Controlling FileMaker Data Entry To Existing Values Only

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

TWITTER: dwaynewright
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It may become necessary that you do not want a user to enter in unique data in one of more of the fields on a layout. Your goal becomes that anything that is entered into the field, has to already exist in that field on another record. This can be for a number of reasons but the top two are valid relationships between tables and consistent data strings for reporting.

There are a couple different ways to accomplish existing value data entry and I'm not talking about validation. Well, I guess I need to talk about validation now. Validation barks at the user for breaking the rules defined by the developer. However, validation doesn't necessarily help the user know how to follow the defined data entry rules. You can customize the dialog box that the user sees when validation fails but it isn’t robust enough to accommodate an elaborate set of validation requirements. At least, it isn’t as of FileMaker 9. Keep your fingers crossed that sometime in the near future FileMaker decides to beef up this much overlooked area.

How can a user know that the data string he / she is about to enter exists in another record? One way would ask the user to do a search first or ask them to keep guessing what to enter until they happen upon the acceptable data string. This would be like the contestant on Wheel Of Fortune babbling letters as blind guesses until they get one correct. Luckily for your users, there are some better ways.

VIEW INDEX - You can see the index of a field that is stored inside of a database. The index will show you all the individual words or individual text strings in a field. You simply need to click into the field and choose “Insert From Index” from under the Insert menu. The dialog box that comes up when you view the index will scroll to show you all the current information. The insert index can be called upon via a menu command (like I mentioned), by a keyboard shortcut or even by a script step!

However, you cannot view the index of fields than cannot be indexed and viewing the index of a field might be somewhat slow for tables with an extreme number of records. The number of records problem normally isn’t a big issue if you are using FileMaker Server.

VALUE LISTS - Value lists allow you to setup a field to have a list of options for the user doing data entry or performing a search. There are four different options available and they are pop up list, pull down menu, radio button and check list. The pop up list and pull down menu options require you to click into the field to see the list of possible choices and you select one of those options. The radio button and check list options show all the available choices on the layout itself and you click to select one or more of them. Value lists are one of the most powerful methods of adding data to a database quickly without the burden of mistyped information.

FYI... You can define a value list to use the index of a field for its values. Also, there is a field validation option that requires the data in the field to be a member of a specified value list and a value list can actually be comprised of set related values.

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© 2008 - Dwayne Wright -

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