Exposing FileMaker

13 January, 2005 (13:39) | FileMaker

Using Mac OS X Exposé with FileMaker Pro 7

Putting the Relationship Graph on the Desktop

Sometimes you want to refer to your FileMaker Pro 7 relationship graph to check the name of a table occurrence (TO) or something. Normally this means opening up Define Fields and clicking the Relationships tab and losing your place. I had taken to printing the graph to a pdf and having that open in Acrobat or Preview.

The Exposé feature of Mac OS X 10.3 turns out to be very useful for many purposes. Exposé allows you to quickly slide all windows out of the way to reveal the desktop with a key press (F11 by default) or moving the mouse to a nominated corner.

While working with a client recently, we had a need to frequently refer to FileMaker 7’s relationship graph for his solution. We were going to be doing this for a few hours, so rather than bring up the Define Database and lose our place (which may have been in ScriptMaker, or Layout mode), we printed the Relationship graph to a one page pdf, opened that pdf in Apple’s Preview application and exported it to a .png graphic. Using System Preferences, it was then a simple task to set the desktop background (wallpaper) to that graphic.

So, whenever we wanted to check something on the relationship graph, we just pressed F11 to see the desktop and, voila, the graph was visible (click the graphic to see a full view). Press F11 again, and all is restored.

I found this very useful. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it earlier.

Hiding modal dialogs

If you use the F10 option in Exposé, which by default tiles the current application’s windows, you also hide (temporarily) any modal dialog boxes that FileMaker might be displaying, such as Define Fields, ScriptMaker, Find/Replace (nicknamed “search and destroy” by some), Define Value Lists, Page Setup, etc..

I have, on occassions, found it handy to switch to layout mode before bringing up, say ScriptMaker, so that I can easily see field names on a particular layout by pressing F10.

It’s an interesting effect – check it out. It isn’t so great if you have lots of FileMaker windows open such as you might have with converted FileMaker 6 solutions.

Changing Modal dialog order

The idea of modal dialog boxes is that they stay at the front while you are displaying or using them. That is, the current ‘user mode’ is whatever the purpose of the modal dialog is.

A side effect of Exposé is that you can temporarily bring other windows in front of modal dialog boxes by pressing F10 (or whatever you use to trigger application window tiling) and highlighting the desired window.

This might be useful when you have multiple modal dialog boxes open – e.g. when you have a calculation modal dialog open in front of the define fields dialog (and you can keep going), you can cause other windows such as your layout to appear in front or between these dialog boxes. Nice if you want to see field names or labels while working on a calc.


  • It might be obvious that this works best when the shape of your Relationship Graph is in proportion to your desktop dimensions.

  • WinPLOSION for Windows XP should perform a similar function to Exposé and I think there are other Windows utilities that do the same.

  • Wish List: I wish there was a feature in Expose which only temporarily hid the current application’s windows – a cut down F11, if you like.

13 Jan 2005

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