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Defining and Working with Fields and Tables in FileMaker 9

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This chapter describes what kinds of fields exist in FileMaker Pro, how they store information, and how to ensure proper data integrity in your database solutions. It also discusses naming conventions for fields and tables.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

In this chapter

  • Working Under the Hood 88
  • Working with Tables 90
  • Working with Fields 92
  • Working with Field Types 95
  • Working with Field Options 102
  • Troubleshooting 115
  • FileMaker Extra: Indexing in FileMaker 116

Working Under the Hood

Fields and tables are the heart of any database. By storing information in properly categorized fields within well-organized tables, you impart both function and meaning to what would otherwise be an incomprehensible pile of raw data.

We'll spend much of this chapter describing what kinds of fields exist in FileMaker Pro, how they store information, and how to ensure proper data integrity in your database solutions. We'll also discuss naming conventions for fields and tables—techniques that you can use to make your FileMaker Pro databases meaningful to yourself and others for the long period of time that they may be in use.

If you're new to development in FileMaker Pro, this chapter is a good place to start. No doubt some of the topics we cover will lack a certain context, but establishing a solid foundation in field definition is a vital part of becoming a practiced developer.

New Databases Begin with Field Definitions

To create a new database, simply launch FileMaker Pro and then choose File, New Database. The Quick Start screen will appear, and you can choose the Create Database view to get started. At that point, you can choose to begin with a Starter Solution or an empty file of your own.

After you've stepped through these first tasks, you'll be taken to the Fields tab of the Manage Databases dialog. You can also open this dialog directly with File, Manage Database.

Using the Manage Database Dialog

When you choose to start a new, empty database, FileMaker Pro creates a file for you, stores it in a location you specify, and automatically opens the Manage Database dialog (shown in Figure 3.1). As a developer, you'll spend a good bit of time in the three tabs in this dialog. FileMaker Pro's Manage Database dialog allows you to create the fields, tables, and relationships you need to form your database. It also enables you to modify a wide range of attributes associated with fields, such as auto-entry functions, validation, storage, and calculation formulas. These elements compose a database's structure or schema. It is here that you form your database behind the scenes.

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 The three tabs allow you to switch among defining tables, fields, and relationships.

FileMaker Pro will have already created a default table for you, named the same as the file itself. Notice the Table menu selection on the Fields tab of the dialog in Figure 3.1. Any fields you create will be created in that table.

For some basic information on tables, see "Understanding Tables," p. 39.

For a detailed discussion of multiple-table solutions, see Chapter 6, "Working with Multiple Tables," p. 195.

Notice the third tab in the Manage Database dialog: Relationships. We won't be covering relational databases in this chapter, but it is on that tab that you'd create the relational associations among tables in your solution.

For information on relational data modeling, see Chapter 5, "Relational Database Design," p. 163.

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