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FileMaker Pro provides many tools in Layout mode for configuring the behavior of fields that make data entry easier and more efficient. Among these is something called the Field/Control Style, which enables you to define a value list for data entry and then format a field to display the value list as either a pop-up, Drop-down list, series of check boxes or radio buttons. And there are two primary benefits of formatting fields in this way. First, it allows for faster data entry by users, and second, it leads to greater accuracy.
Anytime users manually enter data into a field, you run the risk of misspelling or inconsistent entry. Providing a list of values to choose from goes a long way towards ensuring consistent data entry. Users are generally accustomed to working with data entry devices such as check boxes and Drop-down lists from all the other applications and Web sites that they use. In this movie we'll be discussing how to set the Control Style for a field. Typically you'll apply a Control Style to a field that you already have added to a layout. Either way, you have to do so in Layout mode.
So let's go into View > Layout mode, in our Invoice Detail Layout in our exercise file. To add a Field/Control Style, you'll actually have to select the field on the layout. It's also possible to add a Field Control while adding the field to the layout by using the Field/Control tool in the Status toolbar. This will allow you to add a field and apply this Field/Control at the same time. However, most likely you'll be adding a field control to an existing field in the layout, and in order to do so, you need to first invoke the Inspector window.
Under the Inspector window, you can choose the Data tab. So let's choose the InvoiceDate field. Once we have the InvoiceDate field chosen, we're going to go under the Field section, which I have currently collapsed, but if I click on it, I open it up. Now we see that we've got the Invoices:: InvoiceDate field chosen, and I can also hit the Edit button to choose a different field, if I'd like to. But below the field that's chosen, you see there's a Control Style.
There are several different Control Styles you can choose from, but by default, Edit box is chosen for any new field placed on a layout. Edit box simply means a field as it would normally look, allowing users to click inside the field and perform edits. You'll see there are other options available as well, for example, Drop-down list. This style allows the user to select an item from a value list, or to manually enter a value. So it gives them an option to either choose or enter in their own custom value. It's a good option when there are a large number of values to choose from; then the user may use the arrow keys to type ahead or jump to the particular sections of the list.
This list also includes a handy vertical scroll bar when used, and then users can Shift+Click to see multiple values from the Drop-down list. You also have a Pop-up menu which also is like a Drop-down list of sorts, but in this case a Pop-up menu is presented that requires a user to make a selection from the menu, and they cannot overwrite it by clicking outside the field and then typing in their own custom value. This menu will take up as much screen as it needs, so Pop-up menus can be a bit awkward with larger lists. But if you want to make sure that a user picks only from your list, you might want to use a Pop-up menu instead of a Drop-down list.
Checkboxes are a style that presents a value list as a set of check boxes that a user can toggle on or off. The selected items are then stored as a return delimited list in your database in the order that the items were selected. This is a good option when you want to allow your users to select multiple options in the same field. Radio buttons are similar to Checkboxes, except that they are mutually exclusive. Clicking on one Radio button causes the previously selected radio button to be deselected; therefore, only one value is normally selected at a time.
This is something you'd use, for example, if you wanted to have a value list that's said Yes or No. You don't want the user to check both, which they could if there was a check box, but instead you'd apply a radio button. And the final one is what we're going to use on the InvoiceDate. It's called the Drop-down calendar. This Control style allows users to enter a date into a field using a small Drop-down calendar, similar to the ones that you might see online. This option, however, does not require a value list to be created. So let's apply this one under our InvoiceDate field. Now that we have that's selected, let's go into Browse mode.
Hit Save for our changes. And now let's click into our InvoiceDate field. Now you see the Drop-down calendar appear, and you'll notice that the Drop-down calendar will navigate to the date, if there already is a value in the field, and if there is no value in the field then it will navigate to the current date. But if we go back into Layout mode, you'll notice when we select this field that we've got some options when we choose the Drop-down calendar. For example, we can say Include icon to show and hide calendar. Let's see how that changes the behavior when we go into Browse mode.
Now when we click into the field, the Drop-down calendar doesn't pop-up, or if you tab into the field or click into it, you get the same behavior. But if you click on the icon, it will appear. So you might want to use this when your users might only need to use the calendar in some cases, and you have it just there as an option for them. You can turn off the icon if you want every user to pick from a Drop-down calendar. This is just one example of how each one of the Control styles may have different types of functionality for you to choose from, depending of course on the type of data that will be entered in the field.
In the upcoming series of movies, we're going to create value lists and then use all the other Field/Control styles to apply those lists to a field. Providing a list of Control Styles and a list of values to choose from, in any of these options, will go a long way towards ensuring consistent data entry by your users.
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