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So far in this title, we have been talking about the three core areas of any successful database application, and they are building a proper architecture, which we discussed when we built the tables and the fields, and then allowing users to input data effectively which was done through developing layouts. And then we've also touched on output in the form of printing and exporting. Output isn't just specific to reporting, or being able to export data; Output also means that you're putting certain data into the system, and then it's aggregating that data, and that's the role of Calculation fields. And the results of calculations are also considered output.
A calculation allows you to derive information from values of data. If you're defining a Calculation field in FileMaker, you're using either fields or data that you're feeding into the Calculation formula that will then produce the desired result. Calculations are also known as formulas, and mathematicians often call them expressions. But in FileMaker, you call them a Calculation Formula. Calculations will always return a result. That's really what their job is. So that means you have to feed some information into a calculation. Then it'll return some other value for you. And the information that you are feeding into the formula can either be static text, or in most cases it's going to be in the form of parameters that you designate as fields.
You are probably already familiar with what calculation syntax might be. For example, if we just created a calculation that set the text values 2+2, that calculation would always return the number 4. Now, if we put a calculation field together that had the word "Amount" plus the word "Tax," that would return the sum of two fields in a database that were also named "Amount" and "Tax," if, of course, those two fields have the same name. And then as you flip from record to record, the value in the Amount field will change, and the value in the Tax field will change, and so therefore the value returned from your calculation will also change from record to record.
Calculations are very important because there are many different uses for calculations in FileMaker Pro. For example, the most obvious is that fields can hold and display the results of a calculation. But beyond that, if you remember when we set up our fields, we could also validate based on a calculation, and then we could also do autoentries that were based on calculations, where we would assign initial values to a field based on a calculation formula. And you'll also see, when we get into our movies on scripting, that we can use calculations to help us run scripts in a dynamic way. So since calculations are so important to the output of data in FileMaker, and they are also used in so many other areas, it's going to be very important for us to understand and get to know calculations and their functions.
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