New to OfficeTools? Before you budget your projects or create your progress bills, let's cover the basics in this 30 minute Free Training Friday webinar.


About Free Training Friday: Since the beginning of 2017, we have been holding these free, 30-minute training hosted by our industry-leading experts and innovators who will teach you about AbacusLaw, Amicus Attorney, the Abacus Private Cloud, and now, Results CRM and OfficeTools Software. If you would like to request a topic, please email

Video Transcription

Hello, everyone, and thank you so much for joining us today. My name is Kalei White, and I am a marketing coordinator for AbacusNext. We are now, this month, kicking off Free Training Fridays for OfficeTools. These will happen every Friday, at 1:00 p.m. on the west coast; the east coast, 4:00 p.m. We do these for most of our products here at AbacusNext. We have today Phillip Phares, the Director of Education at OfficeTools, so I will let him take over. Hi, Phil.

Hi, Kalei. Thank you so much. As you said, and as everybody heard, we're going to be doing this every Friday, which is really exciting. Before I jump in and really get going, if somebody wouldn't mind in the Questions area, or using the little hand-raise icon in your Go To Webinar panel, if you could let me know that my audio is coming in okay, that would be fantastic. It looks like we've got a raised hand. Perfect. If you can hear me, we're off to a good start. Yes, as Kalei so nicely mentioned, my name is Phillip Phares. I'm the Director of Education and a product specialist for OfficeTools, and that's what we're going to be talking about today. OfficeTools.

What does a new employee, or somebody who maybe hasn't used OfficeTools a whole lot, what do they need to know to jump in? That's what we're going to talk about today. We've got a couple subjects. A couple things we're going to go over. The webinar is going to be about a half an hour long in total. I'm going to do about 20 minutes of talking here, and then I'm going to leave some time at the end for some Q&A. I also want to let everybody know that this is being recorded, and you're actually going to receive a link for that in your email afterwards that Kalei will very generously send out to everybody so you can review this or pass on to anybody that might have missed it.

Let's go ahead and jump right in. We've got a couple things that we're going to talk about today. I'm going to talk about the general layout. Just how you move around, how you use the program and make sense of the screens. I'm also going to talk specifically about contacts and how to manage them, and some things that you may not be aware of. We're going to cover the activity list, which is arguably one of the most important parts about OfficeTools, and a very, very common question, especially among new users, is what's the difference between a To-Do and a project? What does that look like? Again, this is going to be about OfficeTools. This is catered to new users. However, if you're an experienced OfficeTools user, you're an OfficeTools pro so to speak, you know what? You may get something out of this also, so please hang in there for the next half an hour with me and maybe we can cover something there, too.

A couple things that I really want to jump off with is yes, there's a lot of areas of the program, a lot of different things that you're able to do with it, but the fundamentals are really at the heart of it as far as how we navigate, what information is being shown on each screen, so I'm going to start there. Let's talk about how we move around, and what is the information that we're looking at. Once you log in, obviously you're greeted with this screen that's got all kinds of data on it, but it's really broken up into three parts. It makes it very simple to single screen, but there are three general regions that you're going to look around, but you're going to navigate in just one of those and I'll explain that in just a moment. What you're looking at here is the main interface, the workspace so to speak, and the three parts are really sectioned off very obviously once you hear this in just a moment.

We start over on the left, and that's the contact list. Now, this list can be full of clients, prospects, vendors, whomever you want on this. You might want to keep Uncle Joe out of the list, but really you could have any kind of contacts you want inside of OfficeTools. There's search features. Obviously, you can narrow down the search. You can search by phone number, obviously by name. You can even search by email address so it makes it very quick to navigate and locate those contacts. What's important to realize is that OfficeTools requires two navigational points to move around. What I mean by that is you need to have a contacts list on the left, and there will always be at least one contact selected, and you need to have a tab selected in the main workspace that you see here in the center. It's broken up by these nine different tabs going across the top of the screen. Between those two points, you can bounce back and forth.

What I mean by that is I can choose ABC Company here on the left in my contact list, click on the contacts tab, and now I'm viewing the contact information for ABC Company. If I wanted to look at their billing, I could bounce over to the billing tab, and I'm still on ABC Company. I could jump over to projects and see what we're working on for them. Or, I could do it the other way around. I can stay on the projects tab, for example, and go to a different contact, and now I'm looking at all of the work for the contact under the tab that I have selected. Those two navigational points are very important, but you always want to start on the left. You always want to have your client selected, or your contact selected, and then go the appropriate tab. Now, if you want to do it the other way around, that's okay, too, but let's start with the contact first and go from there.

