The Secret Life of Find Mode: Requests

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7-23-2007 by Geoff Coffey

FileMaker’s find mode is a great feature. You can tell because, like all great technologies, it is easy to understand the first time you try it, and yet has a depth of capability that can be unlocked if you know a little more. Unfortunately, many FileMaker developers (and users) never venture beyond the simplest of finds. This series of articles aims to change that.

The Basics

Everybody knows that to do a find, you first switch to find mode (View -> Find Mode). Then you type in some stuff and click Find. When you’re in find mode, all your records (along with the field data in them) disappear, but the layout otherwise stays the same. It acts a lot like browse mode: you can type in edit fields, choose from pop-up menus, and click off checkboxes and radio buttons. You can copy and paste. You can even use the Edit -> Find/Replace command, on the off chance you want to find something in your find criteria.

When you fill out some fields and click Find, FileMaker goes to work, hunting down records that have data similar to the stuff you filled in. If you put “Bill” in the First Name field, FileMaker finds every customer whose name is Bill. If you know this much (and who doesn’t?) you may be able to live a long and happy FileMaker life and never know what you’re missing.

But for some of you, the time will come when you bump in to the limits of this simplistic view. Each of these presents a problem when that’s all you know about find mode:

  • I have 632,788 customer records. I want to find Jo. not Joe. Not Joseph. Not Josephine. Just “Jo.”
  • I need to find all the shirts that are available in red or blue.
  • I’m looking for every order that came in on a Tuesday.
  • Show me all the students that don’t live in town.

But each of these is actually easy to get if you learn the secrets of find mode. The first secret we’re going to cover is Find Requests. These are the bread and butter of find mode, but they’re often misunderstood. Over the coming weeks, we’ll add more to this series. In all we’ll cover:

Find Requests

As we mentioned above, find mode acts a lot like browse mode. This affinity goes deeper than most people realize. Did you know you can create new “records” in find mode? Of course they aren’t really records. After all, the very word record implies something is being recorded — put away for future reference. But the things you create in find mode are transient: as soon as you switch back to browse mode, they’re gone1.

In the vocabulary of FileMaker, the things you make in find mode are called requests. It makes sense really. You are requesting records. When in find mode, you can make as many requests as you want, and FileMaker will dutifully carry them all out, serving up the results when it is done. You make a new request in much the same way you make a new record:

  • Choose Requests -> New Request
  • or Press Ctrl-n (on Windows) or Mac Command Key Symbol-n (on Mac OS X)

When FileMaker actually processes your find requests, it finds records that match any one of them. Consider these examples:

  • If you put “Bill” in the first name field, and “California” in the state field in the same request, FileMaker will only find customers named Bill who live in California.

  • On the other hand, if you create two requests (one with “Bill” and the other with “California”) you’ll probably get more records. FileMaker finds everyone named Bill (no matter what state he lives in). It also finds everyone from California, no matter the name.

In nerdier terms, multiple requests create an Or search: Records match either the first request or the second. Multiple criteria in one request makes an And search because records have to match the first field and the second.

This short (and silent) video illustrates how multiple find requests work.

Tune in next time to learn more about the secret life of find mode.


1. Truthfully, the aren’t really gone just yet. You can choose Records -> Modify Last Find to get them back. But the next time you perform a find, your previous set of find requests is lost permanently.

6 Comments

  1. joe gaz

    On page
    http://sixfriedrice.com/wp/the-secret-life-of-find-mode-requests/
    There is an error..

    If you put “Bill” in the first name field, and “California” in the last name field in the same request, FileMaker will only find customers named Bill who live in California.

    I think it shoul be “California” in the city field

  2. Geoff Coffey

    @joe: Thanks for the correction. I’ve fixed the text.

  3. Very nice! Good description of an often poorly understood feature. And a screencast as well.

  4. Daniel

    Ah, this is a nice tutorial. However, it doesn’t answer one question that I assume there is a simple answer for – how can you do a Find request across all fields? If our friend Bill is not just a customer but also owns a business, and is listed as a contact, etc., how can Filemaker do a universal find across all of the fields to find all instances of “Bill”? There must be a faster way than doing a new request for each existing field… Thanks!

  5. Geoff Coffey

    Daniel:

    Alas, there really is no direct way. FileMaker’s consumer-oriented database, Bento, has this feature built in, and it would be a great addition to FileMaker.

    In the meantime, the method I use is this:

    1: Create a new global field
    2: Create a script that goes to find mode, and then copies the value from the global into each field I want to search, with one request per field
    3: Put the global field somewhere on the layout with a button, or set it with a custom dialog, or whatever works for you

    It is tedious to set up, but you only have to set it up once.

    Hope it helps, and be sure to send your suggestion to filemaker.

    Geoff

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