Many D365FO users in the US and Canada know how difficult designing and printing checks can be. Out-of-the-box support for checks in SSRS is limited to a few basic setup options, some of which affect the print layout. In most cases, some design changes are still required.
The purpose of this article is to show you an alternative for check design. We believe that it is not only much easier than customizing the SSRS design in VisualStudio, but this alternative is also open to a much wider range of people because it is based on Microsoft Word, a tool that many are already familiar with.
When we talk about checks, we cannot avoid the fact that they come in many variations. Checks may have two or three parts. One of these parts is the check form itself. The other one or two parts are stubs that usually contain information about the invoices that are being paid with the check. The check itself may be in the top or bottom part of the form. In the case of the 3-part check, it may even be in the middle.
Furthermore, you can choose between pre-printed or blank check stock.
Pre-printed check stock may already contain everything except the recipient and the amount. Labels, logos, ABC codes, check numbers, and the MICR line may already be included. Or maybe just some of them - any combination is possible.
The advantage is that you don't have to make as many design changes to the check, and the bank's certification process can be faster.
The downside is that you need to keep your stock of pre-printed checks like cash, as the risk of theft of blank pre-printed checks is much higher and it is easier to misuse them. Even the printers that print checks on pre-printed check paper need lockable paper trays!
On the other hand, you can use a blank check stock.
Its main advantage is that it gives you complete freedom over designing a check. Keeping such a check stock is not a problem since there is no sensitive information on it yet.
But it also has disadvantages. It requires more effort and time to design a check that successfully passes through the bank's certification process. Above all, the position of the MICR line is very important. Finding a suitable printer make and model, as well as a magnetic ink supplier, can also be a challenge.
SSRS design approach is slow and costly
Unless you are a developer, you cannot create or modify check designs in SSRS. If you are a functional designer, you will have to write detailed specifications for the developer. The developer will then use Visual Studio to design the check layout and set various properties of each visual object in the check design. Once the developer has completed the design, he or she will have to compile it and install it in the environment where users can test it. Users may come back with change requests and this cycle may be repeated several times. All of this adds up to a significant amount of time and money.
Using MS Word to design a check
It may sound strange, but you can design any check for D365FO using Microsoft Word. However, you will need an additional tool, namely Docentric AX Designer Add-in for Word. With this tool, you can import the report data schema and some test data and bind them to the placeholders - called tagging elements - on the report.
Now let us look at how to create a check layout completely from scratch. We will create a check layout with the check itself at the top of the page, followed by two stubs with invoice payment transactions. Our check will be printed on blank check stock paper and our check design will include all the information on the check. The next image shows how our final check will look like.
But first we need some preparations. We need to measure the check paper, the margins, the horizontal and vertical offsets for the fields, the position of the MICR line, the vertical offset for the first and the second stub and write these measurements down.
We also need a data schema for the check report and some test data. The video clip below shows how to get them by modifying the Generation options settings and running a check report that generates and downloads the DDSP file. DDSP stands for Docentric Data Source Package. This is an XML file containing:
- The data schema
- Labels in target language - and -
- The data from the report we just ran.
The video clip below shows how to generate a DDSP file:
We also need to set the strategy for designing a check. First, we make a scanned copy of a blank check stock paper and save it as an image. Then we insert it into our Word file at its natural size as a background image. This way, it is much easier to design a check because we just add the check data over it.
Next, we load the DDSP file, so that the report knows the data schema. Moving on we insert the List tagging element, which will iterate through the check records, one-by-one. A page break before the end of the List tagging element boundaries ensures that each check is displayed on a new page.
Our check consists of three parts: a check at the top and two stubs below. Each of these three parts will be nested in its own textbox. Why textbox? Because you can have complete control over its size and positioning. So, we add three textboxes to a page, position them where we want them, and set their size.
The video below shows the first design steps, up to the positioning of textboxes:
Designing the check
After the textboxes are inserted and positioned, we start with the check design in the topmost textbox. To do this, we insert a Word table and make sure that all table rows have a fixed height, because we don't want them to grow or shrink. We need to resize rows and columns as well as merge some cells to prepare space for the text or images.
Along the way we add tagging elements where we want the data to appear at runtime and we bind those tagging elements to their data sources.
One thing to note here. If the signature must be included on the check, then insert a textbox in a header with a fixed position on a page where the signature must appear. Then insert the Image tagging element inside the textbox and bind it with the image field from the data. Since the textbox is in the header, the image will appear on every page.
The positioning of the MICR line is very important as it determines the success or failure of the verification process performed by the bank. In addition to using the correct MICR font, it is important that there is sufficient blank space above and below the MICR line. Some banks allow the check amount to be entered on the right side of the MICR line.
The entire design is done visually using WYSIWYG approach with Live Preview turned on. This is very user-friendly as you can instantly see the results.
The following video clip shows the complete process of designing the check and binding of its tagging elements:
Designing the stubs
First, we insert the table into the textbox that will contain the stub. We need some header data, followed by the transaction rows that contain information about the invoices that were paid with the current check. If there are more invoices than can fit in the stub space, a message needs to appear telling the user to see Payment advise. We implement this logic using conditional content with an IF tagging element.
The second stub is the same as the first one. It also contains the watermark text "COPY", which is displayed in a rotated textbox anchored in the header with the fixed position.
The check design is now ready. Before we activate it in D365FO, we need to test it against different data to see if we get the expected results.
The last design step is to remove or hide the background image with the scanned blank check stock layout.
Activating the new check template in D365FO
The final step is to activate the new check template in D365FO. To do this, simply register another template for the check report, attach a newly designed check template to it and set it as a default. From that moment on, users can use the new template to print checks.
The following video clip shows how to design the stubs and how to activate the finished template in D365FO:
As you can see, designing a check template with Docentric Designer is something that you can literally do in one hour or even less! This article guides you through the entire design process, explaining important design approaches, and showing you the complete design process in video clips.
You should be able to design your check by simply following these instructions and watching the video clips.
And the best thing is that you can do it all by yourself! No need to involve developers or your DevOps team. You can design the check, test it and activate it in D365FO. How cool is that?