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Chapter 9. Defining Fields > Choosing a Field Type

Choosing a Field Type

FileMaker's eight different types of fields are assigned via the Type radio buttons within the Define Fields dialog box (Figure 9.1). For step-by-step instructions on using this dialog box, see To define a field on page 102. But first, here's a quick rundown on the best uses for each field type:

  • Text: A text field can contain up to 64,000 characters (letters, symbols, and numbers as text). Text fields can be sorted (usually A–Z or Z–A) and used in formulas. Even items that might not at first blush seem to be text sometimes should be placed in text fields. For example, telephone numbers usually contain non-numeric hyphens or slashes, and, so, are best made into text fields.

  • Number: A number field can contain up to 255 characters (numbers or other characters, which will not be treated as numbers). Number fields can be sorted (1–100 or 100–1) and used in formulas for calculations and summary fields.

  • Date: Date fields must contain at least the day and month of a date. Date fields can be sorted (earliest-latest or latest-earliest) and used in formulas for calculations and summary fields. To avoid any Y2K problems, be sure to use FileMaker's new option for entering four-digit years. For more, see Validation options on page 108.

  • Time: Time fields can only contain the hours, minutes, and seconds of a time. Time fields can be sorted (earliest-latest or latest-earliest) and used in formulas for calculations and summary fields.

  • Container: Container fields hold graphics, sounds, QuickTime movies, or Object Linking and Embedding (OLE) objects (Windows only), or PDF files (Mac OS X only). Container fields cannot be sorted, but can be used in formulas for calculations and summary fields. While container fields cannot contain text or numbers, you can create—and sort—related text or number fields to describe a container field's contents. For more information, see Understanding Formulas on page 118 and Using Calculation and Summary Fields on page 123.

  • Calculation: Calculation fields display the results of calculations made using other fields and, so, cannot have values typed directly into them. The result can be text, a number, date, time, or container. With the exception of summary functions, calculation fields operate on data within single records. For more information, see Using Calculation and Summary Fields on page 123.

  • Summary: Like calculation fields, summary fields cannot have values entered directly into them. Instead, they display summary values based on other fields in the database. In general, summary fields operate on data from a group of records. For more information, see Using Calculation and Summary Fields on page 123.

  • Global: Global fields display the same value in every record within a database. That value can be text, a number, date, time, or container. Typical uses include displaying boilerplate text or a company logo within each record. Global field values can be used in formulas for calculations and scripts. Since global fields appear in every record, they cannot be used to find records within a database.


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