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FileMaker Basics

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This chapter is from the book

If you hate to read computer books, this chapter's for you. By taking a brief look at the menus assembled here and the explanations of how they and various commands work, you'll get a quick overview of FileMaker that will allow you to dive right in—if that's your style.

For readers who prefer a go-slow approach, this chapter's brief explanations also include page references to where in the book you'll find all the details you could want.

No matter which approach you prefer, this chapter provides a visual map for learning all of FileMaker's major functions.

FileMaker's Screen and Modes

When using FileMaker, you will always be working in one of four views or what it calls modes: Browse, Find, Layout, or Preview. Each mode handles a different set of tasks, so FileMaker's screen, menus, and their related options change from mode to mode. There are three ways to switch modes: the View menu, the mode tabs, or the pop-up menu ( Figure 3.1 ).


Figure 3.1 FileMaker offers three ways to switch modes: the View menu (top), the mode tabs in the main window's status area (middle), or the pop-up menu (bottom).

The FileMaker screen

Certain features of the FileMaker screen ( Figure 3.2 ) remain constant: the book icon at the upper left, the status area along the left side (unless you elect to hide it), the Zoom-in and Zoom-out icons, and the status pop-up at the bottom of the screen, which lets you quickly choose your mode. As you switch from one view or mode to another, however, the left-hand status area displays a different set of tools and icons ( Figure 3.3 ). The main record area also will change from mode to mode. For example, in Layout mode, the names of fields appear instead of the data itself.


Figure 3.2 While the left-hand status area (shown in Browse) changes from mode to mode, FileMaker's main screen always displays the book icon, slider, zoom icons, and the mode status pop-up.


Figure 3.3 Tools and icons tailored to each mode appear in the left-hand status area as you switch among the modes (left to right): Browse, Find, Layout, and Preview.

Here's a quick rundown of the main elements of the FileMaker screen:

  • Layout pop-up menu: Clicking your cursor on the box reveals all the layouts for the current record. For more on using Layout mode, see Designing Layouts on page 141.
  • Book: This icon represents all the records in the current database. Clicking on the left and right pages of the book moves you forward or backward one record at a time. For more on using the book, see Viewing Records on page 41.
  • Slider: Using your cursor to click on and drag the slider allows you to quickly jump forward or backward through a database's records. For more on using the slider, see Viewing Records on page 41.
  • Current record, Total records: The current record number tells you where you are among all the database's records, which is represented by the Total records number. By clicking on the current record number, you can type in the number of a particular record you're seeking. See Viewing Records on page 41.
  • Sort status: This simply tells you whether the records you're working with have been sorted or remain unsorted. For more on sorting records, see Finding and Sorting Records on page 49.
  • Status area: Running along the left-hand side of your screen, the status area displays the icons and tools for whichever mode you're in ( Figure 3.3 ). For more on each mode's tools and icons, see the next page.
  • Hide/Show status area: Clicking on this icon allows you to hide or show the left-hand status area. This can be handy when you want to give the record itself as much screen space as possible.
  • Zoom percentage, Zoom in, Zoom out: Clicking the Zoom-in or Zoom-out icon allows you to magnify or shrink your view of the current record. Clicking on the Zoom percentage box lets you toggle between the current magnification view and the 100 percent view. This makes it easy, for example, to jump between an extreme close-up view (400 percent) and a regular view (100 percent) in a single click instead of the multiple clicks required by the Zoom-in and Zoom-out icons.

Browse mode

Browse mode is the view where you'll spend most of your time if you're working with existing databases ( Figure 3.4 ). Whenever you open a FileMaker database, it first appears in Browse mode. In Browse, you can view, sort, add, omit, and delete records. For more on using Browse mode, see Viewing Records on page 41 and Finding and Sorting Records on page 49.


Figure 3.4 The status area for Browse mode appears to the left of the current record—though you can hide it if you want more screen space for the record.

Find mode

Find mode offers a powerful set of tools for locating individual records, or groups of records, within a database ( Figure 3.5 ). In Find, you can search for records that match or don't match particular criteria based on text or mathematical values. For more on using Find mode, see Finding and Sorting Records on page 49.


Figure 3.5 The Find mode status area offers tools for locating individual records, or groups of records, within a database.

Layout mode

Layout mode is where you design the appearance of the fields and records that display your data ( Figure 3.6 ). In Layout, you can control every detail of fonts, field borders, button design—as well as the overall look of forms and entry screens. For more on using Layout mode, see Creating and Designing Databases on page 141.


Figure 3.6 The most elaborate of the four modes, the Layout mode's status area contains tools to control the appearance of the records and record views you design.

Preview mode

Preview mode lets you control how your files look when printed ( Figure 3.7 ). In Preview, you can set margins, get rid of unwanted gaps between fields, hide fields if you desire, and control how everything prints out, from reports to labels to envelopes. For more on using Preview mode, see Printing, on page 81.


Figure 3.7 The Preview mode lets you control the appearance of printed FileMaker records.

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