Tables & Headers/Footers: Making Your Appraisal Report Look Professional
(by David Maloney) As a personal property appraisal course writer and instructor since 1994, I’ve reviewed many appraisals submitted by my students. Non-students also often ask me to review their appraisals for completeness or for USPAP compliance. Other than a couple appraisers who prepare their reports in MS-Excel, most all appraisals I have reviewed are prepared in MS-Word. (This article focuses on the Windows user. Similar features, of course, are available to the MAC user.)
Over the years I’ve often noticed a couple report shortcomings that occur on a consistent basis – specifically, these shortcomings include the failure of the appraiser to make use of MS-Word’s “Table” feature and MS-Word’s “Header/Footer” feature.
It is for good reason that appraisers using Windows most often use MS-Word to prepare their reports. MS-Word contains numerous features which, if used, will result in a report that is not only well-designed but also professional in appearance. But, as noted, two of the most important but most frequently under-utilized features of MS-Word are the Table feature and the Header/Footer feature.
The Table feature in MS-Word allows you to keep information in multiple columns lined up no matter how often the document is edited. A Table consists of rows and columns of boxes, called cells, that you can fill with text and/or graphics. Within each cell, text wraps just as it does between the margins of a document. The cell expands vertically to fit the amount of text you type or the height of a graphic image you have inserted.
- With Tables, you can arrange columns of numbers and text in a document without using tabs!
- Tables also provide a convenient way to present text in side-by-side paragraphs, and
- Tables allow you to arrange text beside a graphic so that the text/graphic combination is never separated.
See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlnsE_I16mg&feature=related for a primer on how to use Tables in MS-Word.
Three Must-Use Features of Tables
In addition, the Table feature has three functionalities which you simply must take advantage of – and it is so easy to do! They include:
- Auto-increment line numbers
- Insert thumbnails images, and
- Auto-summation of column values
Auto-Increment Line Numbers
Auto-numbering each row not only adds sequential numbers to each row in the Table, but it also maintains the proper numbering sequence even if you add or delete a row!
It is incredibly easy to auto increment line numbers in MS-Word when using Tables. To learn how to auto-number Table rows see http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/msoffice/?p=487.
Insert Thumbnail Images
Regarding inserting images into MS-Word, if not using Tables, one need only insert the image, resize it, and then right click the inserted image to choose the “text wrapping” option you prefer. There are several text wrapping options including keeping the image “in line with text” which will keep the image with the text with which it is associated. For a primer on inserting images into Word, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn3G2GTlNa4.
The problem with the above method of inserting images is that an appraisal report consisting of numerous items (each with its own item number, description, value and image) may end up lacking consistency in appearance from page to page. To ensure consistency in appearance, make use of MS-Word’s Table feature. Tables will present your item numbering, descriptions, thumbnail images, and values in an organized, consistent and professional manner.
Here’s how: once the Table is added, insert the desired image into the appropriate cell. Do this by putting your cursor in the cell into which the image is to be inserted. Then click on the Insert tab at the top of the page. Click that you want to insert “picture” then browse to find the image on your computer. Click the image and it is immediately inserted! (You can also use drag-and-drop which is the easiest and quickest way to add multiple images to a Table.) If the inserted image is too large, resize it to fit.
TIP1: Before inserting the above images into their respective cells, copy all the original images you are going to use into a fresh directory. (Original images are always WAY to big to use in a Table.) Keep the originals untouched elsewhere, because you might wish to enclose a selection of the original high-resolution images on a CD along with the final report. In the fresh directory, resize all images to a “thumbnail” standard width and height for use in your Table. I prefer 200 pixels x 200 pixels. There are many programs to do this. For Windows users, I suggest this freebie: http://imageresizer.codeplex.com/. Do a bulk-resize, i.e., select all the images and resize them all at once. Do not waste time by resizing one at a time!
TIP2: If need be, once the thumbnail image has been inserted into the Table, you can easily add a caption. Here’s how: after inserting the image into the table, right click on the image and choose “insert caption”. You can accept the default “Figure 1” caption or choose “new label” to customize the caption. The caption can appear either above or below the image.
Auto-Summation of Column Values
The Table feature in MS-Word is primarily designed to help you visually organize information in a document. However, appraisers also have the need to perform a simple summation of the individual subject property values that are in the “value” column. To sum a column of numbers:
1. Click the cell in which you want the sum to appear.
2. In MS-Word2003 from the Table menu, select “Formula”. (In MS-Word2007 from the Layout tab/Data section, select “formula”.)
3. MS-Word suggests the formula =SUM(ABOVE). Click the OK button and the total of all the above values is inserted into the bottom cell.
4. If your column contains blank cells, Word will not total the entire column or row. To total the entire row or column, type a zero in each blank cell. (Remove the zero afterwards, if need be.)
Here’s a good how-to video focusing on Tables: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iAju4va-uhM. At the end of the video is an explanation of how to sum a column of numbers in a Word table.
MS-Word’s Header/Footer feature allows you to insert information at the top or bottom of every page in a consistent fashion. This information normally consists of date, client’s name, file number, chapter headings, page number, etc. The content of Headers and Footers does not move as text is added to or deleted from the body of the document. It is anchored to the top (or bottom) of the page. You can even omit the Header on page 1 (which is often printed on company letterhead so does not require a Header.)
Here is a three-part YouTube.com tutorial on how to use Headers/Footers in MS-Word2007.
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJZsq4MIv68&feature=related (Part 1)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reOP_q_0vaI&feature=related (Part 2)
- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DJKxuxlEkk&feature=related (Part 3)
While I agree with many others that programs are often bloated with features that are of little use to the vast majority of users, “Tables” and “Headers/Footers” are two features with which the appraiser should become very familiar and use regularly.
© 2010 David J. Maloney, Jr