"Professional software at personal prices."
Since we often have a revised disk available by now, you may wonder why you haven稚 heard of one yet. But the fact is there just hasn稚 been any need for changes this year! As of March 1, 2001 the most current versions are still 2000.01 for 1040 returns, ca2000.01 for California returns, and pa2000.01 for partnership returns. We can therefore concentrate in this newsletter on hints that may help you operate more efficiently for the rest of the tax season.
Part of the reason for this increased reliability was our emphasis on introducing 32-bit Windows features rather than changing tax calculations, which was possible because of the relatively few changes by the IRS. However, we did not complete the entire conversion to 32-bit Windows in time for a reliable release, so the current product includes only the new printing module. Nevertheless, we expect a complete 32-bit product in time for you to use for your extension returns. We値l let you know when it痴 ready.
While the software has been trouble-free, the new features in Windows 2000/98/95 versions of our software and IRS痴 changes to the e-file program have led to a whole new set of issues:
Hints on Printing under Windows. Windows printing gives graphics to more users, but proper setup is critical for fast and trouble-free printing.
How to Avert Problems with Windows. You may need to disable anti-virus software or restart your computer to avert freeze-ups or weird printouts.
Using Adobe Acrobat. Our on-screen manuals and IRS publications add new convenience, but only if you know how to best navigate through them with Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can also print a professional-looking hard copy of the manual.
Professional e-file Corner. New self-select PIN averts paper Form 8453, but introduces a number of new problems for professional preparers.
California Corner. California痴 FTB accepts only graphic forms, but with our Premium update you no longer need a laser printer to generate acceptable printouts.
Customer Service Memos. Other customer service issues include the proper program startup procedure, 1040 alignment, and Window control.
And whether you have your update yet or not, don稚 overlook the "End-of-season Special" to the right.
Hints on Printing under Windows
The following information applies to the Windows 2000/98/95 versions of our software, which provide printing through a new 32-bit Windows interface:
- How can I speed up the printing? Because of the complexity of the Windows operating system, there are a number of possible causes for slow printing. Our suggestions for the fastest printing include, in order of importance:
- Change your printer settings to the lowest quality. Tax forms do not require the high resolution of photographs. This change alone can reduce the time to print a tax form from 3 or 4 minutes per page to 10 or 15 seconds per page! The only quality difference you値l notice with most printers is increased graininess of the shaded areas. (You can make this change temporarily through the Windows print box before printing starts, or permanently through the Windows Control Panel. Call Customer Service for details.)
- Close all other programs. Running other programs concurrently can rob memory and processor speed from Tax Preparer.
- Shut down the computer restart from power off. This procedure can clear up a whole host of ills. See "How to Avert Problems with Windows."
- Use HP Laser printing if you have compatible equipment. If you have used our Laser Options in the past with your current printer, you can speed up printing with the program setting Special=1 (described in answer to the next question). The program will then print graphics using Hewlett-Packard痴 fast and efficient PCL4 printing codes rather than Windows graphic methodology.
- What if weird characters appear on my printout, or forms scroll on the screen instead of printing? Such weird behavior often indicates interference with the standard functioning of Windows by some other program. See "How to Avert Problems with Windows" below. And don稚 use the setting Special=1 unless your printer supports Hewlett-Packard痴 PCL4 printer language.
- How do I control graphic printing? Graphic printing of tax forms is built into the printing module for Premium Updates (and for the main form in Standard Updates). However, you control whether or not the graphics is used through your Program Settings. The controlling entry is the 2nd entry for Official Fill-in Specs:
Special (1=HPLaser,2=Windows )
Enter 2 for printing of the graphics on both ink-jet and laser printers. Enter 1 for faster printing on an HP-emulating laser printer with a compatible tax font. Enter 0 to bypass all graphics so that only data are printed, for use with transparent overlays or pin-fed forms. (If you are an experienced user you can enter 3 to get the capabilities of entry 2 without the Windows print box.)
- What if 2=Windows does not appear on my program setting screen? If you see only
Special (1=HPLaser )
then our new 32-bit Windows printing module was omitted because you started the program through an icon designed for DOS or Windows 3.1. Installation of the Windows 2000/98/95 program provides a new set of icons to use to start the current-year program. So, if you have any duplicate icons, see our Customer Service Memo "How to avert problems with old icons" (available on our web site) to determine which icons are new and which should be removed.
