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FileMaker Pro 9: The Missing Manual by Susan Prosser, Geoff Coffey

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Chapter 4. Layout Basics

In the last chapter you created your first database, and it really works. Unfortunately, it doesn't look all that great. For example, the Street Address field is the same width as the State field, even though street addresses are usually much longer than state names. The Goodness Rating field is much longer than it needs to be. And unless you're a real minimalist, the whole thing just looks boring (see Figure 4-1).

This database works, but it could work—and look—better. What if you want to see lots of people at once? What if you want to print address labels for all these people? What if you want to arrange these fields in logical groups so they're easier to figure out? This database can't do any of those things, but if you give it a few new layouts, you can do all of them—and lots more.

Figure 4-1. This database works, but it could work—and look—better. What if you want to see lots of people at once? What if you want to print address labels for all these people? What if you want to arrange these fields in logical groups so they're easier to figure out? This database can't do any of those things, but if you give it a few new layouts, you can do all of them—and lots more.

There are other things to worry about as well. There's no good way to see lots of people at one time—in a nice list, for example. A list would also be handy for printing. As it stands, you have to print a whole page for each person in the database if you want a hard copy.

The FileMaker concept of layouts solves all these problems and more. While the Manage Database window lets you define the structure of your database (its fields and tables), layouts let you design the look and feel.

What Is a Layout?

If the tables form the heart of a database, layouts give it a face. When you design a layout, you feel like you're working in a graphics program: You can change the fonts, paste in your logo, make the background light fuchsia, and drag the fields around as though they're little onscreen Lego blocks. A single database may look like a White Pages, a "Hello! My Name Is" name tag, a glossy brochure, or a library card catalog index card. FileMaker displays the same information—but how it displays that information is up to you.

Better yet, a single database can contain as many layouts as you want; each shows the data in a certain way for a specific purpose. Figure 4-2 shows the People database with one possible layout.

This is the People database, too. It has the same fields and the same records as —it's even the same file. Only the layout has changed. It's been redesigned and has a pop-up menu to make for easier data entry.

Figure 4-2. This is the People database, too. It has the same fields and the same records as Figure 4-1—it's even the same file. Only the layout has changed. It's been redesigned and has a pop-up menu to make for easier data entry.

Types of Layouts

You can make layouts for just about anything. Most databases start off with a few common kinds of layouts for the most basic needs. Then, over time, you usually add more layouts to meet specific needs. When thinking about layouts, you should be thinking about how you'll want to see the data—what kinds of information should be onscreen at the same time, for example—and how you want to print your data (printable lists, name tags, special forms, envelopes, statements, reports, and so on). Here are some common kinds of layouts:

  • Detaillayouts show all (or nearly all) fields on the screen for one record at a time—a full employee profile, for example. You use detail layouts for most, if not all, of your data entry. If you have a lot of fields, you can even create more than one detail layout: Contact Info, Emergency Info, and Payroll Info, for example.

    Note

    You've already encountered a detail layout. Every FileMaker database is born with one starter detail layout. It always looks like the one in your People database in the previous chapter—downright boring.

  • Listlayouts show multiple records at one time, in a scrolling list. They usually show less information from each record than a detail layout so that more records can fit on the screen.

  • Tablelayouts are designed to work best in table view (see Form View). Like a list layout, they show lots of records at once, but unlike a list layout, it doesn't matter how the fields are arranged on the layout itself, since table view always looks like a spreadsheet.

  • Reportlayouts are designed for printing (see Printing and Preview Mode). They usually show multiple records in a list form, often with a title at the top and summary information at the bottom. Reports can even have groups of data and intermediate summaries or running totals.

  • Envelope and Label layouts format the data so that you can print it directly onto an envelope or a sheet of peel-and-stick labels. This layout makes addressing envelopes to people in your database a breeze. FileMaker can automatically create layouts for many envelope sizes and common label formats.

Very often, you create both a detail layout and a list layout for each table in your database. The list provides an easy way to scroll through records and find what you're looking for without getting data overload. When you're ready to see all the data, you switch to the one-at-a-time detail layout.

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