A Portal Grey Area

By Daniel Wood, 15 December 2010


Ever wondered why when you place your mouse cursor in a portal row, the background fill of that row goes grey (or for our Windows friends it used to go a ghastly black colour)? Me too, in fact I have spent many restless nights pondering this baffling design quirk of portals. It may be useful if you temporarily forget which portal row your eyes are looking at and need to quickly re-align your vision but does that ever really happen? The fill is not a highlight either. The active portal row really has no significance in the selection of a record, nor is it of any benefit if running a script from the portal row - the script knows what the active row is without you first putting your cursor in it.

greyarea 1

So why does this occur? I cannot answer that question, but what I can answer is how we can now get rid of it once and for all!

How we used to get rid of the fill

Back in 2012, I posted this article which gave a technique of how you can eliminate this fill colour. It involved adding a white filled object into the portal row with an "Exit Script" step attached and no hand cursor. The result was when a user clicked in a portal row they were in fact clicking a button unbeknownst to them, and never able to click the portal row to make it active.

With FileMaker 13 this active portal row fill is now a customisable setting and we can completely eliminate it.

How can we do this

The first thing you need to do is to go into the portal setup and tick the "Use active row state" option. This may seem counter-intuitive - surely you would want to disable the active row state in order to prevent any fill. In actuality, keeping it disabled gives the default grey fill behaviour.

greyarea 2

Next, select the portal and in the inspector go to the Appearance tab. Choose "Portal: Row" from the object drop-down (it defaults to Portal) and then choose the "Active" state underneath.

greyarea 3

There is your grey fill! You can now chose no fill colour to get rid of it (or if you are sadistic any other colour of your choosing).

Finally, you'll notice the borders are on by default for the active row. The border defaults to the same colour as the grey fill which is why you never notice a border. Now that we have removed the fill you will also need to disable borders otherwise clicking in the active row puts a visible border around that row and looks a bit weird.

greyarea 4


Active portal row fills can have their uses in some situations, but in our experience they are just a nuisance. Typical highlights serve a purpose such as selecting a portal row record and are achieved using other methods such as conditional formatting. Knowing which portal row is the active row does not have many purposes aside from giving you a visual cue which portal row you last clicked on. If you have ever found this active row fill annoying then you can now get rid of it forever :)

Example File

Please find attached an example file. This file is provided to help you fully understand what is going on in this article. Note that FileMaker 13 is required to view this example file.

Download Example File

Something to say? Post a comment...


  • Daniel Wood 20/05/2020 11:01am (4 years ago)

    Hi Carl, that is true, you'll just need to make a call on whether this technique is right for your particular situation. With alternate fills it is generally not ideal.

  • Carl 13/05/2020 9:29pm (4 years ago)

    What about if you're using different fill colors for Primary and Alternate states? If you choose "No Fill" for the Active state, it will display whatever the background color is and mess up the whole Primary/Alternate fill colors thing.

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