” (in which case, obviously, those can be though of as pertaining to the “bill-to”).  If, on other hand, ServiceDesk does not detect a legitimate “go-to” address in the Location-Info section (it makes the determination by looking for an opening bracket in the address line, i.e., ‘[‘, as should precede the grid reference that should exist in any ServiceDesk go-to text), it assumes that the text in the Customer-Info section represents the one and only party connected to the job, and refrains from making any switch. 

By this means, ServiceDesk can adapt perfectly in its printout to an invoice structure that uses the old assumption—while still retaining its own assumptions internally.  The only remaining concern is if you’re using NARDA forms for your invoices, which don’t have any separate spaces for bill-to information.  In this case, you can simply drag the various Location-Info fields off of your invoice-printout setup, while of course also checking that “Reverse assumptions” checkbox.  This will result in loss of separately-printed billing info to your form, but since the NARDA has no place for it anyway, what can you do (aside from selecting a better form, which we highly recommend)? 

The option of adding a graphic to your Invoice

A final capability in this context arises if you want to print any kind of graphic image onto your invoice.  As an example, this is what we’ve already done for you, to setup your initial default printout so that it prints an entire form image onto the sheet of paper, in addition to text concerning the job.  That provided form image is simply a graphic file that was added to the provided printout setup.   If you wanted to similarly setup to print a form image onto previously blank paper (rather than using pre-printed forms, as we generally recommend), but of a different form, you’d simply need to place in a graphic file having the image you prefer.  Or, you might want to use a graphic for some other purpose, and set it up to print only within a limited area on your invoice form.

At any rate, if you want to add a graphic to your ServiceDesk invoice printout, there are three simple steps to the process. 

First, you’ve got to come up with the graphic file that has the image you want.  This is not ServiceDesk’s task.  It’s the task of a graphics program, such as Microsoft’s Paint, for example (included with every Windows installation, just click on ‘Start’ from the Taskbar, then ‘Programs’, then look for it under ‘Accessories’), or PhotoShop, CorelDraw, or a legion of others.  Or, you might obtain a pre-made graphic from any of many sources.  Regardless, the one criteria so far as ServiceDesk is concerned is that the graphic must be in what’s called “bitmap” format—which means essentially that the file name will have a .bmp extension on its end.  

The second step is to give your graphic file the particular name and location that will enable ServiceDesk to find it. Specifically, it must be named “InvcLogo.bmp” and placed side-by-side in the same folder that contains you’re the operative .prg Invoice-Format-Instruction file (i.e., either in the \sd\netdata folder on your FileServer if you’re following the centralized strategy, or in the \sd folder of each station where you want it used, if your following the distributed strategy). 

The third step is to specify the specifics, in terms of size and position, of how this graphic will be printed to your invoice.  This is done from the same place where you’re otherwise specifying the invoice printout format: from within SD-Tools.  When you run that program and specify the ‘Invoice Printout Setup’ option, the system looks to see if a file exists in the name and location as just described.  If so, it places the graphic image (as found in that file) on the screen of your invoice-printout-setup.  At first it’s small and in the top-right corner of the work area.  Your job is simply to set its size and position as wanted (just as with the text snippets).  To set its size, double-click on it, then respond to the dialog.  To set its position, simply drag as wanted.  

As when setting the positions of text snippets, we recommend test printing to see exactly how the graphic ends up printing on the page and in comparison to the text snippets themselves.  While the on-screen work area provides a pretty good approximation, there will likely be a bit of variation between precise on-screen positioning and what you actually see on the printed page.  Also, you may find this variation is different depending on the printer the output is sent to, meaning that if you switch printer types, it may be necessary to adjust your setup, somewhat, to keep every item printing (in terms of the graphic’s print position compared to each text snippet’s print position) as wanted. 

As when otherwise designing your invoice printout setup from within SD-Tools, when done simply save under the appropriate name and location.  When ServiceDesk next goes to print the invoice, it should find that file (and the accompanying InvcLogo.Bmp file), and print exactly as wanted. 

Configuring your Ticket for Tear-Offs

If you do a significant amount of shop work, you've likely thought it would be nice if, in addition to printing a standard ticket, ServiceDesk would also print a "tag" to go on the machine, and a "claim ticket" to give the customer.  We've added provision to make the above easy to achieve.

The basic idea is, design a new form image with all the graphics you want, including tear-off regions appropriate to your purposes (whatever regions you want are just fine). 

Next, use the SD-Tools utility to modify your username.PRG file for text to print in spaces, where and in the format wanted, for the the non-tear-off regions of your form (this step is precisely the same as it would be for any normal ticket design, as specifically described in the first section of the manual's appendix). 

Now, use SD-Tools again to assemble the particular text-to-print fields that you want, in the particular places that you want them for the first tear-off.  But, instead of saving this work as username.PRG (as you did for the first and normal file), save it instead (same folder location) as TearOff1.PRG. 

Finally, do precisely the same for your second tear-off area, only this time call the resulting file TearOff2.PRG. 

The result is simple.  ServiceDesk is programmed so that, when printing an up-front ticket, it looks for TearOff1.PRG and TearOff2.PRG files.  To the extent it finds either, it adds to the printout text fields as specified therein.