Now, that brings us over to the different tabs, and they all have a different function. We're going to cover a couple of them today. Next week, we're actually doing part two of this, where we'll go into some of the other tabs a little bit more specifically, but each one of these represents a different set of data, different tools available to manage various workflow items or details or data that you're trying to work with. You can see we have contacts and notes, and to-do's and calls and so on and so forth. We'll talk about some of those. The third part is actually down on the bottom of the screen. Now, what's important to realize is the contact list on the left and the activity list on the bottom, those don't change. They update and refresh, and as you search, they change the data, but they're static on the screen. The middle part does update and change, so you have these two anchoring points with your contact list and your activity list and then the information in the middle flips around.

This activity list is critical because what this is, is your task list, your work, your day, your week, your month. Anything that has your name on it, that has a due date, is going to show up on this list. It could be something that was assigned to you. The boss sent some work downstream, so to speak. Maybe you're delegating work to somebody else or a coworker and you're sharing a desk. Or, perhaps you just want to remind yourself about something. The items that show up on this list represent all the tabs that you see at the top of the screen. As you come to the top of the screen, and you create projects, or you create phone call reminders, those items will then appear on the appropriate staff member's list down here on the bottom. You can see on this list over on the left, we're looking at Joe Demo's list. I'm going to play the role of Joe Demo today. If I need to, I can open up this list and actually pop in and look at somebody else's.

I can go and look over at Bruce's list, and I can see that Bruce has a lot of red, which is telling me that Bruce is behind on his work. We jump back over to my list, or we can use the multiple select and actually look at groups of people. Maybe I want to see all the tax team. I want to see what their work list looks as a group. Or, the accounting and bookkeeping folks, or whomever it may be. You can pick and choose whose list you're looking at. We'll cover this more as we go through the webinar but I just wanted to point out the location of it. You have the contacts on the left, all the contacts going across the top and your activity list on the bottom. Now, each tab also has a toolbar, so within the tabs, you'll see this toolbar where with various icons that may look familiar. Plus's to add, pencils to edit, trash can to delete. I do like the save button, which is a floppy disk, which I find very funny because nobody really uses those anymore.

One person at one point actually told me that the floppy disk icon here... It may be hard to see on your screen, but it actually looks like a bed with very high posts and a guy laying in it. Since I heard that, I can't see that. It looks to me like somebody laying in bed. All that to say, each tab has its own toolbar, and it does some very common features like I mentioned, but it also has specialty functions. It does vary from tab to tab. For example, and that's when I'm going to go ahead and segue into, on the contacts tab here, what's very important to realize is there's actually a More Contacts area. For somebody who's new to OfficeTools, clicking on the contacts tab seems pretty straightforward, right? We have names, we have phone numbers, we have email addresses, we have pertinent tax information like entity type and social security number or fiscal year end. That type of stuff. Under the More Contacts area located here on the toolbar, we also have a nested, so to speak, list of contacts related to the main entity.

In the case of a business like ABC Company, under More Contacts we're going to find things like other coworkers, other people who are in the context of that entity. If this was an individual, for example, we'd probably find family members here such as spouse and children and other dependents and things of that sort. Maybe combinations of both. That's okay, but this gives us a way of having a singular entity, but a lot of different contacts related to that entity. This is very, very easy to create. You simply click on the More Contacts. Again, go to the toolbar, hit the "+" button, fill in some of the blanks and you're good to go. You can always come back in and reference the other contacts related to this entity. Now, there's another version of this, which is really what I wanted to get to, which is the relationships between contacts. This is also very, very important for anybody new to OfficeTools because it's not quite as obvious.

What I described, what we're doing is we're placing an alternate contact under a main entity, under a main contact. With relationships, what you're able to do is actually connect two separate entities. Think of a business and an individual who owns the business. Okay, those are two different entities. We have two different returns we're tracking for them, we have different note details. Perhaps, maybe even different billing scenarios. However, we want to know, especially for new OfficeTools user, the relationships between our entities. That this individual happens to own this business, or this business deals with this particular attorney or lawyer in some capacity. We want those connections in the system. Now, what's cool about this is it's very, very easy to do. All you want to do is find one of the contacts, one of the entities that you want to relate such as ABC Company, and simply right click on their name.

