Print Layouts

Print layouts let you print documents from Populi that use your school's formatting (fonts, text sizes, logos, etc.). Populi includes a number of built-in layouts; you can modify these or add your own in Communications > Print Layouts. Because they're finicky and involve the use of variables (see below) most of our customers get help from Populi Support when setting up custom layouts (but there's no reason a skilled user at your school couldn't handle it himself).

Layouts use special codes called variables, which pull information from Populi and produce the document you're after. For example, you print a letter from a template; the {!BODY!} variable in the layout pulls in the text from the letter template. Or you print a transcript; the {!TERM_GPA!} pulls in the student's term GPA for Fall 2024. And so on...

Layouts come in two types:

  • ODT layouts use the Open Document file format (.ODT), which can be opened by multiple word processing programs including the free Open Office suite. To design these, you must use Open Office; however, .ODT files can be opened by all the major word processors like Word and Pages.
  • HTML layouts are based on your own custom HTML and CSS. This article has some guidance for how these layouts work.

If you are handy with Open Office and/or HTML and CSS, you are welcome to work on your own custom layouts. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but if you don't mind your p's and q's with either layout type, your layout won't work! If you don't feel confident enough to do this yourself, reach out to Populi Support.

An example of how it works

Using a letter template and a mailing list, you prepare a printed letter to be sent to Alumni donors. Here's what happens:

  1. When creating the print job from the mailing list, you choose the "Official College Stationery" print layout, which includes your school's logo and address.
  2. Populi replaces the {!BODY!} variable in the layout with the text from the letter template (which itself contains variables for senders and recipients).
  3. Populi produces files based on the layout for every recipient in the mailing list.
  4. There are 100 people on the mailing list, and so 100 unique files are generated, each one customized for each recipient but otherwise identical to the other 99 files.
  5. The print job is found in the Print Queue, where you go to generate a PDF or ODT of the letters and also print envelopes.

What kinds of layouts are available?

A picture is worth a thousand words (or, in this case, 40):

Working on layouts yourself

If you're comfortable working with Open Office and/or HTML and CSS, you are free to modify built-in layouts and upload your own.

HTML Layouts

To create an HTML layout:

  1. Click Add a Print Layout.
  2. Give it a name.
  3. Select the type of layout—your selection here determines what variables you can use and where in Populi you'll be able to use this layout.
  4. Select HTML as the template type.
  5. Check to make this the default layout when exporting this kind of document.
  6. Click Save.

After creating the HTML Layout, find it in the list and click to go to its page, where you can edit it, preview it, etc.

Open Office Layouts

If you're looking to work on your own Open Office (.ODT) layouts, the process you'll follow will look something like this:

  1. Download one of the built-in .ODT layouts in Communications > Print Layouts by clicking .
  2. Carefully work on that downloaded .ODT.
  3. When you're ready, upload it to replace the existing .ODT.
  4. Check your work by clicking and selecting Download .ODT proof.
  5. Repeat the above steps as necessary until your layout looks like what you're after.

To upload/replace an existing .ODT layout:

  1. Click the name of the layout you want to replace.
  2. Make any changes to the name or the default check if you wish.
  3. Upload your .ODT.
  4. Click Save. Your uploaded file will replace the previous file.

Are there any special settings in Open Office I should know about?

Yes, there are. Since most print jobs will be sent to multiple people, it's very important to set up page breaks and page numbering in your Open Office document. The following instructions tell you what to do in Open Office.

Page Breaks

Properly setting up your page breaks ensures that when you create a print job sent to multiple people, each letter will start on its own page. For example, two half-page letters would print on two separate pages instead of both crowding onto the same page.

At the very top of your layout document (say, where the cursor appears when you first open the program), do the following:

  1. Click Format and select Paragraph.
  2. Click Text Flow; under Breaks, check Insert.
  3. For Type, select Page.
  4. For Position, select Before.

Page Numbering

If you're including page numbers in your layout, use these settings to have the page numbers re-set for each Letter in the print job. For example, two three-page Letters would produce a six page document with pages numbered 1,2,3; 1,2,3. Unfortunately, this doesn't also re-set the page count (i.e. Page 1 of 3); for this reason, we recommend not including the page count field in your page numbering.

At the very top of your layout document (say, where the cursor appears when you first open the program), do the following:

  1. Click Format and select Paragraph.
  2. Click Text Flow; under Breaks, check With Page Style.
  3. For Type, select Default.
  4. For Page number, select 1.

Special settings for envelopes

In Open Office, there are a few things you need to do to make sure your envelopes print properly:

  • Page Break Settings:See above for how to set up page breaks; those same settings apply to envelopes.
  • Text Frame Anchors:In Open Office, the Return Address and Addressee text appear in Text Frames.
    1. Right-click the outline of the Text Frame. Select Framefrom the menu.
    2. Click Type; under Anchor, select To paragraphand click OK.
    3. Do this for both frames!


Each layout type has its own set of variables; these only work in that kind of layout. For example, letters have the {!BODY!} variable and transcripts have the {!DEGREE_SPECIALIZATIONS!} variable; you cannot use {!BODY!} in a transcript, nor can you include {!DEGREE_SPECIALIZATIONS!} in a letter.

A complete set of variables for .ODT layouts can be found in this article.

  • Make sure that the variables on the template and the layout don't "overlap". For instance, if you included the recipients' name and address in both a letter template and the layout, letters would print with everyone's name and address twice.
  • When you use these variables, make sure you type them properly. If you don't, Populi won't catch them and you'll end up with some half-baked code stuck in the middle.
  • Any formatting you apply to the variables will be applied to the text that replaces them in the print jobs. For example, if you put {!BODY!} in italics in the layout, all of the template content will print in italics.
  • Variables don't work in document headers or footers.
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