FileMaker Pro 13: The Missing Manual
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The word “database” can be alarming. It calls to mind images of whirring computers, advanced degrees, and pocket protectors. But databases have been around much longer than computers—a phone book, a cookbook, and an encyclopedia are all databases. In fact, if you look up the word “database” in a dictionary (which is a database, too), you’ll find that a database is just a collection of information, or data.
Ideally, the information in a database is organized so you can find what you’re looking for quickly and easily. For example, a business card file has information about people organized alphabetically by name. You can find any person’s card because you know where in the alphabet to look, even though there may be thousands of cards to look through. Such physical databases have major limitations compared with their digital cousins. What if you want to get a list of all your associates in California? Your card file isn’t organized by state, so you have to flip through every card, one by one, to create a list. Digital databases help you avoid that kind of tedium.
A database program like FileMaker Pro helps you build a database so you can store information and then see that information the way you need to see it. In theory, anyway, a digital database isn’t much different from one collected on business cards. It contains lots of information, like addresses, Zip codes, and phone numbers, and it organizes that info in useful ways (see Figure I-1 for an example). But since it’s stored on a computer, you can organize the same information in numerous ways with ease—say, by name or by state. Computers make searching databases a whole lot faster. That list of associates in California you took hours to generate from a card file? A computer can do it in less than a second.
This book shows you how FileMaker Pro stores your information and how you can rearrange that information to get the answers to meaningful questions—like which employees are due for performance reviews, who’s coming to the company picnic, and which amusement park has the best deal on laser tag so you can throw a party for your top 50 performers. You don’t have to learn to think like a programmer (or know the arcane terms they use), but you do learn how to bend FileMaker Pro’s hidden power to your will, and make it tell you everything it knows about your company, the photographs you’re selling on the Web, or how long it typically takes each member of your staff to get through his workload.