How to Avert Problems with Windows
A number of problems can arise when Windows becomes confused by other programs or its memory is cluttered with obsolete data. The following steps can eliminate problems like freeze-ups, black screens, weird printouts, or forms scrolling on to the screen:
à Shut Down à Ok. Once the computer is shut down you can restart it normally.
Selectively disable anti-virus software. Some anti-virus software can interfere with our use of the Windows printing interface, so you may have to disable your anti-virus software before using Tax Preparer. It is usually sufficient to disable only the System Scan portion of the anti-virus software so that you remain protected from viruses carried by e-mail, downloads, or internet files.
- Always quit programs through their normal exit procedure. Closing a program痴 Window before it is ready can lead to many unpredictable problems. With Tax Preparer, always quit by pressing Escape at the Main Menu and answering Yes to the Quitting prompt. Other methods of closing Tax Preparer, such as pressing F4 or clicking the X in the upper right corner of the Window, may cause problems the next time Tax Preparer is used.
- Shut down and restart from power off. This procedure will purge your computer of any memory-robbing garbage left over from other programs or unintentional changes to Windows. To do this, click Start
Using Adobe Acrobat
Our on-screen manuals and IRS documents have made it easy to read HowardSoft or IRS instructions in one window while Tax Preparer is running in another Window. But did you know that you can...
à Print à Properties à Features and select Book and Landscape. You will then get a printout with 2 facing pages side-by-side on a letter-size sheet, and each side will match our professionally printed manuals. (Note that this capability may not be available for your print driver.)
- Jump to any section in our Table of Contents with a click of the mouse. Just click Window on the menu bar for Adobe Acrobat Reader, then click Show Bookmarks. The contents will appear on the left side of a split screen. You can click any topic to jump to the start of that section.
- Find any phrase by pressing ctrl-F. When you press ctrl-F a box appears in which you can enter the word or phrase you want to find. Once the phrase is found you can then press ctrl-G to find more occurrences of the same word or phrase.
- Print the manual in the same format as our paper manuals. For many print drivers you can click File
Professional e-file Corner
The introduction by the IRS of self-select PIN signatures has led to a number of problems with Nelco痴 transmission software, all of which have been solved by now. In addition, there is still some confusion over what entries are required for the self-select PIN. Following is a checklist for trouble-free e-file:
Update Nelco files frequently. It痴 a good idea to check for updates to Nelco痴 software daily by clicking on Utilities à Update Program Files à Log on to receive updates. Many mysterious error messages about missing entries are cleared up by recent updates. For California e-file, the rejection of returns with a Schedule D is also eliminated.
If MFJ, enter prior year amounts for spouse too. Even though the amounts are the same as those for the primary taxpayer, the IRS requires that the spouse separately enter the prior-year AGI and tax as verification of the PIN signature. Leaving the entries at zero is NOT acceptable.
If prior-year AGI or prior-year tax is truly zero, get ef2001.01b0. If you have any clients using the self-select PIN who truly had no tax or AGI last year, you should request from us our special release ef2001.01b0. It averts a problem in which the Nelco software interprets a zero entry as no entry at all.
Reminder: FTB requires graphics for ALL forms. The FTB has had this requirement for a few years but some customers are still trying to file Form 540 returns using our text-based facsimile printouts. While the IRS accepts text-based facsimiles, the FTB does not. You must either copy data from our facsimile printouts to actual FTB forms or print graphic forms using the Premium version of our California Supplement. So, to make it easier for you to comply for the rest of the tax season, we池e making a special offer:
Professional e-file: A rocky start, but all is now well. Initial copies of Nelco痴 software for California e-file had a number of problems including no pre-transmission checking initially and false errors later, including an inability to file any return that contained a Schedule D. Recent updates from Nelco, however, have eliminated the problems. Be sure to download Nelco updates frequently to avert inexplicable errors.
Customer Service Memos
Our web site (www.howardsoft.com) currently contains 3 customer service memos that cover topics not detailed in this newsletter:
- How to avert problems with old icons.
- How to ensure proper Form 1040 tab settings.
- How to permanently change screen settings for Windows 2000/98/95 version.
We write memos like these in response to frequent questions, so other memos may appear throughout the tax season. If your questions are not covered in this newsletter or these memos, please feel free to call us for more personal customer service.