January 2002

Custom Reports in RTG Bills

RTG Bills, our time and billing program for law firms, includes a wide variety of reports, and RTG Reports (a free add-on program) adds even more reports. Nevertheless, you may want a report that is not included with these programs.

We developed the idea of custom reports primarily to handle the need for simplified versions of existing reports. For example, the Matter Ledger shows all of the transactions that give rise to the balance due for a matter. It includes canceled bills, even though they do not affect the balance. Some people asked for a report that did not show the canceled items, so we created a custom report that omits them.

Custom reports can be created for RTG Timer as well. The Fees and Expenses by Timekeeper report can be very long, especially if you enter long descriptions for your fee entries. We created a "brief" version of this report that, among other simplifications, only shows the first line of the description.

Each custom report is based on an existing standard report. Until recently, it was usually not possible to create a custom report with information that was not on the standard report. The current versions of RTG Bills and RTG Timer, however, can create enhanced reports based on some (but not all) standard reports. As an example, we've created a Matter List Plus report that shows the bill format number and rate table number for each matter. These fields are not included on the standard Matter List.

We have now packaged several custom reports and made them available on our Web site. You can download them at no charge from the new Custom Reports page.

Hiding Clients

RTG Bills lets you hide a client. A hidden client doesn't appear on the client list that is used to select a client, so this feature lets you reduce the size of the list by hiding inactive clients.

The Client List, a report, continues to show hidden clients, which makes this feature less useful than it might otherwise be. When the next version of RTG Bills is released, however, we will make available a custom report that excludes hidden clients.

Hiding Matters

Actually, there are no "hidden matters" in RTG Bills, but closing a matter serves much the same purpose. The main reason for closing a matter is to prevent the entry of new transactions for that matter. However, an additional effect of closing a matter is to remove it from the matter list that is used to select a matter (after you select a client). In that sense, a closed matter is similar to a hidden client.

Many reports in RTG Bills are organized by matter, and usually they can be limited to a single matter or a range of matters. However, there has been no way to exclude closed matters. The next version of RTG Bills will provide this option, as you can see from this window:

Select A Matter Range

The new checkbox, Include Closed Matters, lets you decide whether or not the report will show closed matters.

One point about closed matters is sometimes confusing. Closing a matter does not prevent RTG Bills from creating bills for that matter. If you don't want bills to print, even though there is a balance due, then change the Billing Cycle to Hold. Normally, however, you would keep the matter open until the client pays the balance due or you write it off by entering an adjustment. Then you print a bill showing the balance due is zero and close the matter. No further bills will print.

Deleting Matters

We have always discouraged people from deleting matters. When a matter is deleted from RTG Bills, all the information related to that matter is removed. Report totals will no longer include the work done on the matter, nor will they include the payments received.

We realize that sometimes a matter is created by mistake and people don't like to keep it in the database. You can delete such matters. But if it is a real matter, with fees and payments, you should not delete it.

Nevertheless, we know that people using RTG Bills often delete old matters to remove them from the reports. We're hoping that when the next version of RTG Bills is available, with the ability to exclude closed matters from the reports, there will be less incentive to delete old matters.

The Archive File

When you delete a matter, all the information for that matter is written into the archive file and removed from the RTG Bills database. If you made a mistake and you want the information back, you can restore the matter from the archive file using the menu command File, Restore Matter.

RTG Bills does not save deleted client information in the archive file. After you delete all the matters for a client, you can delete the client, and the client information is gone forever. Since the client information is basically just name, address, and phone numbers, we assumed you could always type it in again if necessary.

The next version of RTG Bills will work differently. Client information will be saved in the archive file and it can be restored, just like matter information. The reason for this change is the introduction of client-level retainer accounts.

As we noted in the November 2001 issue of RTG News, a client-level retainer account can be used to pay the balance for any of the client's matters. All of the transactions for a client-level retainer account belong to the client, so they cannot be deleted unless the client is deleted. Since the client now has transactions, RTG Bills will save that information in the archive file if you delete the client. RTG Bills will be able to restore the client and its transactions with the new menu command File, Restore Client.

File Extensions

The file extension is the part of a file name that appears after the last period. For example, the program file named rtgbills.exe has the exe file extension. A Microsoft Word document might be letter.doc, where doc is the file extension, and the corresponding Corel WordPerfect document would be letter.wpd, where wpd is the file extension.

Windows uses the file extension to figure out what to do when you double-click a file. For an exe file, it starts the program. For a doc file, it starts Word and tells Word to open the document so you can edit it.

Usually Windows doesn't show the file extension if it understands what type of file it is. So rtgbills.exe may appear on the screen as the program icon, a yellow scroll, with the name rtgbills beneath it.

Sometimes, hiding the file extensions can cause confusion. In the RTG Bills folder, you might have the following files: rtgbills.buj, rtgbills.exe, rtgbills.hlp, rtgbills.ini, rtgbills.mdb, and maybe more. Each will appear with a different icon but the same name. If we asked you to send us the file rtgbills.ini to troubleshoot a problem, would you know what its icon looks like?

Fortunately, you can tell Windows to show the file extensions. First, open any Explorer window. For example, you can double-click the My Computer icon to open the My Computer window.

In Windows Me and XP, choose Tools, Folder Options from the menu. In Windows 98, choose View, Folder Options. You should see the Folder Options window.

Click the View tab. You will see a list of Advanced settings. Look for the one that says Hide file extensions for known file types and click on it to remove the check mark from the box. Click OK, which saves this change and closes the Folder Options window.

Now the file extensions will appear as part of the file name. Even if you don't want the file extensions to appear all the time, it is useful to know how to make them appear when you need them.

RTG Bills and RTG Timer are trademarks of RTG Data Systems. Other company and product names may be trademarks of the companies with which they are associated.

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