What it does is it actually gives you two options. One is to create more contacts that we talked about. The office manager, a partner thing of that sort, but under the Relationships area, you can actually add relationships. You can see here for ABC Company, we have their attorneys listed, maybe another business, we have the owners listed here, so if I wanted to quickly navigate to whomever may own this business, I can come here, see that it's Arthur and Amy Adams, simply click on them as the owners and now the system will change over to all of their info, making it very quick and very easy to navigate between these related entities. If I need to go back, same process. Right click on it, go to the relationships and go ahead and go back to ABC Company. One thing to keep in mind is that relationships are cyclic in that way. You have to have both sides of the party.

If you have a business, then you probably have an owner. If you have a spouse, you need both spouses. You can build these and connect them in that way. It makes it very, very handy to know who's related to whom. Don't confuse the two. An alternate contact would be people related to an entity as where a relationship is the relationship between two separate entities. That's a really, really cool part. A lot of people new to OfficeTools don't quite understand how that works so I wanted to clarify that a little bit. I'm going to go a little bit deeper on that particular subject. I'm going to jump down into the contact groups. With each contact, you can organize them in different ways. You can have a client, you can have a vendor, you can have a prospect, but you can also have contact groups. Right here on the contact tab, you can actually, by going to the gears on the toolbar, you can see contact groups and put this contact into a special, custom-made grouping. Maybe they'll receive a newsletter or an engagement letter or whatever it may be.

You can now custom group your contacts using these contact groups. Very, very handy and it really, once you start getting into the marketing of OfficeTools and the CRM components, this really pays off because now you can organize and filter and sort your mailings and email blasts based on your custom contact groups. Very, very handy. I'm going to skip a little bit and jump down to the activity list now. On the bottom of the screen, we have our activity list, and I mentioned that in the beginning about how important this is. At first, a lot of new users will see this list and they'll be very excited because oh my gosh, my whole day is laid out in front of me. They'll look at it and then they'll move on. The next day, they'd come in and they see a couple more items on their list, and as the days go by, their lists start to look like what I have here. Dozens and dozens and dozens of these items on the list.

Anybody who's warming up to OfficeTools, whether they're brand new users of OfficeTools, or you've been using it for a long time, and I'm sure there's people listening right now who know exactly what I'm talking about. You've been using OfficeTools for a while but you ignore your activity list, now's a great time to jump back in and do some housekeeping. Go through your items, check them off if they're done, change the due date if its something you want to get to next week, perhaps, or if you're just way to in the weeds with it, that's okay. Take advantage of the filters, sorts and searches to help you make more sense of it. If you're not using your activity list, you're missing a really, really helpful and key part of what brings OfficeTools to the forefront of your office. What I mean about that is for example, my list right here, this is terrifying. Look at all these items on here. There's no way.

I look at this thing and start to sweat and panic. What I would do in this case, is I would actually come over to the left side of my activity list, and I would come down here to the focus. Under here, I have some tools that will help me filter this out to make it make more sense. For example, it's Friday. I'm not thinking about next week. I just got to get through my day. I'm going to come in here and I'm going to go to my focus and I'm going to choose the things that are due today. There we go. I'm down to four items. This is I can work with. This makes sense to me. This is not as terrifying as that previous screen was. Use the filters, use the sorts and the searches and make your activity list make sense. Very, very important and very, very helpful to know that you have those tools available to you.

Okay, the last area that I want to talk about and cover is a very, very common question. Again, especially among newer users of OfficeTools. That's the workflow and task tracking parts of the program. Now, OfficeTools has a lot of things when it comes to reminding you that something needs to be done or tracking a bit of data and information. I'm going to focus on really just two very specific ones, and that's to-do's and projects. You can see the tabs for those both here at the top of the screen. To-do's and projects. The easiest way to convey the difference between these two areas of the programs is that a to-do is a single task for one person. All right? As where a project are multiples steps being tracked, usually by multiple people, probably over a period of time and typically it's going to roll over. Here's the simplest way to think about it. It may sound a little silly, but it might help make sense.

Think of a to-do as vacuuming the floor. It's one job. Only one person can really do it, and when it's done, it's done. That's it. That's a to-do. As where a project would be clean the office, as where in cleaning the office, somebody's going to vacuum, sure, but someone's also going to take out the trash. Somebody's going to do the windows, etc, etc. That's the defined difference between those two areas. A to-do is going to be something like make copies of the client's last year tax return and send it to him. That's it. That's a to-do. A project is going to be the tax return, where we're going to input and prep. We're going to do some scanning. Hopefully we're scanning on the front. If not, we're going to go right into prep, into review and then we're going to put it all together. We're going to eFile it, etc, and you can track each one of those steps. A project is a digital version of a routing sheet, or a docket, or a traveler. Whatever you may have used in the past.

