What I Wish I’d Known – Filemaker Pro

We interrupt our series on web development to bring you another tip from the What I Wish I’d Known series. CoDA intern Elizabeth Minor returns with some advice she’s picked up on Filemaker Pro.

Filemaker Pro is my best friend. Or at least it seems like it these days, I spend more time with it than with my husband or even my dog. This cross-platform database program is relatively user-friendly and extremely flexible. I’ve been developing and tweaking my own database for dissertation research for many years now, but I just learned how to make buttons to make my life easier.

If you’ve spent some time using Filemaker Pro, you already know your way around creating tables, layouts, and relationships. As an archaeologist, you probably have some sort of Object/Finds table and a Findspot/Locus table, which are related to each other. For example, for my research on the ancient Nubian site of Kerma I have ‘Kerma Objects,’ ‘Kerma Tombs,’ and ‘Kerma Photos.’

For a while now, if I wanted to go between tables and/or layouts, I would just go over to the layout selector and click on whichever one I wanted. That’s easy enough, but I’ve let it become cluttered.

But then I started helping friends with their own databases, and they were completely unfamiliar with Filemaker Pro. Importing, finding related records, etc…how could I get the same functionality without having to go through all steps with them in great detail? Easy, scripts and buttons!

In the file menu, you will find Scripts -> ScriptMaker. This interface allows you to arrange any action you would take in Filemaker into an automatic process. So instead of selecting a certain layout, clicking ‘Show all records,’ sorting by the right field, then going to the first record, this script does that all for you. Don’t be afraid to make scripts, but save a copy of your database before you run a complicated one for the first time, in case something goes wrong and overwrites a bunch of data. Scripts live in the file menu, unless you add a button for them!

In Layout Mode, select the Button Maker (hand cursor over a button) and draw out your rectangle. You’ll then be prompted to decide what that button will do, like starting a script for example. For my friends, I made a row of buttons that look the same on each layout and will take you directly to each main table in Form View. I also made them a ‘Panic’ button, that plays a script called ‘Why Does It Look Funny?’ that takes them back to all the Objects, displayed as a Form, sorted correctly, in case they accidentally get lost somewhere in the fog of the back end of database tables (This is the #1 problem email I get!).

It’s also really easy to set up buttons that will toggle between related records, you don’t even have to write a script for it. So here I set up a button on my Objects layout that will take me to the associated Grave record. Under Button Setup, I chose “Go to Related Record,” then in the Options I set the table to Kerma Graves, show in new window, and match current record only.

Helping my friends with their database problems made me realize that I was having my own relationship problems with Filemaker Pro! I set up my own row of buttons and suddenly things are a lot easier. Now if I could just figure out how to make a ‘Panic’ button for the rest of my researching…

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