Starting around version 9, FileMaker has been steadily improving Layout mode tools. In FileMaker Pro 13 creating clean, consistent, and usable database interfaces is easier than ever. Here are some of our favorite enhancements.
You’re probably familiar with tab controls- they stack multiple items atop each other each with a tab at the top. Click a tab to see its contents. They work great on computer screens, but on smaller touch screens those tabs can be a small target to hit. New slide controls fulfill the same need to concentrate data in a limited space, but instead of choosing a tab, you can simply swipe a finger left or right to see the next item in the group. Slide controls are generally easier than tabs for touchscreen users; they simply put a finger down anywhere in the control area and swipe. One limitation to be aware of is that, unlike tabs, touchscreen users can’t jump directly to any given slide. They must swipe repeatedly until they land on the one they want.
Another clever way to save precious layout real estate is the new popover button. Each time you click a popover button, FileMaker Pro presents you with a fresh baked popover pastry. Sorry, my editor is informing me that isn’t the case. A popover button, when clicked, opens a panel that hovers over the regular layout. Unlike tooltips, which show plain text when your cursor hovers over an object, popover buttons only reveal their contents when clicked.
So is it a layout within a layout? Not exactly. A popover panel is only practical under a certain size- if it’s larger than about one fourth the layout’s area a tab control or additional layout is probably a better choice. There are also restrictions regarding what kind of objects can be placed in a popover. Text, fields, images and buttons, even web viewers and portals are fair game. But no, before you even ask, you can’t trigger one popover from inside another.
The Field Picker
Since the dawn on Man as we knew him, fields were pre-placed vertically on new layouts or dragged out from the toolbar one at a time. It was an ancient rite of tedium and endurance and there was much alt/option-dragging.
FileMaker 13 ushers in a new dawn of simplicity and common sense with the floating Field Picker. The field picker’s simple floating palette belies it’s power and utility. Basically, it’s just a list of your fields. Drag the name of a field out of the picker onto the layout and you’ll get an instance of that field. No dialog boxes, no extra clicks. Better still, you can select multiple fields in the picker and in a single drag, place them all on the layout. But wait! Reveal the “Drag Options” at the bottom to specify whether you want your fields to come over stacked vertically or horizontally and where to place the field labels, if you even want any.
One of the field picker’s most useful capabilities is the ability to filter the list of field names. When working in a large solution, or even just one you’re not familiar with, being able to search for fields by name is a tremendous step up from having to slowly scroll through the list.
Just about every word processor out there lets you create custom styles- reusable formatting definitions that designate the font, size, color, alignment, spacing and more. FileMaker layouts have joined the style party now and it’s not just for text. Every layout theme has a variety of styles for fields, buttons, controls, backgrounds and more. Change the look of a given style and when you save those changes, every object on the layout using it will adopt those changes.
I know what you’re thinking- “That’s cool and all, but did you say it only applies to the current layout?” Well yes, customized styles apply only to the working layout. “If that means I have to re-create my styles for each layout, you can stick–” Hold on a second! Styles are associated with layout themes (a feature introduced with FileMaker 12). After you save your style changes, save those changes to the parent theme and voila! Every layout using that theme updates to show your handiwork.
It’s maybe a bit less intuitive than one would like, but given the world of design consistency it opens up, and that it’s the first release of this feature, the time you spend learning how to use it will be recovered the first time you need to change formatting across more than two layouts.