Designing Efficient FileMaker Layouts: Essential Tips and Techniques

Before you begin the process of how to make a new layout in FileMaker, it helps to first think about the why. There are different situations that might call for a new layout, and they all have different aims. Some examples:

  • Some clients might have a need for a desktop version and a mobile version of an application, because some staff will use it on their desktop PC or Mac while others will need to access it via their phones or tablets. 
  • You may have a layout that is best suited for browsing records or entering data, but you find yourself needing to print the information (or provide a printable document) and the layout you currently have is not well-suited for printing. 

In these or similar situations, you might consider creating a new layout. What follows covers the basics of how to do that, which will be helpful to newer developers and business owners just getting started with FileMaker. If you need more advanced help, you may want to reach out to us, and see how we might help.

Steps to Creating a New Layout: Layout Mode

First, we will go through the steps to create a new layout from Layout Mode. To access Layout Mode, select View > Layout Mode. 


Once in Layout Mode you can create a new layout multiple ways, but here are two easy ways to accomplish this: You can either select the New Layout/Report button in the status toolbar, or you can select Layout > New Layout/Report.


Both options will open up the New Layout/Report Assistant. 

From here you can use this tool to determine what the main viewing platform for your layout is going to be (Computer, Mobile Device, Printing), and also select the orientation of the layout for mobile devices.  You can also set the name of the layout as well as which table the layout is going to reference for records. 


Each platform is going to come with different options and different views. When using the Touch Device you can select from various predetermined layout sizes for iPhones, iPads, or custom touch devices which is useful if you are making a layout that will be utilized mainly by customers on their phones or other mobile devices. 



One of the most useful options/views comes into play with the Printer Platform. From there, you have options to assist in making layouts for Labels, Vertical Labels, Envelopes, and Reports. This comes in handy when wanting to make a quick layout for a customer/client; you don’t have to spin your wheels figuring out what exactly needs to be done to set up the layout to perform those actions.


Once you have decided on the platform that is going to be accessing your layout, the name of the layout, and the context of your layout, you are ready to finish and create the layout. Once you finish with the New Layout/Report Assistant, your layout will display in the Manage Layout window. You can then highlight the new layout; in the lower right-hand corner there will be an Open button. Once selected, this will open your new layout in Layout Mode where you can start editing and designing your new layout.

Here are a few tips for working with a new layout

Use themes. Early on, choose the proper theme that you want to use for the layout. There are already predetermined themes in FileMaker that you can use. If you already have layouts made and have saved your styles to a theme, you can use that theme to get a jumpstart on your development. This window also allows a user to import themes if they desire.


Play with display settings and options

You can also choose from a few different display settings and options. If you select the two square icons next to the theme, it will put the display guidelines down on the layout. With these guidelines, you can design your layout around specifications of your client with different screen sizes. To adjust these, you can select the drop down arrow next to the double square icon. Having these on the layout will ensure that your design will not get cut off by different sized displays and you can create and adjust your layout accordingly. 

Display the rulers

Another tip is to display the rulers. From Layout Mode, select View > Rulers and it will display the rulers on the layout. They will be displayed vertically on the left side of your layout and horizontally along the top of your layout. These provide instant visual feedback of where things should be aligned or could be aligned. There is even an option to change the measurement scale (pt, in, or cm), located in the upper left-hand corner of the rulers.

Take advantage of guidelines

Last little tidbit: When creating a new layout, guidelines really do help with the design process. You can drag down guidelines from the ruler to assist with aligning objects on one layout or across multiple layouts. 

The grid can be established on the position tab of the inspector in Layout Mode. You can show the grid from here, or hide the grid by selecting or deselecting the option. You have the option to select or deselect snap to grid. When dragging objects and fields onto the layout, this will allow them to snap to the nearest grid. Lastly, you can select the Major and Minor grid which will establish the larger squares on the layout and the smaller squares. This will allow your spacing to be incremented generally by your minor square. 

All the above tips help for speedy design process. They help with alignment of objects and fields for one or all layouts. Not all designers are the same, and some don’t like the grid to show but love the rulers. Some don’t like the guidelines or display lines while others have everything on the screen. It is all personal preference, but these little tips will allow you to deliver your product with minimal mistakes along the way. 


FileMaker’s Manage Layout Window

Before wrapping up the process of creating a new layout in FileMaker, let’s revisit a few things that can assist with the layout creation process using the Manage Layout Window. 

With the Manage Layout Window, we can change the context of the layout. For example, if a layout is referencing one table or table occurrence, you can adjust the layout to allow for the context and records to reference the new table. You can also change the name of your layout.  

Say you have a dashboard that is utilized by computer users and have a dashboard for mobile devices. You can change the name of the mobile layout to help organize all of the layouts. From the Manage Layout Window you can also delete an existing layout. This is helpful when you have unnecessary duplicate layouts or layouts that are no longer needed. 

Lastly, the option that I find I use the most is duplicate layout. This comes in handy, especially when adjusting or making changes to an existing layout. I will often duplicate the layout I am making changes to and change the name to “backup”–that way, if the changes do not work out for some reason, I have the original layout that I can revert back to easily.  

Those are the most common reasons why one might want to create a new layout in FileMaker, and some easy ways to do it most effectively. For additional resources see [] or contact us and we’d be happy to discuss our coaching and development services.