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FileMaker 16: Layout Objects Window

Once upon a time FileMaker layouts were simple. Everything was visible all of the time and unless it was done by mistake, we never stacked objects on top of one another. Over the years however, a lot of features have been added to FileMaker to help us get the most out of small screens. These days we have tools such as tab controls, slide controls, pop-overs and object hiding that allow us to cram lots of objects into a small amount of space and show the users just those that we want them to see. These features allow us to do things that used to be impossible, but with so many objects on a layout it can be difficult to find the one you are looking for. To help us with this, FileMaker 16 adds a feature called the Layout Objects window (LOW). Here’s how it works. To open the Layout Objects window go to Layout mode, open the “View” menu and select “Layout Objects” or use the Layout Objects button in the Status Toolbar to show or hide the window. screenshot_470 Before we talk about how the Layout Objects window works it’s important that you understand the concept of the stacking order and how it affects objects on a layout. As we place objects onto a layout we see them as a two dimensional image, but behind the scenes FileMaker is actually stacking these objects on top of one another with the first object we placed going on the bottom and each subsequent object going on top of it. This is easy to see when objects overlap one another, but it’s important to remember that even when objects aren’t overlapping they are still assigned a place in the stack. FileMaker has provided commands to move objects forward and backward in the stack for many years, but until now there has been no way to see where an object was located in relation to all of the other objects in the stack. When you open the LOW it shows a list of all objects on the layout sorted in their stacking order with the objects closest to the front showing at the top. You can reorder objects in the stack by clicking and dragging them. screenshot_471 Clicking on an object in the LOW will select that object on the layout, but even though its handles will become visible the object may be hidden if there are overlapping objects that are ahead of it in the stacking order.     To make an object visible without changing its position in the stacking order you can right click on it in the LOW. This displays a menu that will allow you to hide all of the other objects on the layout or just those that overlap the object. When an object is hidden an indicator will be displayed to the right of its name in the LOW and you can show or hide individual objects by clicking on this indicator. screenshot_476 You can tell the object’s type by looking at the icon on the left side of each line and you can use the filter icon at the top of the window to show only objects of a certain type. If you have assigned a name to an object that name will be displayed on its line in the LOW. If no name has been assigned then a description of the object will be shown instead. Some objects in the LOW will appear as a group either because they are inside another object that automatically makes a group out of them, such as a portal, button bar or tab control, or because a developer has used the Group command on multiple separate objects. In either case these objects will appear together under a heading that identifies the group itself. The LOW will allow you to reorder objects within a group, but you can’t drag objects into or out of the group using the LOW. Also, if you change the position of the group object within the stacking order all objects in the group will be moved. Now that FileMaker has provided us with the LOW it should make it much easier to find the proverbial needle in the haystack that our layouts can sometimes become. I look forward to all of the questionable development decisions I will soon be making knowing that I have this tool to bail me out. Alan Kirtlink is a FileMaker 15 Certified Developer at Skeleton Key. About Skeleton Key Skeleton Key helps turn complex, complicated, and outdated systems into true information platforms. Our team of consultants and developers do this by developing custom-fit software tools and reporting dashboards that help businesses find, use, and understand their data, freeing them to focus on and grow their core business. In addition to custom databases and applications, we also provide training and coaching for getting the most out of your existing systems and understanding your unruly data. Skeleton Key is an open-book management company and active player of the Great Game of Business.