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Chapter 4. Calculation Fields

Chapter 4. Calculation Fields

When you create a database, you break data into many separate fields because smaller bits of information are more flexible and easier to search. In layouts, however, you want to regroup these fields to recreate the original flow of text. With a calculation, you can combine the individual fields into a single element that formats the data exactly the way that you want.

Although a calculation field may seem like a lot of trouble initially, it's actually an elegant time saver. Calculation fields offer powerful formatting capabilities for everything from labels and envelopes to form letters. If you combine them with FileMaker's text capabilities, you can frequently avoid having to use a separate word processor for standard letters and other types of bulk mailings.

Once you have created a calculation field you can place it on a layout like any other type of field. But that's where the similarities end. In a normal layout made up of many small fields, you have to laboriously select each field to change type size, font or positions. Then, if one of the fields will sometimes be blank, you need to use the Sliding command to close up the space the blank field leaves behind. You can forget all that with a calculation field. Its combined information can be formatted as easily as it would be in Microsoft Word or AppleWorks. (In fact, considering Word, probably even easier.)

For frequent bulk mailings like monthly statements or special price promotions, a calculation field can make FileMaker a considerably better choice than other programs. Because a calculation field always refers back to the original fields for its information, addresses, area codes and other all-too-changeable data will always update automatically once edited into the original record.

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