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Using FileMaker Pro

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

FileMaker Extra: Becoming a FileMaker Pro Power User

Manipulating data can illuminate a wide range of information and can allow business users to draw conclusions they might not have been able to perceive anecdotally. For example, in our consulting firm, we were able to analyze our time entry data and calculate the average amount of time we need for testing. This helped greatly for future estimating.

Becoming adept at using FileMaker Pro enables you to understand what information you can pull from the system, but, most important, it enables you to know what to ask for. In working with a developer, you can guide that person’s priorities (or your own) based on a solid understanding of the platform.

Technique 1: Using Your Keyboard for More Speed

This advice is obvious. Entering (Command-F) [Ctrl+F] brings you into Find mode. Tabbing takes you from field to field. The (Return) [Enter] key executes default values in dialog boxes, performs finds, and so on. (Command-up arrow) [Ctrl+up arrow] and (Command-down arrow) [Ctrl+down arrow] page through your data. You’ll become much faster with FileMaker Pro if you take the time to learn your key commands. FileMaker’s online help details all the key commands available.

Technique 2: Working with Table View

User interfaces have their purpose and more often than not greatly assist data entry and working with a given solution. But if you just need to look at the raw data in your system, you can opt to change to Table view from any layout in FileMaker Pro, assuming that your developer hasn’t disabled the option. This gives you a bird’s-eye view of your information. Don’t forget that clicking a column header sorts for that column. A second click re-sorts in descending order.

Technique 3: Replacing Data

You’ll often run across cases in which you need to globally replace some data with other data. For example, perhaps you’ve changed a value list of vehicle types to read “auto, bike, boat, plane,” rather than “bike, boat, car, plane.” If you leave things alone after changing the value list, you’ll have both “car” and “auto” data in your system. Enforcing the consistent use of terms is important in maintaining your data integrity. To quickly take care of migrating from an old value to a new one, follow these steps:

  1. Choose Records, Show All Records; otherwise, your change is applied to only your current found set.
  2. Place your cursor into the field in question.
  3. Choose Edit, Find/Replace to open the Find/Replace dialog box (see Figure 2.41).
    Figure 2.41

    Figure 2.41. Find/Replace can step through your records or be applied across the entire database. Be careful: You cannot undo these functions!

  4. Type your old and new values.
  5. Choose All from the Direction drop-down menu so that your entire database will be covered.
  6. Depending on your preferences, choose Current Field or apply your change to entire records. We recommend changing just the selected field because that’s much safer than accidentally changing all instances of a text string.
  7. Click Replace All.

Technique 4: Inserting Specific Information

The Insert menu is an often-ignored source of handy time-saving commands. From a single menu choice or keyboard command, you can insert the current time, the current date, or your username into an active field.

In addition to that, Insert, From Index enables you to select from all the values in a given field from all records in a database. If you can’t quite remember the spelling of a given item, or you simply want to be perfectly consistent, this is a great way to see the data in your system and make a compatible selection. This works only if the field in question allows indexing.

  • ccc.jpg To learn about field indexing, see “Storage and Indexing,” p. 104.

Finally, there’s a handy way to pull data from another record in your database. If three or four fields need to contain data identical to another record in your database, visit the source record first and then, via a List view or Table view, jump to the destination record by clicking the appropriate row. Click into the specific fields you want and choose Insert, From Last Visited Record.

Technique 5: Getting to Know Your Entire Database

This item isn’t so much a technique as it is just common sense: One of the best ways to make the most of a FileMaker database is to learn how it works. Review all the layouts in your system, take a look at the fields you see, and explore other files (if there are others) in the solution. Be sure to discuss with your developer how the information fits together.

Technique 6: Using Multitiered Sorts

Sorting can be a fairly powerful way to derive meaning and see patterns in data. To make the most of the Sort Records dialog, don’t forget that you can provide multiple sort criteria. For example, in a contacts database, you could sort by Last Name, First Name, City, descending by Age, and finally by Pet Name.

You can also sort by the custom order of a value list. If you have, say, a status field managed by a value list of “open, pending, closed,” you can sort by that order.

Technique 7: Using Multiple Windows

FileMaker provides you with a Window menu. If you’d like to work with multiple layouts at once, choose Window, New Window, and then navigate to the second layout in question by using either the Layout pop-up menu in the Status toolbar or the buttons provided by a developer.

Multiple windows are also useful when you open two windows looking at the same List view layout: It’s possible for you to have two separate found sets. Imagine finding all the invitees of an event in one window and all the people you’ve not yet invited in the other.

Technique 8: Applying Text Styling and Tabs

You can apply a wide range of formatting options to text within FileMaker Pro fields: bold, italic, font choice, color choice, and so on. FileMaker Pro preserves this information, and you can copy and paste formatted text with other applications.

There is another neat trick in FileMaker Pro: In any field, you can establish an internal tab placement and apply tabs by using (Command-Tab) [Ctrl+Tab]. Choose View, Ruler. When you click into a field, a horizontal ruler appears above it, into which you can click to establish tabs. Double-click a tab to set its properties: left, center, right, align to character, and whether to use a fill character.

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