Creating a custom app
The first step in creating a custom app is to plan the content, structure, and design. Then, you create a FileMaker Pro file and define tables and fields.
A well-designed custom app promotes consistent data entry and retrieval, and reduces the existence of duplicate data among the database tables. Relational database tables work together to ensure that the correct data is available when you need it. It’s a good idea to plan a database on paper first, to save time and effort later.
To plan a database:
- Determine the purpose for your database, or the problem you want to solve. For example, "to keep a list of my customers," "to manage my inventory," "to grade my students," or "to work with data on my desktop computer, on my iPad, and in a web browser."
If other people will use the database, be sure to talk with them about the data they will need.
- Consider the information you will store in your database. Typically, information falls into broad categories. Accurately identifying these categories is critical to designing an efficient database, because you will store different types and amounts of data in each category. For example, a database intended to track sales has categories such as "customers," "products," and "invoices." A database that records student grades has categories such as "students," "classes," and "assignments."
In database terminology, these categories of information are referred to as tables. Tables are used to group data containing a common element or purpose. For example, you might use one table to store names and addresses, while you use another table to store transaction details, such as date of sale, item number, unit price, and so on.
- Consider how these categories are related. This can be done by writing simple sentences that describe how the categories interact, such as "customers order products" and "invoices track customers’ orders." Or you can draw each category and show its connection to another. Each pair suggests a relationship between the data in one category and the data in the other category.
Typically, databases are organized in one of three ways:
- A single table in a single file. Use a single table if you need to track data in one category only, such as names and addresses.
- Multiple tables in a single file. Use multiple tables if your data is more complex, such as customers, products, and invoices.
- Multiple tables in multiple files. Use multiple files if you need to share the same data among several different custom apps. For example, you can store your tax rates or shipping information in a separate file if you plan to use that information in more than one custom app.
Note FileMaker Pro is very flexible, so the decision to store data in a single file or in multiple files is often one of packaging and convenience. Data stored in tables is very easily shared between tables in the same file and tables in external files using relationships. Other elements, such as scripts and access privileges, are stored at the file level, and because of this some complex custom apps will benefit from using multiple files.
- Determine the database tables and the data they will include, and, in turn, which fields you will need.
Tip To make it easy to search and sort records, create separate fields for first and last name, titles (like Mr. or Dr.), and items in addresses (city, state or province, country, and postal code). Separating your data into multiple fields at the time of data entry can make it easier to generate future reports. For example, using separate fields to capture transaction details such as the date, item number, quantity, and unit price of each transaction makes it easier to compile summary and subsummary reports at the end of a week, month, or year.
- Create relationships to share data between tables in the same file or with tables in external files. See Planning a relational database.
- Determine whether you need to share your database with other users and how they will access the file.
- If you’re designing the database for other people to use, show them your paper plan and ask them to review it and suggest any changes.
- Consider who will use the database, how and why they will use the data, and how you will restrict access to the database.
See Managing security.
- Decide what layouts you need, and plan a separate layout for each task.
For example, create separate layouts for printing labels or envelopes, and for working on an iOS or iPadOS device or in a web browser.
- Create a form that lists all the files and tables you need and the fields for each table. Also list the forms and reports you will generate from each table.
- Create your database.
- If you’ve designed the database for others to use, ask a few people to test it. Fix any problems before making it available for general use.