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Using FileMaker Pro

This chapter introduces you to how to make the most of FileMaker databases that have already been built. All FileMaker databases have certain common elements, and becoming adept at using FileMaker Pro solutions will not only help you manipulate and analyze data better, but will assist you in extending what you can accomplish with that data.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Getting Started

It’s time to roll up your sleeves and actually put FileMaker Pro to use. Most of this book deals with being a FileMaker developer—someone focused on the programming side of creating and managing FileMaker solutions. However, development makes up only a small percentage of the overall time a given database is used. Much of the time a FileMaker solution will simply be in use and its users will care nothing for scripting, calculations, or the vagaries of user interface design. They will simply be involved in working with a developer’s creation and will not need to know anything of the programming side of FileMaker.

This chapter introduces you to how to make the most of FileMaker databases that have already been built. All FileMaker databases—often called solutions, systems, or applications—have certain common elements, and becoming adept at using FileMaker Pro solutions will not only help you manipulate and analyze data better, but will assist you in extending what you can accomplish with that data.

When it comes to getting started with FileMaker, you need to know a few basics. Installing FileMaker Pro is automated, as is the case with most software today. Whether you have a CD with FileMaker on it or have downloaded the software from filemaker.com, you’ll find an installer on the disk or disk image. If there is a Read Me file, do just that before you continue.

Even after you have installed FileMaker, you might find a minor barrier before you can use it. Automated software updates might present you with a window after you launch FileMaker and before you can get to work. Software updates occur whenever updates are available.

The Quick Start screen is what you normally see when FileMaker starts. From there, you can open or create databases and get help. After you look at these aspects of FileMaker, it will be time to move on to actually working with databases and their components.


You can choose to register your copy of FileMaker; this also provides FileMaker with personal information, including your address, which can be used to notify you of new products, updates, and the like. During the registration process, you can indicate to FileMaker what sorts of communications—if any—you would like to receive about FileMaker products. FileMaker can also use the information from the registration process to find out more about the people who use FileMaker and the purposes to which they intend to put the product.

Registration is required for the use of free trial software. You might also be prompted to register your software during the installation process.

If you choose not to register at this time, you can always decide to register later by choosing Register Now from the Help menu. Registration is optional, meaning you never have to register.

Software Updates

You might be prompted to download updates to FileMaker software. This accounts for a screen that you might see when you first launch FileMaker Pro. The choice of downloading the update is up to you—as is the choice of whether to perform this automatic check, as shown in Figure 2.1. Choices in this dialog are part of your preferences, which you can get to in OS X from the Preferences command in the FileMaker application menu. In Windows, the Preferences command is at the bottom of the Edit menu. This is one of the few interface differences between the two operating systems in FileMaker Pro.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1. You can control checking for software updates.

Using the Quick Start Screen

When you launch FileMaker Pro, you see the Quick Start screen—generally the first screen after registration and software updates (if any) are disposed of. The Quick Start screen provides a simple interface to a variety of FileMaker Pro tools, as shown in Figure 2.2.

Figure 2.2

Figure 2.2. The Quick Start screen is your gateway to FileMaker Pro.

At the left, three icons let you choose from tools to create a database, open a database, or get assistance. The Quick Start screen opens to whichever view you last selected.

You can create a database from scratch or from one of the Starter Solutions; you can also choose to create a database directly from an existing document in a non-FileMaker format, as shown in Figure 2.2. The Starter Solutions are a set of FileMaker Pro databases that you can use as is or with modifications for your own customized solutions. FileMaker categorizes the Starter Solutions into a variety of areas (some are in more than one area). In addition to the Quick Start Screen, you can choose File, New From Starter Solution to create a database from a Starter Solution.

In the center of Quick Start, you can open files and servers that you have recently used. You can use a Browse button to open your standard Open File dialog.

  • ccc.jpg For more information about opening remote files, see “Working in FileMaker Pro,” p. 39.

Getting Help

For FileMaker users, help consists of a variety of tools ranging from online help to the FileMaker website and books such as this one. For most people, help begins with the Help menu, shown in Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.3

Figure 2.3. FileMaker Pro’s Help menu is just the beginning of built-in assistance. It provides you with a variety of assistance, ranging from simple keyboard commands all the way to developing your own solutions.

The Resource Center command takes you to the FileMaker website where additional information is provided.

In addition to the Help menu, you will find Learn More links on many of the FileMaker dialogs. They are discussed at the appropriate points of this book.

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