In Layout Mode...

Designing layouts can be tedious and time consuming, but there are a number of timesaving techniques that can speed up the process. These are some of our favorites:

Option drag (Mac), or Control drag (Win), to duplicate objects. This works very well with fields because the Specify Field dialog box comes up when the field is dropped, allowing you to select the desired field. You end up with a new field the exact same style and size as the original.

If you select "Create field label" in the Specify Field box, the labels are automatically placed on the left side of the field. But there are times when they need to be on the top or the right or maybe even the bottom. It gets pretty time consuming moving them. So don't &emdash; at least right away. Create all the fields then select all the labels (see next tip) and move them together. You might have to do a little individual tweaking but many of them should end up in the right place &emdash; in one move. That saves time, hand strain and meets my definition of efficient.

Want to select all the fields on a layout at once? Click on any field then type Command Option A (Mac), Control Shift A (Win). This also works with field labels. It's a great way to modify the look of an entire layout in just seconds.

When creating a new layout, take a minute and name it. Otherwise it will be given a default name of Layout # (whatever the next number is). If you forget (in layout mode) go to the Layout menu and choose Layout Setup and give it a meaningful name. But take my advice and get it right the first time &emdash; it's more efficient.

Need a new layout? Before creating one from scratch take a look at what you already have. Is there one that is similar to what you need? If so, duplicate it and change it. You can double click fields to change them to another one.

If you don't have a layout to duplicate, be sure you're taking advantage of the options available when creating a new one. Standard gives you all the fields in the database. Columnar Report comes with header, body, and footer parts as well as a dialog box prompting for which fields to use. Use Extended Columnar for landscape oriented reports. Let FileMaker do the work for you in setting up the page for Envelopes and Labels. Use Blank for those times when you really need to start building from scratch.

Sometimes you need to rearrange a layout or add parts to it. That's when Part Setup under the Mode Menu is useful. Here you can drag parts to move them up or down or add additional parts. When you click OK the change is made. How simple is that?

Resize a part to include fields or objects from another part using Option drag (Mac), Alt drag (Win) on the part to move it freely across anything that would ordinarily prevent resizing.

Ever struggle with a field, button or other layout object trying to make it exactly the same size as another. Well, if you didn't use the duplicating method described above and don't want to develop RSI making pixel-by-pixel modifications, use the Size palette under the Show menu. With the palette showing, click on the correctly-sized object. The length and width will be displayed. Now click on the object to be changed and type in the correct length or width then hit the enter key (or use copy/paste which works in the size palette).

Did you ever wonder how to automatically date stamp and page number reports? Whether you put them in the header or the footer the method is the same. In layout mode go to the Edit Menu and choose Paste Special. Select Date Symbol and/or Page Number. Be sure to drag the handles out long enough to fit your selection otherwise your printout may get the date chopped in half. Alternatively you may simply type the symbols right onto the layout: ## for page number and // for date.

Have you ever been annoyed when a newly created field gets plopped at the bottom of a layout, throwing it out of whack? The worst is when it's a label layout and the precise sizing gets messed up. Stop that errant behavior by selecting Preferences &emdash; Application, from the Edit Menu. Select Layout from the popup and uncheck the box "add newly created fields to layout." While you're there take a look at the other prefs. You can select rounded buttons or rectangular, enable drag and drop within fields and more. Definitely worth a look around. After all, it's your work environment so why not make it as comfortable as possible?

Speaking of preferences, I really hate Auto Grid, you know that "feature" that causes items to move jerkily across the screen and makes it a real challenge to put them where you want them. Turn it off from the Arrange Menu. Or you can temporarily defeat it by holding down the Command (Mac), or Control (Win), while dragging an object.

How about columns within a field? Turn on the Text Ruler under the Show Menu to access tab options. The basics are there: left, right, centered and decimal. Choose the one you want and drag it onto the ruler in the desired spot. Then when entering text in the field (in Browse mode, of course) use an Option Tab (Mac), Control Tab (Win) to create columns.

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