Abacus Law

AbacusLaw   Customizing Adding new fields to Abacus

Abacus has 3 main databases. These are Names, Events, and Matters. Each of these comes with certain primary fields already created for you to work with.

The standard Names screen you'll get right out of the box for each contact in the Names database looks like this. You can count 22 fields displayed on this screen.

Whether you're a general practice firm or a specialized department or firm, there is probably other information you'd like to know about your client. If you're a general firm, there are probably some standard things you'd like to know about most of your clients, and other things you'd like to know about clients of certain case types. Common information you might frequently like see, in addition to what you see on the screen above, might include:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver's License Number
  • Date of Birth
  • Marital Status

  •       and
  • US Citizen?

Tracking this information is a two stage process. First we have to get it into the database, then we need to get it onto the screen.

This lesson covers getting it into the database.
So let's begin.

Before modifying the database, it's always prudent to back up what you have before you begin. Click
File Utilities Backup Backup

and you should see this screen.

Chose your destination directory in which you want to store your backups, the number of generations of backup you'd like to maintain, and click "Start Backup". Now we begin adding our new fields to the Names database

Adding fields to your database involves modifying the structure of your database. You can only do this when no one else is logged into Abacus Law. Click File Setup Database structures ...

and you should see a screen something like the screen below. This screen may have 5 or 6 custom fields that have already been added.

Notice that we can choose which database to edit. The 3 choices available here are Names (which is the one we are going to work on), Matters, and Events. these are the 3 primary databases in any case management program. We also have a choice of sorting by Number, Name or Display Name. The default sort order is "Number" which is the order that the fields were entered into the database.

To add a new field, we simply click the Add button, and up comes this window


    Note that there are 5 field types. I'm hoping that each is self explanatory. It's good to think of Numeric as something you can do arithmetic with. If you wouldn't do arithmetic (eg phone numbers or social security numbers) use the character data type.

  • The field name can be up to 10 characters, which can include letters, numbers, and the the underscore "_" character.
  • The Display Name can be up to 15 characters with more choices of characters. Whereas you can use spaces and characters such as   &   #   %   and others, they will limit your options later. I recommend only numbers, UPPER or lower case letters and the underline. No spaces.
  • For the description you can use any 30 characters that will help you identify the field. If you end up adding hundreds of fields, this may become useful.


The normal pattern we're used to seeing social security numbers as is 999-99-9999, which is 11 characters. The Name and Display Name should be chosen carefully, as each is a name you'll need at various points to recognize the field.

Fill in the fields and click save

The next field we want to add is Driver's License. Here there are to options. We could put something like "AZ A47795645" or "A47795645" and a separate field for state "AZ". I really don't know which is best, but my inclination is to separate the fields, so I will add 2 fields here. I also don't know what field length to use. In Arizona my license # has 9 characters, so I'm guessing 16 will cover any state for a number of years into the future. I would add 3 more characters (=19) if I combined state and license #.
So I now add the two fields related to Drivers License to my database

Notice the typo at the bottom of Drivers License State. This should say "State of Drivers License" NOT "State od Drivers License". So after having saved this, we need to be able to correct it.
In the list of fields in the names database, double click on the cell with the error, correct it, and press Enter

Next we add Date of Birth

    Date fields are of field type Date. Note that date fields always have a field length of 8, which the program fills in for you.

There are a couple ways of tracking marital status. One would be to ask "are you married?" and use the logical field. The answer can only be Yes or No. If that works for you, it would be the preferable choice. The other would be to offer options such as single, married, divorced, separated, widowed. To create that option we simply make a character field in the database, and create the option list later. I'm going to use the character field MAR_STATUS. Since separated is the longest choice, I'll set a character length of 9.

The final field we're going to add right now is to ask are you a US citizen. This will be a logical field.

Here you see the 6 fields we created. Click Finished to begin the Save process.

Click "Execute changes and create new databases"
This is not a reversible operation, but you can delete fields later, if necessary.

If you click Yes on this screen, you'll see the screen below it. Otherwise you won't.


We've now successfully added six new fields to our Names database.

The next lesson will be How to get these fields onto your screen.


If you're interested in purchasing AbacusLaw or in help with the the installation, training, or or customization of AbacusLaw. Or if you need support in troubleshooting an AbacusLaw problem; Steve Henes Computer Support can provide that support. I have been certified by Abacus Data Systems and specialize in complex customizations and training.

Steve Henes Computer Support in Phoenix, Arizona has been certified to offer installation, customization, training, and troubleshooting support on all Windows versions of AbacusLaw. I will help you at your office, and offer online support via Microsoft Remote Assistance. To discuss your needs be sure to contact:

        Steve Henes Computer Support
email: stevehenes@henes.net
Phone: (602) 957-4496