That's the fundamental difference between the two, but ultimately they still work in the same way. What I mean by that is with a to-do, they're very quick and easy. You go to the to-do, you hit the "+" button to create a new one, and you fill in the appropriate information. The staff member who's going to get the work, the client who's the work for, whatever the subject of the work may be. When that happens, when you're done with that, you save it and it shows up on the list down at the bottom as a to-do. Great. Simple. When we're done with it, we simply check it off of our list. If we're a time-tracking office, this is a great opportunity to track our time, and we're done. It comes off of our list on the bottom. It marks complete in the system, and that's it. We move on to the next job. As where a project, while very similar, there's obviously more steps.

With a project in the system, what you're typically going to do is actually one piece of it, unless you're obviously managing entire projects, you're probably going to get your slice of the pie. You're going to get something like review, or research, or prep. When you're done with your step, just like the to-do, you check it off of your list. The system's going to give you a timecard, as we just saw a moment ago. The difference being as when we're done tracking our time, and I'll go ahead and put an hour in there real quick, you're now going to get the next step of the project because you've built out this workflow and you've incorporated it into the template that is your project. You got your next step. You choose the person it's going to go to and bada bing bada boom, you're done. It's off of your list. It's reassigned to the next person. The project gets updated and life goes on.

I get that question a lot about what's the difference between the two, and hopefully in the simplest way, that describes the difference. To-do's are one person, one job. Projects are multiple people, multiple jobs. Now, there's obviously more to the setup of projects and some complexity there, but I wanted to just lay that out there very, very quickly. Some other areas, or another area that I think is important for newer users of OfficeTools to get comfortable with is actually under the Notes tab. Under the Notes tab, there's a button called View All.

What this does is it actually aggregates every note inside of OfficeTools into one place. For this client that I have selected, Bell & Futch PLLC, there's not a lot of notes. What I'm going to do is I'm going to go back to somebody that I know has a lot of notes, which is going to be ABC Company. Notes tab, and I'm going to hit View All. Look at that. Every single note that any staff member has tracked for this client in any place in the system is all in one area. I'm going to let everybody in on a little bit of a secret. If you call OfficeTools and you ask us some questions, we're going to pull this up and have a look. While we may seem like we know every single thing about your company, and we'd love to and we do our best to do that, we're actually using this as a tool to help us be informed about what you've discussed with us in the past, what we've done for you in the past and all of those details.

It's very, very helpful to empower everybody as far as giving them information for the clients or for the contacts that they're dealing with. Okay, fantastic. I think that's a really, really good starting point. If you're new to OfficeTools, hopefully that cleared away a little bit of fog for you. If you're an OfficeTools pro, or a long time user, an experienced user, hopefully I gave you something that you haven't seen before. What I want to do now is go ahead and open it up to any questions. I don't want anybody to be shy. It can be about what we've discussed, or maybe something we didn't talk about. Again, I'm okay with that also. This is a great opportunity to start asking questions about what we've seen today.


Can you assign time to a to-do?

Great question. With OfficeTools, time tracking has always been a key factor in how it works. We do understand that tracking time can be a pain in the butt. I'm just going to be honest about it. It's important. Some offices have adopted the flat fee, or value billing, to get away from it, but we want to make it as easy as possible, so yes, you absolutely can. You did see momentarily when I completed the job, it automatically gave me a timecard. You can do that in other ways, too. You can be, for example, in a to-do and at the top of the screen here, you'll actually see a little clock with a piece of paper next to it to call up a timecard without completely it, or you can also even run a timer. If that's enough, and you want to start talking about budgeting and those types of metrics, To-do's also actually include budget and actual fields to show. You can budget a project. Your budget will show up on your activity list for that task. I'm sorry, for a to-do.

It'll show up on your activity list, and as you track time to it, you can see the actual right here on the project screen, or on the to-do screen. Yes, quick answer, you can absolutely track time to to-do. As far as assigning time, you can go ahead and do that through the budgets.

Can you tell us how the calls part works? Is this the right place to document a call that came in?

Calls work almost exactly the same way as to-do's from a functionality point of view. One of the biggest is that there's different kinds of calls. There's a call that you have to return to a client because you missed it. There's a conversation that's ongoing where you're tracking the details of that call. In both situations, or any other version of that, calls are fantastic for that kind of detail.

