Modifying custom formats

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When you have finished the initial steps of creating a custom format — typically, using the Format Wizard to name the format and specify other properties — you can customize the layout of the format using the designer on the Custom Formats screen.

When you click the Finish button in the Format Wizard, Practice CS closes the wizard and opens the designer on the Custom Formats setup screen. Alternately, you can choose Setup > Custom Formats, right-click any format in the formats list pane, and choose Edit from the context menu to open the Custom Formats setup screen.


  • Changes that you make to custom invoice formats will not affect invoices that you have previously composed and saved in Detail Billing. If you want custom invoice format changes to appear in invoices that you have already composed, you will need to edit and re-save the invoices before printing them.
  • When the designer screen is open, there is an additional Page Setup command available on the File menu, with which you can adjust page setup, printer settings, styles, and global settings for custom formats.
  • Additional information about customizing formats can be found in the Practice CS Custom Formatting WalkThrough, which provides instructions and examples for creating and modifying custom report, invoice, and statement formats, as well as examples for label and letter formats.

Toolbars and menus

The designer screen’s toolbars provide various commands for working with the layout and appearance of your custom format. You can move these toolbars around by clicking and holding the left edge of a toolbar and dragging it to a new location. If the destination is not part of an existing toolbar, the toolbar will become a free-floating window.

For more information on the toolbars available in the designer screen, see Custom Formats toolbars.

In addition to the toolbars, the designer provides an additional Format menu, which appears only when you are using the Custom Formats screen. This menu provides alternate means of access to most of the commands from the Formatting and Layout toolbars, as well as a command for opening the Format Wizard.

When available, the Format menu appears between the Actions and Setup menus on the Practice CS menu bar.

Note: Several of the commands in the Format menu and buttons on the toolbar are available only when you have made appropriate selections within the designer screen.

Using the Properties pane

On the right side of the designer screen is the Properties pane, which displays properties for the currently selected item within the layout. When no object is selected within the designer, this pane displays basic properties for the section of the format that has focus, such as background color.

When you select an object within the designer, the Properties pane displays attributes for that object.

To change an attribute in the Properties pane, click the field. You can then enter a new value, or for some fields, click the More Ellipse button to open a dialog with more options.

For a more detailed look at the Properties pane, see the Custom Formatting WalkThrough.

Changing properties

Within the Properties pane, you can make detailed changes to objects in the designer. Beginners may want to limit your changes to attributes listed under the Appearance heading.

To change the appearance of fonts, select a text box and click the More Ellipse button next to the Font property to open the Font dialog, where you can choose properties such as font name, font style, font size, and strikeout or underline effects.

Note: Font properties affect all text within a standard text box. Use a rich text box if you want to have greater control over formatting. Be aware, however, that you cannot insert field data into rich text boxes.

To change the alignment of text within a text box, click the drop-down arrow to the right of the Alignment property and select a different value, such as Center, Right, or Justify.

Note: One useful attribute for text boxes that contain field data is CanShrink, which is set to False by default. If you change this attribute to True, the text box can "shrink" to eliminate empty space from the invoice or statement when no text is supplied by the field. One example of such a text box is a secondary address line, which may be blank for many clients’ addresses.

Selecting images

Another function of the Properties pane is to select images for new image objects you add to the custom format. After adding the image box that will contain the image, click the More Ellipse button next to the (Image) field to open the Open dialog, where you can navigate to the folder containing the image file and select the desired image.

Note: If you’re running Practice CS through Virtual Office CS or Software as a Service (SaaS), you can navigate to files on your local network.

Working with formulas

For information on working with formulas, see Using formulas.

Working with margins

You can change the margins for a custom format in two ways:

  • by clicking and dragging the margins in the designer
  • by choosing File > Page Setup to open the Report Settings dialog, where you can specify the margins for the custom format

When you change margins for a format in the Report Settings dialog, verify that the ruler at the top of the format designer reflects those changes. For example, if you change the left and right margins to one inch on each side of a portrait-orientation report, that leaves you with only 6.5 inches of horizontal space. In this case, you would need to ensure that nothing in the designer extends to the right of the 6.5 inch mark on the top ruler.

Restoring standard format defaults

If you have modified one of the standard formats that came with Practice CS and wish to restore that format to its defaults, you can easily do so.

Modified standard formats are indicated by a different icon: Green pencil

To revert to the default settings for a modified standard format, perform these steps.

  1. Double-click the format in the Custom Formats list. This opens the format in the designer.
  2. Right-click the format in the list and choose Restore Default from the context menu.
  3. Save the format.

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