FileMaker Formatting Via Presentation And Data Layers

From Dwayne Wright PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM
Certified FileMaker Developer

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Now I have chatted quite a bit about formatting data on a FileMaker layout because it is an essential element of database design. In many ways the formatting choices you make can be divided into the presentation layer, the data layer or even a combination thereof.

The presentation layer is a term that is given in regards to the appearance of your solutions data. Now the elements of the presentation layer are usually layout specific like formatting, buttons, portals and the like. Some of the more advanced elements in the presentation layer might be influenced by scripts or calculations outside of the layout. This can include custom menus, conditional formatting, tooltips, web viewers and even show custom dialog boxes.

The data layer is a term that is given to the table and field containers you design for your solution. This is where the bulk of your calculations are likely to take place, although some advanced calculation development can be done outside of the traditional data layer, such as global variables.

Now text formatting from under the Format menu is a classic case of a presentation layer implementation.

You can choose a number of ways to format text from under the format menu including Font, Size, Style, Color, Alignment and Color. You can also pull up a single dialog box instead of making all these changes separately. This catchall dialog box is available from the Text command under the Format menu.

Another classic example is the formatting of a number field on a layout. After selecting a number field and the number format option from under the Format menu, you can assign formatting options for number fields and one of the most popular is the formatting for number fields used for storing currency related values. For the most part, this area is broken down into three main sections that allow the developer to precisely format decimal number location, proper currency notation, various separators and options for formatting negative numbers.

In FileMaker, conditional formatting of a field was added as an option in layout mode! Conditional formatting means the formatting of a layout element would change based upon some event or condition. For example, the invoice balance due field could automatically become bright red and bold, if the payment date is overdue. Up to FileMaker 9, FileMaker didn’t support conditional text directly but you can get much the same result by using calculation fields with a text result.

Now we chatted about how the data layer consists of the tables and fields in the database. Formatting can be done in this layer as well by using calculation fields or the auto enter via a calculation option. For example, the text formatting family of functions will give you calculation based control over size, color, font type and even style options! Using any of the number or date functions, you can format these data types with almost unlimited control. This even leads us to the world of custom functions, where you have even more options for calculated formatting control.

Now conditional formatting can use a calculated value to control what it presents the user. So you might argue that it is purely presentation layer, the ability to dig so deep into the data layer makes the distinction a little less boolean.

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