The A-Z of FileMaker: O is for Objects

FileMaker layouts are designed using objects. Layouts do not contain data – they present data which is displayed using objects such as fields and text.

Layout mode

One of the four modes available in FileMaker Pro, Layout mode is where you design the layout structure and ultimately control what is displayed in Browse, Find and Preview modes. The structure of the layout is controlled using layout parts (body, header, footer, etc). Layout objects are placed on (or in) those parts.

Layout object tools

In Layout mode, the status toolbar provides the tools to manage and create objects:

layout tools for creating objects

The first tool is the selection tool. This is not used to create objects but to select, move and resize them. When an object is selected, it displays eight grab handles that are used to resize the object.

Select multiple objects

Click the first object, hold down the Shift key and then click other objects. Alternatively, drag the mouse across objects to select any object touched.

The next set of three tools are for text, lines and shapes. These objects are used to annotate and add design elements to layouts. Text is used for headings and labels. While text is usually static, it can also include merge fields and variables for dynamic display.

Multiple tools

Any tool with a triangle in the lower right has multiple tools available. Click and hold the tool button to select other tools.

layout tools multiple

The next set of seven tools are for fields, buttons, button bars, panel objects, portals, charts and web viewers.


Field objects can be added to the layout in a number of ways. They are commonly added using the Field Picker as standard edit boxes. Their control style may then be altered via the Data panel of the Inspector. However, the status toolbar provides tools to directly create a field object using any control style.

field controls


Two types of button objects are available: buttons and popover buttons.

When a button is drawn the Button Setup dialog provides options:

button setup

A button can have an icon, static text label or both. The button action can be to Do Nothing, run a Single (script) Step, or to Perform Script.

A popover button has two parts – the button and the popover area. When the button is clicked in Browse mode, the popover area appears over the top of layout objects. The Popover Button Setup dialog provides options:

popover button setup

The button can have an icon, static text label or both. The preferred position of the popover area relativise to the button can be set. The popover area has an optional title bar with a dynamic title. Script triggers can be defined for the popover.

Button bars

A button bar is a layout object made up of one or more segments. A new button bar is created with three segments. Segments can be displayed horizontally or vertically. Each segment can be defined as either a button or a popover button. Unlike standard buttons and popover buttons, the text label can be dynamic.

button bar setup

Panel controls

There are two types of panel controls – tab and slide. Each panel is an independent area occupying the same space on the layout. Only one panel in any control can display at any time. For a tab control, the default front panel is defined in the setup and will be the panel displayed when the layout is loaded. For a slide control, the first panel is the default.

tab and slide panel objects

Tab panels display tabs across the top. The user switches between panels by clicking each tab. The tab names can be dynamic.

Slide controls have optional navigation dots below for switching between panels. On a touch device, the user may be able to swipe panels left and right.


Portals are used to display lists of records related to the current record. For example, a portal on a student layout could display a list of all enrolled subjects for the current student. The related records may display in a defined sort order and they can be filtered according to a defined test. The number of portal rows is set for the portal and the portal is usually set to scroll to access more rows.


Charts are used to pictorially display data to easily identify trends and relationships in data. FileMaker Pro provides several chart types (column, bar, pie, line, area, scatter, bubble) and a range of styling options.

Web Viewers

A web viewer is commonly used to push data to a web service and have that service return information to be displayed in the object. A simple example is passing address data to Google Maps and displaying the address location on a map. Web viewers can take advantage of many web technologies to extend the capabilities of FileMaker displays.

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