Print Friendly, PDF & Email


This is an advanced topic covering a fairly advanced feature in Total Office Manager called Input Masking.  Masks are used within the User Defined Fields (UDF) feature in Total Office Manager.  The UDF feature can be found on employee forms, customer forms, and service agreement forms among others.

Input masking essentially controls the format of data being entered and displayed.  In the following example, the same phone number has been represented five different ways:

  • (800) 555-1212
  • 800-555-1212
  • 800.555.1212
  • 800 555 1212
  • 8005551212

Input masking can unify how data is entered in UDF’s.  In our phone number example, an input mask can be used to ensure data conforms to a predetermined format, like (800) 555-1212.

Input Mask Sections

An Input Mask can have up to three sections, with each section separated by a semicolon (;).  The following is an example of a complete input mask:

Where (000) 000-0000 is the first section, 0 makes up the second section, and ” ” makes up the third section.  A description of what each section controls is shown below.

Section Descriptions

  • First – The first section of an input mask specifies the mask itself.  For example:  (000) 000-0000 is an actual mask.  (See the Characters and Descriptions table below for a list of characters you can use to define the input mask)
  • Second – Specifies whether Total Office Manager stores the literal display characters in the table when you enter data. If you use 0 for this section, all literal display characters (for example, the parentheses in a phone number input mask) are stored with the value; if you enter 1 or leave this section blank, only characters typed into the control are stored.
  • Third – Specifies the character that Total Office Manager displays for the space where you should type a character in the input mask. For this section, you can use any character; to display an empty string, use a space enclosed in quotation marks (” “).

Therefore, in our example mask of (000) 000-0000;0;” ”

  • The first section (000) 000-0000 calls for digits only, which are required, but [+] and [-] are not allowed (see Characters and Descriptions table below).
  • The second section 0 means the parentheses, the space following the parentheses, and the hyphen will be stored and displayed.
  • The third section ” ” will cause an empty space to be the character placeholder as data is entered into the masked field.

Characters and Descriptions

As referred to above, when you create an input mask, you can use special characters to require that certain data be entered (for example, the area code for a phone number) and that other data be optional (such as a telephone extension).  These characters specify the type of data, such as a number or character, that you must enter for each character in the input mask.

You can define an input mask by using the following characters:

Table of Input Mask Characters and Descriptions
0 Digit (0 to 9, entry required, plus [+] and minus [–] signs not allowed).
9 Digit or space (entry not required, plus and minus signs not allowed).
# Digit or space (entry not required; spaces are displayed as blanks while in Edit mode, but blanks are removed when data is saved; plus and minus signs allowed).
L Letter (A to Z, entry required).
? Letter (A to Z, entry optional).
A Letter or digit (entry required).
a Letter or digit (entry optional).
& Any character or space (entry required).
C Any character or space (entry optional).
., : ; – / Decimal placeholder and thousand, date, and time separators (actual character used depends on the settings in the Regional Settings Properties dialog box in Windows Control Panel).
< It causes all characters to be converted to lowercase.
> It causes all characters to be converted to uppercase.
! It causes the input mask to position input from right to left, rather than from left to right. Characters typed into the mask always fill it from left to right. You can include the exclamation point anywhere in the input mask.
\ It causes the character that follows to be displayed as the literal character (for example, \A is displayed as just A).

Input Mask Example — Useful Input Masks

The following table shows some useful input masks and the type of values you can enter in them.

Input Mask Sample Values

Your Mask What the Data Entry Would Look Like
(000) 000-0000 (206) 555-0248
(999) 999-9999 (206) 555-0248
(000) AAA-AAAA (206) 555-TELE
>L0L 0L0 T2F 8M4
00000-9999 98115- or 98115-3007
>L<?????????????? Maria Brendan
SSN 000-00-0000 SSN 444-44-4444
>LL00000-0000 DB51392-0493
##”x##”x#” 25″x25″x1″
##” x ##” x #” Qty: ## 25″ x 25″ x 1″ Qty: 01