In fact, they're so important we gave them their own tab. That's why we have the Calls tab and they're just not another kind of a to-do. With the Calls tab, same thing. It can work in a couple different ways. In fact, here's one way to think about it. Perhaps, I missed a call to a client so somebody in my office made a call reminder for me. I come back in, I see it on my screen, I click on it. I have the phone number, all the details I need to start that call. Then, during the conversation, I start to actually enter in the log and the details of that call and put a timestamp. Client says "Hey, you know what? Great conversation. Let's talk again tomorrow" I leave the same call, I change the date to tomorrow and I pick it up where I left off. All of those are great, great uses of phone calls.

Can you edit the list of entities when establishing relationships?

You absolutely can. Relationships are completely custom and you can change and create not only entities, actual entity types, but the types of relationships and the verbiage that you want to use. Under the Set Up area at the top of the screen, under Contacts, and then under Business Relationships and Family Relationships. Okay? If you want to add different entity types as individual, business, corporation, you can do that obviously in the same place enter entity type. Very good question. Okay, another question here. Will you review the relationship between Outlook calendar, emails in a future training? Absolutely. In fact, if you tune in next week for Part Two of essentials, I'm going to go into the schedule and we'll talk just about that. Very good question. Thank you very much.

If a client has one project set up, is there a way to enter time for the client without a project?

Absolutely. See, projects don't require you to enter time for them. Now, I'm going to say a best practice is that yes, you track time for everything, and anything you do for a client is billable. That's the perfect world, but I do understand the reality of that, so you can have a project and track time to it for a client, absolutely. You can have a project and not track time to the project, but still track time to the client. You can do that also. Or, you can track time without a project. All of those are options. It just depends on the nature of the relationship. For example, you may be doing monthly work and tax returns for a particular client. The tax work, you're going to track time for. Great, so you associated the time of the tax project. You're good to go.

The stuff you do every month, eh, one person's involved. It's a fixed rate. Time tracking for that's not that important. We still have the projects we're tracking the workflow and we don't want to miss a due date, but the time trackings not that important for that project. That's okay, too. You can have all different versions of that if you'd like.

Is there a global way to clear out my list at the bottom for the old things we didn't know we were supposed to clear?

I have good and bad news. What this question refers to is the activity list. The big scary activity list that has all those things on it that we miss. We didn't clear, we didn't check off. When it comes to the schedule, all right, you absolutely have some options. When it comes to projects, or assignments for those projects, again, you do have a tool that will make that very, very quick.

I won't go into too much detail because it'll take too much time, but to give you a sneak peek, if you go into the schedule, there's an option for manage and this will show every appointment. You simply go through, you choose your appointment, you mark them complete and you're done. You can do that in bulk. Likewise, under projects, there's an option in here for Manage, which allows you to do a very similar kind of function. That will clean up your projects and your appointments. As far as the to-do's and phone calls, I'm sorry. There's not a whole lot you can do there. It's one of those things where you got to get yourself a cup of coffee, sit down in front of OfficeTools, and just click away for 10 or 15 minutes and clean that up.

Where can we enter the industry type for a client?

Very good question. This is going to bring us back to the Contact tab. If we go back to the Contact tab here, over on the right-hand side of the screen, you'll see a whole slew of fields. Contact Type, Entity Type and Profession. Now, here's one thing to keep in mind is that these fields will change based on the contact type and entity type that you choose. Let me demonstrate. If I hit the Edit button and change my client to a vendor, those fields change. If I change it to a prospect, again, they change yet again and so on and so forth. If I go to the entity type and I change that from a corporation to an individual, I now see social security number instead of Federal ID number. The profession is going to appear on most of these contact and entity types. There's a pre-populated list that comes with it with a lot of really common ... I don't want to say generic, but common categories of professions.

However, just like we saw with the entity types in the relationships, if you navigate to the SetUp screen at the top and go under Contacts, there's an area in here for professions. You can go ahead and add and create your own types of professions, or use your own verbiage or language as you see fit.

It seems for the clients that we have projects set up for that we can't enter time without assigning the project to it.

There is actually a setting that's controlling that. It's forcing you to track time to projects. You go to SetUp. You're going to go to My Company, Information and Settings, and then once that screens pops up, in the bottom right corner there's an area called Payroll and Time.

Go into that area, there's actually a section that says that you require everybody to track time against a project. Turn that off and you can track time how and whenever you like. Okay, great. Thank you all very, very much for joining me today. Again, this has been Essential Training for New Users talking about OfficeTools. Thank you everybody very, very much for joining me. If you have any questions, please contact us at

Again, thank you all very, very much and hopefully I'll see you guys all next week.

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