The Basics Of The FileMaker Calculation

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

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There are 3 main areas of knowledge and experience about FileMaker. These 3 areas involve relationships, scripting and complex calculations using functions. Mastering each of these areas is obviously going to make you a better FileMaker developer. Going beyond the individual knowledge of each of these areas, is the ability to use them in concert. Blending expertise in relationships, calculations and scripts are the advanced criteria to building superior FileMaker database solutions.

Typically we think of a calculation as 1 + 1 = 2. An invoice that totals up line items, tax and shipping charges is another classic calculation and one that you will find within many of a FileMaker solution. These types of calculations are just the tip of the iceberg and a careful study of FileMaker calculations can make your databases take a huge leap forward in productivity and ease of use.

Some calculations within FileMaker come pre-packaged and we call them functions. These functions have dedicated areas were you can plug in the fields from your database, literal text or even another calculation/function. A function will have a name, an argument (within parenthesis) and parameters (which are separated by semicolon characters). I will cover functions in greater detail in other discussions.

Calculations are not limited to calculation fields, in fact calculations take place in many areas of FileMaker design. There is no way I could cover all these in this one topic but let us take a moment to list them for you here.

A calculation can be used

- in calculation fields ( of course )
- to branch a script ( If script step )
- to control script loops ( Exit Loop If script step )
- to place data in a field in a script ( Insert Calculated Result and Set script steps )
- to replace data in a found set ( Replace command and script step )
- to auto enter information in fields when a record is created
- to validate that data entered in a field matches calculated criteria
- to set security privileges for records and fields
- to control relationship comparisons ( via the comparison operator or key fields in the relationship )

and it seems with every new release of FileMaker, calculations can be found in even more areas!
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