One of the many great new features introduced in FileMaker 12 is advanced window styles. When generating a new window via script, developers now have the option to pick from three window types: document, floating document, and dialog. A new Get function – Get (WindowStyle) – has been added as well.
Document windows are standard FileMaker fare, the same style we’ve used for years. Floating document windows remain in front, but allow users to open, select and work with other program elements. Dialog windows are always modal: they must be dismissed before a user can interact with any other FileMaker component.
All three styles allow developers to hide typical window widgets – the Close, Minimize, Maximize and Resize boxes – as well as FileMaker’s tell-tale Zoom Control Area (the group of buttons at the bottom left corner of the screen). Hiding some items, such as Close and Zoom, automatically dims their associated menu commands and disables their keyboard shortcuts. But others, including mode options, remain available.
End-users can’t pick a window style on their own; instead, developers specify a style when creating scripts and buttons using either the New Window or Go to Related Record script step. When end-users create a new window by choosing Window > New window, its style will inherit that of the current window.
Floating windows support a variety of custom UI designs, such as
- color-picking palette,
- Mac-style Help screen,
- button bar for use in Preview mode,
- solution-specific reporting toolbar.
FileMaker 12 improves upon the Show Custom Dialog script step by adding controls for committing data, but the new window feature takes custom messaging to a new level, and is bound to usurp many existing pause, loop and plug-in routines previously used to force window focus. Using window styles in lieu of scripted dialogs means developers can leverage both FileMaker’s classic and brand new tools when creating custom “pop-ups” and “fly-outs.” Advantages include:
- more flexible design of basic UI components such as object and font size, colors, number of buttons;
- scaleable context: use of form and list views, as well as portals;
- inclusion of all field types and formats, including calendars, containers and value lists;
- incorporation of script triggers and keyboard shortcuts;
- maximized benefit of features such as merge fields, conditional formatting, tooltips, and the new state attributes (hover, focus, pressed).
Control of the Close box may be the most welcome benefit of FileMaker 12’s new window styles, but it comes with some of caveats:
- Window styles aren’t designed for use with web or Go interfaces.
- For complete control, remember to address the Close command as well as the widget.
- Before you’ve eliminated all standard close methods, be sure to provide an interface to allow users to exit gracefully. This holds for developer users as well, else you will have no choice but to force quit.