FileMaker 13 introduces a new option in layout mode, which both enhances the design process and also speeds up schema changes. All this happens via the new Field Picker, a heads-up display into the fields for the current active window.
By default, when you create a new database in FileMaker 13, you now will be taken to layout mode with an empty Field Picker ready to create new fields (figure 1). This replaces the previous scenario where you were taken to table view in order to create and manage fields. The default behavior can be changed in Preferences to use Manage Database dialog to create files, but this new Field Picker actually makes it worthwhile to keep the default behavior. Or, you can select the Field Picker from the tool bar (figure 2)
Unlike the Inspector, only one instance of the Field Picker window can be opened. If you have multiple FileMaker windows open, with layouts based on different table occurrences, when you switch windows the Field Picker will update to show the fields available to the active window. You cannot drag fields to inactive windows, so there’s no chance of dragging fields to the wrong layout. Fields can be filtered by name, which is a good reason for consistent field naming.
Although you have virtually all the field options that you need, you can launch the Manage Database from the picker window. This makes the picker inactive until you close Manage Database.
It Makes A Big Difference
So much can now be accomplished in the Field Picker, that this becomes one of the coolest developer tools in the new version. Not only can you add new fields, select field options (figure 4), and change the sort order for fields, but you can drag and drop selected fields directly onto a layout. Plus, you can determine whether you want labels, and if you want these to the left or above the fields.
No more double-clicking on fields to add a label if the Specify Field dialog didn’t have this checked. You can also position fields vertically or horizontally when you drag them onto the layout. In short, you can tuck this picker to the side and work merrily away on the layout without having to bring up Manage Database unless you need to change something in the Relationships Graph or create a new table.
The only puzzling aspect to the new field picker is that Filemaker, Inc. did not refresh the design of the Inspector palette (figure 5). The look and feel of the two now seems to clash, with the red/yellow/green buttons for the Inspector and its light gray color, and the simple X for the Field Picker and with a much darker (yet somewhat transparent) shading.
For developers and users, this new field picker once again improves FileMaker’s Rapid Application Development view of the database world.