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5 Hidden FileMaker Design Tools I’m Thankful For

Designing FileMaker

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Over time, one collects bits and pieces of knowledge about different corners of development. Features that are a little more difficult to discover, or shortcuts that can help out in a pinch. Some of these nuggets can make developing faster, easier, or more accurate. Here are five helpful features you may or may not already know about, but which I’m thankful we have available.

5 Things

1. Multiple Inspector palettes

I think we can all agree that the Inspector palette is indispensable. But did you know you can create more than one Inspector window at a time? It’s found in Layout mode under View > New Inspector. I sometimes do this to cut down on the amount of switching between tabs when creating styles, for instance. You can keep one Inspector on the Appearance tab so you can modify fill, line and other attributes, and the other on the Styles tab, to easily manage and create styles as you go. There are also lots of other situations where having multiple Inspectors is useful. You can even make one of them quite small and tuck it away in a corner. If you find yourself switching panels in the Inspector a lot, it might be easier to open a new Inspector instead.


2. Change measurement units

Let’s stay with the Inspector for a moment. Have you been stuck designing in inches because you didn’t know you could change the measurement units? You can change them by clicking on the unit label in the Position area. I’m not sure who showed this to me, and I’ve known this forever, but it’s not necessarily obvious to everyone. I often change units when switching between designing interfaces (where I generally use points), and designing reports (where I sometimes use inches or centimetres to measure printed pages).


The other way to change units is to show the Ruler ( View > Rulers) and click on the units at the origin.

Change Units Ruler 2


3. Shorten merge fields using Position

When you place a merge field on a layout, the length of the field name (including any relationship) determines the space it takes up on the layout. However, in some cases the data it is intended to contain is quite a lot shorter. I sometimes have long relationship names, so this can be an issue. If you simply try and drag the handle to make it shorter, the text wraps to the next line, possibly throwing off the baseline alignment or encroaching on nearby objects such as portal rows or tab panels.


However, you can shorten a merge field using the Position area of the Inspector. Simply type in the desired width, and—ta-da! A short merge field, no matter how long its name happens to be.


4. Show Sample Data

Sometimes you want to see how record data will look while you’re still designing in Layout mode. Rather than switching back and forth between Layout and Browse, there is an option to show data from your records in Layout mode (View > Show > Sample Data). This will show you data in Layout mode from the record you’re on in Browse mode. If there is no data to show, then the fields are filled with lorem ipsum text. You might want to navigate to a record that has lots of text first in order to see how it will look as you adjust field lengths and so on. It’s a useful little feature that I sometimes forget about, but does come in handy from time to time.


5. Hiding/showing sub summary parts on a single layout

Like that super-cool minimalist coffee table that opens up to reveal a personal lap pool underneath (just kidding!), interface elements that do double duty are always welcome. Here, we can take advantage of the fact that sub-summary parts on a layout only show when the data is sorted. That means we can have as many sub-summary parts as we want, and they will only show if the user sorts the data. So one layout can have multiple purposes, cutting down on overhead.




I hope you found one or two useful things here to help you solve a problem or make your development a bit easier. If you have any favourite hidden features that you’d like to share with everyone, please leave a comment below!

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