Forms & Fields

Using Forms & Fields

Form driven docs are fast, consistent, and provide structure for users. 

How do fields work?

Fields have the appearance of a link. and the functionality of a doc variable, and can hold data. Fields are placed throughout a document and serve as containers for various types of data such as dates, text, number, even lists. StartDeck Writer scans the doc for fields and adds them to the sidebar. This creates a sidebar form. 

Sidebar forms allow fast, consistent data entry.

The sidebar displays fields in the order they appear in the document, but the field order can be modified (discussed later in this article).

Simply complete the form and update fields to populate the document. Integrating Sheets allows for calculated fields, image fields, maps and more. See our Demo Doc template for examples of field functionality. 

Navigating Doc Fields #

Click on Forms & Data > Forms & Fields

Form driven merge fields
Sidebar Forms
  1. The  +  sign will open forms for that section of the document. Document sections that do not contain fields display without the  sign.

    Sections are defined by headings in the document along with a special ‘Top’ section for fields related to project information. In this example the ‘Top’ section includes client and vendor data, and some project information, like file numbers.

Tip: When entering field data, we recommend using the built in document outline to view the merge fields. 

From the main menu: View > Show document outline

View showing input fields
  1. This view shows fields for the selected section. Complete the form with data entry or field selections.

Update Doc Fields #

Update merge fields with form data
  1. This will update the fields in the document with data from the sidebar form. 

That’s it! We will cover updating sheet fields, images and maps separately.


Create Fields #

From the main menu > Add-ons > StartDeck Writer > Start > Forms & Data > Create Fields.

  1. Field Label: This is what describes the field for the user.
  2. Field Name: This is the ‘behind the scenes’ technical name. There are rules for this name, like no spaces. But don’t worry about the details, we create this name for you and it usually is very close to the field label entered in step 1 above.
  3. Doc Field Type: Select a field that matches your data type:
    1. Standard Text (short entries)
    2. Text Area (long entries)
    3. Selection (selection only)
    4. Combobox (selection or entry)
    5. List (builds a comma separated list)
    6. Bullet List (builds a bullet list)
    7. Number (only numbers)
    8. Currency (US currency, more to follow)
    9. Percentage
    10. Date (select or enter)
    11. Email
    12. Phone
  4. Default Value: Optional. This is what shows in the field until something else is entered. 
  5. Options:
    1. Required: StartDeck won’t update the merge fields if required fields aren't completed.
    2. Insert Break Before: Inserts a visual break in the sidebar before the field. This allows you to group fields in the form which helps users organize inputs. 
    3. Insert Break After: Same as above but Inserts a visual break after the field. Think of visual breaks before and after as bookends for a set of related fields. 
  6. Create Field: This creates the field at the cursor location.

Edit Fields #

Edit and re-order fields
  1. Select the field to edit. This will open the field editor where you can make changes to the field as needed.
  2. Drag and drop to reorder field display in sidebar. 
  3. Click Save Field Display Order to save.
  4. Reset Fields: This ‘cleans up’ fields if they’ve been copied and pasted from another doc. Pasted fields merge just fine, but if you actually click one, it will open the source doc. Reset Fields Links fixes that little annoyance, among other things. 

If fields are not working as expected try Reset Fields.


Sheet Data and Sheet Fields #

Integrate form data between the Doc and Sheet, run calculations, make maps and more. Here’s the data flow:

All the merge field data in your Doc is automatically sent to a table called ‘Doc Data’ in the linked Sheet. This table of data is updated each time the user updates the fields in the linked document. 

Doc data can then be pulled from this table via lookup formulas and used to populate tables, formulas for calculations, create Google maps, and more. 

See our Demo Doc template for examples of doc data used to populate a sheet, perform calculations using the doc data, then merge results back to the doc as a s_field. This data flows brings calculations to doc data. 

Link a Sheet #

Templates and Projects created with the StartDeck Dashboard automatically link Doc and Sheet files, but you can do this on your own easily: 

Linking sheets and data

To add or change a linked sheet:

  1. Paste the sheet URL in the sidebar.
  2. Click the refresh icon.
  3. List of sheet fields, organized by sheet.

Sheet Fields #

Sheet fields merge data from a linked spreadsheet to the document. Sheet fields merge into the doc as read only fields — meaning edits to sheet fields are made in the linked spreadsheet. A sheet field is created by adding a cell note with the sheet field name (right-click on cell and select Insert Note). This example shows data imported from the doc  (Price, Number of Units) and the calculated Price per Unit s_field (s_Unit_Price):

s_fields merge sheet data with linked docs

Three Sheet Field Types # 

There are three kinds of sheet fields:

Sheet FieldsDescription
s_FieldMerges any single cell value into the doc & maintains sheet formatting. Merged cells act as a single cell.
s_ImageMerges an image into the doc based on image URL in sheet cell.
MapsMerges a Google Map into the doc.
Sheet fields
  1. The linked sheet. The sheet URL is added automatically for projects created with StartDeck templates via the Dashboard, but may be added or changed here at any time; simply paste the URL in the box and click the refresh icon.
  2. Enter any part of field name to search.
  3. This is a s_field and will populate the doc with a s_field containing data from the linked sheet. In this example, the s_field name is ‘s_Unit_price’.
  4. This is a s_image field and will populate the doc with an image represented by a URL in the sheet cell. In this example, the s_field name is ‘s_ImageApartmentBuilding’.
  5. This is a map field. See this KB article for more info on maps.


About Image Fields

This is the image data flow: 

Tip: Copy images to project images folder - Google will automatically generate a URL for the image.


Tip: Images will automatically ‘best fit’ by width in table cells.


Tip: Manually resized images will retain dimensions after field updates.


Below are examples of s_image names, image URLs and the resulting merge field images.

s_field Name: s_ImageApartmentBuilding
Image URL:
s_field Name: s_ImageOfficeBuilding
Image URL:

Image Field Syntax

Image fields have the following syntax. To view syntax, click on the image and view the link.



The syntax from the first example above is:

#SD_S::S_F=sample merge fields!s_imageapartmentbuilding::SD_E


Update Sheet Fields #

Update fields from left to right
  1. All field updates are made from the Forms & Fields sidebar.
  2. Best Practice: Update from left to right starting Doc fields - this pushes the most recent doc data to the sheet. Any sheet calculations requiring doc data will then have current data. 

Tip: Save time by updating only what has changed. For example, maps and images usually don't require updates as often as doc and sheet fields. In those cases, skip the images and map updates.


Tip: Always update all field types before final publication.


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