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Defining and Working with Fields

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In this chapter

  • Working Under the Hood 68
  • Working with Fields 69
  • Working with Field Types 72
  • Assigning Field Options 78
  • Troubleshooting 91
  • FileMaker Extra: Indexing in FileMaker 92

Working Under the Hood

Fields are the heart of any database. By storing information in properly categorized fields, you impart both function and meaning to what would otherwise be an incomprehensible pile of raw data.

We'll spend much of this chapter describing what kinds of fields exist in FileMaker Pro, how they store information, and how to ensure proper data integrity in your database solutions.

If you're new to development in FileMaker Pro, this chapter is a good place to start. No doubt some of the topics we cover will lack a certain context, but establishing a solid foundation in field definition is a vital part of becoming a practiced developer.

If you have built a few FileMaker Pro databases, you may need only to skim this chapter. Of the topics we cover here, indexing is likely the most advanced; our discussion explores some subtle differences from prior versions of FileMaker Pro.

New Databases Begin with Field Definitions

To create a new database, simply launch FileMaker Pro and then choose File, New Database. You'll be presented with the option to start with a template or to create a new, empty file. To create a file of your own, select the Create a New Empty File option and click OK.

After you've stepped through these first tasks, you'll be taken to the Define Fields dialog.

Using the Define Database Dialog

When you choose to start on a new, empty database, FileMaker Pro creates a file for you and automatically opens the Define 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 Define Database dialog allows you to create the fields, tables, and relationships you need in order 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. It is these elements that 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.

FileMaker Pro will have already created a default table for you, named the same as the file itself. Notice the Table menu selection 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. 31.


For a detailed discussion of multiple-table solutions, see Chapter 6, "Working with Multiple Tables," p. 157.

Notice the third tab in the Define Database dialog: Relationships. We won't be covering multitable relational databases in this chapter, but it is on that tab that you'd create the relational associations among tables in your solution.


For information on relational data modeling, see Chapter 5, "Relational Database Design," p. 129.

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