November 1999

Using RTG Bills with Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook combines e-mail, contact management, and other features. Perhaps because it is bundled with Microsoft Office, Outlook is a popular program.

If you use RTG Bills for timekeeping and billing, you have already entered your clients' names, addresses, and telephone numbers into RTG Bills. Instead of re-typing this information into Outlook, you might want to transfer the information directly. We now have instructions on our Web site which explain how to do this:

Importing Clients Into Outlook

Outlook can read the client information directly from the RTG Bills database. You do, however, have to tell Outlook which fields in RTG Bills correspond to the fields in Outlook. For example, "ClientPhone" in the RTG Bills database becomes "Business Phone" in Outlook. Creating this correspondence is called field mapping.

One problem we discovered is that Outlook 98 did not include this field mapping capability when it was shipped with Office 97, even though previous versions had it. Fortunately, Microsoft now provides a "patch" on their Web site which adds the field mapping feature. The instructions on our Web site include a link to the page where Microsoft offers this upgrade.

What's In A Client Name?

RTG Bills requires a "client name" for each client, but it doesn't distinguish between an individual's name and a company's name. You alphabetize an individual's name by the person's last name, but you usually alphabetize a company name by the first significant word in the name. For example, you would find "John Smith" under "Smith" but you might expect to find "The John Smith Company" under "John" (or maybe under "Smith," but certainly not under "The").

RTG Bills handles the alphabetization problem by letting you assign a client abbreviation of up to ten characters. The abbreviations are used to alphabetize the client names. Typical abbreviations might be SMITH,JOHN for the person and JOHN SMITH for the company.

When Outlook imports information from the RTG Bills client list, you have to tell it whether the client name should become the "Name" or "Company" in Outlook. In general, we recommend using "Company" even if many clients are individuals. The reason is that Outlook picks apart the "Name" field to find the first name, middle name, and last name. That won't work right if the field is a company name.

On the other hand, if you make every client name a "Company" name, individuals will be listed as companies in Outlook. That would alphabetize people by their first names, but we can fix that by telling Outlook to alphabetize by the client abbreviation instead.

New RTG Bills Calculates Taxes

Version 1.22 of RTG Bills is scheduled for release on December 1st. Among the new features in this release are tax calculations, matter discounts, summarized expenses on the bills, and the ability to print historical bills.

A major new feature is the ability to charge tax on fees or expenses. You can assign a single tax code to all matters, or use different tax codes for different matters.

A tax code can have one or more tax rates. Each tax rate specifies the type of transactions it applies to and the percentage rate. For example, a tax rate of 6% might apply to hourly fees and fixed fees but not to expenses.

If individual transactions for a matter require different tax codes, you can use an activity code to specify a tax code, which then overrides the matter's tax code.

Matter Discount

You can specify a matter discount for any matter. The discount applies to all hourly rate transactions for the matter. The rate for each hourly rate transaction will be the rate given by the rate table for the timekeeper, less the discount for the matter.

For example, if the rate table gives $200 per hour for a particular matter and timekeeper, but the matter has a 10% discount, the actual rate for the transaction will be $180.

RTG's implementation of this feature recognizes that a matter discount is different from a writedown or a writeoff. When you give a client a matter discount, you know you won't receive the full standard rate. Reports showing unbilled time must use the discounted rates so they show an accurate picture of how much money you can collect.

The bill shows each transaction based on the full, un-discounted rate, a fee total, the percent and amount of the discount, and the actual amount now due. That's quite different from sending a client a bill and, after they object, taking 10% off the amount due by entering a fee adjustment. (That's a writeoff.)

It's also different from deciding that you really can't charge the client for the full four hours you spent on research, so you enter Hours Reported as 4 but Hours To Bill as 2. (That's a writedown.)

Summarize Expenses

You can summarize expenses on your bills. You need to use Activity Codes and assign an activity code to each expense you wish to summarize. For example, the code COPY could be used for all photocopy expenses. Then all you have to do is check a box in the definition of the activity code, and all photocopy expenses will appear as a single item on the bill. The bill will show the total number of copies and the total dollar amount. The prebills show the full detail as well as the summarized amounts.

Historical Bills

Occasionally a client requests a copy of an old bill. Rather than searching for a copy in your paper files, RTG Bills can now print old bills upon request. Previously, the program could only print the most recent bill for each matter. With disk storage now abundant on most computers, there is no longer a technical obstacle to keeping a firm's historical bills online.

This feature only works for bills printed after the upgrade to Version 1.22 and for one bill (for each matter) prior to the upgrade. The information needed to reprint older bills was not saved by earlier versions.

RTG Timer Enhancements

RTG Timer has three new buttons. The Fee button immediately opens a new fee transaction. The Expense button, similarly, opens a new expense transaction. Finally, the Recent button shows the nine most-recently-used hourly rate transactions.

Previously, to open a new fee transaction, you had to click the Fees button (now labeled Edit) to see a list of transactions, then click New. Or you could choose File, New, Fee from the menu. The new Fee button gives you a one-step method of accomplishing the same thing.

The Recent button makes life easier when you are working on several projects during the day. Click the Recent button and you will see a list of the nine hourly rate transactions which you have worked on most recently. Double-click the one you want to work on to open it. To switch to another one, click the Switch button in the Edit A Fee Transaction window and you will go back to the list of recent transactions, ready to choose a different one to work on.

If you use the RTG Timer stopwatch to time your work, the Switch button saves additional steps. When you click Switch, the stopwatch automatically stops and the elapsed time is added to the Hours Reported. You don't need to press the Stop button on the stopwatch. When you resume a transaction that you were timing, RTG Timer offers to start the stopwatch again.

Releasing Timer Transactions

If RTG Bills and RTG Timer can communicate over a network, RTG Timer will now write transactions directly into the RTG Bills database when you release them. This is also true if both programs are on the same computer.

Previously, RTG Timer always wrote released transactions to a file, Timer.xfr, and RTG Bills had to read them from that file. This two-step method is still used if RTG Timer cannot access the RTG Bills database directly.

Other Features

Whenever you need to enter a date, you can press a button next to the text box and a calendar will pop up. The calendar shows one month at a time. You can change the month with the Page Up and Page Down keys. Click on a day and the date will be entered into the text box.

To look up a matter, you can enter the Matter Abbreviation instead of the Matter Number. Previously the Matter Abbreviation was only used to alphabetize matter names.

The pop-up calendar and matter lookup by Matter Abbreviation are available in both RTG Bills and RTG Timer.

Free Upgrade

If you have Version 1.21 of RTG Bills and RTG Timer, you can upgrade to the new version at no charge. Just download the two upgrade files (one for RTG Bills and one for RTG Timer) from our Web site. The File, Upgrade command within each program will automatically complete the upgrade.

You may order new installation disks for $15 if you wish. The disks allow you to upgrade from any previous version to the new version.

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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