Using Variables (placeholders) in WordPerfect

August 15, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Since version 10, WordPerfect has included a very useful feature called “Variables.” This rather under-used feature enables you to insert placeholders for specific pieces of information that appear at several places in a document (or, better yet, in a template). For example, you can create a family trust template for a married couple and insert variables in lieu of the names of the husband and wife. Then, when clients request an estate plan, you can create a document based on the template and simply edit each variable once to give it a value (i.e., the actual names of the husband and the wife). When you do so, the variables throughout the document will change to reflect the values you assign to them.

Creating a Variable

Here’s how it works. Click the Insert menu, Variable… When the Variables dialog appears, click the “Create” button. In the “Variable” field, type a name — essentially to identify what the variable stands for. The name can’t be longer than 12 characters, so keep it short and sweet. (You can use spaces in variable names if you like.) For the husband’s name, try Husband Name or even HName; for the wife’s name, try Wife Name or WName. There’s a “Description” field, too, and it’s a good idea to type a succinct description in case you forget what the abbreviated variable name means.

In the “Contents” field, enter the value of the variable. You could type the name of a specific male client (the husband), but when you are setting up a template, it’s preferable to use a generic phrase such as Husband’s Name. Remember, this is a placeholder; when you create a document based on the template, you’ll edit the variable once (replacing it with the information it represents), and the particular information (the husband’s name) will appear everywhere you’ve inserted the variable.

You can continue creating more variables at this point or close the Variables dialog and add other variables later on.

Inserting a Variable in Several Locations in the Document

Once you have created a variable, position the cursor at the first place in the template where the information — in this case, the husband’s name — will appear. Click Insert, Variable…, then, in the Variables dialog, click to highlight / select the variable for the husband’s name, and click “Insert.” The dialog will close and the variable will appear at the cursor position.

Next, go through the document and insert the variable everywhere the husband’s name should go. Note that you don’t have to keep clicking Insert, Variable…. Rather, you can copy a variable you’ve inserted in your document and paste it in one or more additional locations. Just be careful; variables consist of both an “On” code and an “Off” code, and you must select and copy both or the process won’t work. The best way to ensure success is by turning Reveal Codes on (press Alt F3 or click the View menu, Reveal Codes) before selecting the two variable codes, which are contiguous.

After you have inserted variables for the husband’s name, create a variable for the wife’s name (follow the steps outlined in the second and third paragraphs of this post) and insert the variable in the appropriate places in the document. You might decide to create additional variables for other information that lends itself to a placeholder — i.e., that appears repeatedly in the document — such as the name of the trust. After you have finished creating and inserting variables, save the template.[1]

Editing Variables (Replacing Variables With Specific Values)

When you open a document based on the template, click the Insert menu, Variable… When the Variables dialog opens, click the variable for the husband’s name and then click the “Edit” button. Doing so will launch the Variables Editor. (Alternatively, you can merely double-click any instance of the variable in the document, and the Variables Editor will open.) From within the Editor, position the cursor in the “Contents” field and type the actual name of the husband. Then click “OK.” You’ll notice that the husband’s name now shows up everywhere you inserted the HName variable in the document!

Tips About Editing a Variable

You can edit a variable at any time; it’s particularly easy to open the Variables Editor by double-clicking a variable. Note that there are several menus available from within the Editor (enabling you to change the font face and/or size, insert symbols, and otherwise tweak the formatting); note, as well, that variables can include graphics.[2]

Viewing Variables

Ordinarily, variables are indistinguishable from regular text. To help you identify the variables in your document, click the View menu, Variables. WordPerfect will display the variables within blue triangles, somewhat like bookends. To hide the triangles, click View, Variables again.

Using “Go To”

There’s another way to find the variables in your document. From within the Variables dialog, click to select a particular variable, then click the “Go To” button. Assuming you have inserted that variable into the document at least once, WordPerfect will move the cursor to the next instance of the variable. If WordPerfect can’t find any instances of the variable from the current cursor position to the end of the document, a prompt will ask whether you want the program to search from the beginning. Click “Yes” to do so.

Saving Variables to a Document Versus Saving Variables to the Default Template

When you create new variables, they normally reside in the current document. However, you can choose to save them to your default template instead. When the Variables dialog is open, click the “Options” button, click “Settings,” and under “Save new variables,” click the radio button labeled “Default template.” Then, click “OK” to save your settings and click “Close.”

If you save the variables to the default template, they will be available in all documents based on that template. It might make more sense, though, to create variables within templates for different types of documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, complaints, discovery responses, leases, licensing agreements, retainer letters, and so forth.

Other Situations Where Variables Might Be Useful

As you start to become comfortable with variables, you’ll think of more situations where they can be useful. For example, you can use variables in pleadings (for names of plaintiffs and defendants, and perhaps even for the county where the court is located), in deeds (for the names of the grantors, as well as the property address and description), in corporate documents (for names of directors, shareholders, and other officers), and so forth. They’re a great way to insert specific information in multiple locations in your documents quickly without resorting to Find and Replace.

[1] For purposes of keeping this post relatively brief, I’m assuming that readers know how to create and save templates. However, I’ll explain the process in a future post.

[2] WordPerfect maven Barry MacDonnell has estimated that variables can contain up to 4,000 characters.

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