Defining and Working with Fields and Tables in FileMaker Pro 10
Working Under the Hood
Fields and tables are the heart of any database. By storing information in properly categorized fields within well-organized tables, you impart both function and meaning to what would otherwise be an incomprehensible pile of raw data.
This chapter describes what kinds of fields exist in FileMaker Pro, how they store information, and how to ensure proper data integrity in your database solutions. We also discuss naming conventions for fields and tables—techniques that you can use to make your FileMaker Pro databases meaningful to yourself and others for the long period of time that they may be in use.
If you're new to development in FileMaker Pro, this chapter is a good place to start. Establishing a solid foundation in field definition is a vital part of becoming a practiced developer.
New Databases Begin with Field Definitions
To create a new database, simply launch FileMaker Pro and then choose File, New Database. The Quick Start screen appears, and you can choose the Create Database view to get started. At that point, you can choose to create an empty database or to create a database from a Starter Solution.
In FileMaker Pro 10, the Quick Start screen also lets you choose to create a database from an Excel workbook, a tab-delimited text file, a comma-separated values text file, a merge file, or a Bento source.
Using the Manage Database Dialog
When you choose to start a new, empty database, FileMaker Pro creates a file for you, stores it in a location you specify, and automatically opens the Manage Database, dialog shown in Figure 3.1. As a developer, you'll spend a good bit of time in the three tabs in this dialog. FileMaker Pro's Manage Database dialog allows you to create the fields, tables, and relationships you need to form your database. It also enables you to modify a wide range of attributes associated with fields, such as auto-entry functions, validation, storage, and calculation formulas. These elements compose a database's structure or schema. It is here that you form your database behind the scenes.
Figure 3.1 The three tabs allow you to switch among defining tables, fields, and relationships.
If you are creating a new database from a Starter Solution or an existing file such as an Excel workbook or a text file, FileMaker Pro automatically creates the necessary schema and opens the new database without going through the Manage Database dialog. While you are working with a database, you can open the Manage Database dialog at any time to modify the schema.
FileMaker Pro will have already created a default table for you, named the same as the file itself. Notice the Table pop-up menu on the Fields tab of the dialog in Figure 3.1. Any fields you create will be created in that table.
For some basic information on tables, see "Understanding Tables," p. 30.
For a detailed discussion of multiple-table solutions, see Chapter 6, "Working with Multiple Tables," p. 159.
Notice the third tab in the Manage Database dialog: Relationships. We don't cover relational databases in this chapter, but it is on that tab that you would create the relational associations among tables in your solution.
For information on relational data modeling, see Chapter 5, "Relational Database Design," p. 143.