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How would you like to have a data entry monitor? Wouldn’t it be convenient to have an invisible assistant barking at any person entering data in a problematic way? If this sounds too good to be true (aside from a barking assistant) keep reading. I will discuss how you can actually setup up your FileMaker database to perform a data “quality-control” function. How? The key word is: Validation! A well implemented and designed validation scheme can help in searches, sorts, indexing, relationship setting and reporting. When data is uniform, it is easier to use and understand. In addition, it is much more efficient to set up validation options in the beginning and ensure clean data than it is to clean up hundreds or thousands of records after the fact.
On the flip side, you do need to think about your validation settings before implementing them. If you don’t know all the possible data entry variations that need to go into a field, you might validate yourself out of getting key data. For example, what if you setup a “order shipped” field to only allow “yes” or “no” data. What would you enter in if the order partially shipped?
FileMaker validation options are accessed via the field options in the Fields tab of the Define Database dialog box. Validation can be used for Text, Number, Date, Time, TimeStamp and Container fields. Validation is one of the three choices of field options available. The other options are Auto Enter ( when data is entered or edited ) and the other is Storage ( global and indexing options ).
When data is entered into a field with validation options set, if the data conforms to the validation settings, nothing will happen. This is a good thing. However, if the data entered in an unacceptable format, FileMaker beeps at the person doing the data entry. Yes, it is good for you, but can be frustrating for them. You can choose (when the validation fails) to have the user be presented with a default dialog box or your own custom warning dialog box. You can also decide if the user can override the validation setting. By default, it is set to allow a user to override, so be sure to that option is set according to your validation needs!
The set of options available in the validation dialog box are meant to be used together, but you can select them exclusively if you prefer.
In Conclusion – Validation, used properly, can make your FileMaker database become ruthlessly clean and concise. Validation used improperly can really burden your users and become a major roadblock to one of the major purposes of a database … to gather information!