How Many FM Dialogs Can I Open in 60 seconds... and other Musings

By Daniel Wood, 15 December 2010

I've always wondered how many FileMaker dialogs you can have open at once, or more specifically, how many can you "string" together before hitting the limit, if there is one. So, though a little trial and error, I set out about trying to find the path to the most dialogs, and here is what I came up with:

What follows is my string of dialogs, and how to get to each:

  1. File -> Manage -> Custom Menus Manage Custom Menus
  2. New Menu Set Edit Custom Menu Set
  3. Click add to select menu Select Menu
  4. You are now in the Edit Custom Menu
  5. add a menu item, check "Action" Specify Script Step
  6. Select "perform script", hit specify Specify Script
  7. Hit + to create new script Edit Script "New Script
  8. 8. Add Set Field Script step and go to Specify Field Specify Field
  9. Click "Specify" next to repetition number Specify Calculation
  10. Click the TO list & go to "Manage Database" Manage Database
  11. Select/Add a Text field & go to options Options for Field
  12. Go to Validation, Member of Value List, manage value lists
  13. Create a New Value List Edit Value List
  14. Click "Use values from field" Specify Fields for Value List
  15. Click use values from first field, manage relationships
  16. Create a relationship & click on relationship Edit Relationship
  17. Click sort records Sort Records
  18. Select field, "reorder based on summary field specify" Specify Field

... That's about as far as I got, before I hit an interesting point, because once you get here, you can then...

19. Manage Relationships
20. Repeat from Step 16-20 ad infinite

Indeed, you can keep repeating this step and opening more and more and more manage relationships dialogs - of course they're all modal so you can only work in one at a time.

Then I got to thinking - well, what happens if I make a change in one of my manage relationships dialogs, and then "wind back" the dialogs to the previous manage relationships dialog, what would I find?

howmanydialogs 1

Here are two manage relationship dialogs I have open. The one on the left is the front-most and the only one I can edit at this time. I have added the Yellow TO. From here, I wound back the dialogs by clicking "OK" on them all, effectively saving my changes rather than discarding.

howmanydialogs 2

Now I have wound back to my first manage relationships dialog. Interesting to note, the yellow TO is nowhere to be found - does this mean it has not yet been created? Is the TO just failed to show up because of a FileMaker bug? In any event, I leave my mark in this dialog by adding another green TO. Finally I wind my way allllllll the way back to the start, OK'ing every dialog I come across.

When I finish, I go back into the relationship graph to see what I have:

howmanydialogs 3

Interesting - both TO's are there ! by committing every dialog all the way back to the start, basically everything I did was saved, including both changes to the relationship graph from different dialogs.

Hmmm, I think to myself:

This leads me to try a few more tests, what happens if:

  • I delete a table occurrence in the front-most dialog, but then try to use it in a previous dialog
  • I add a Table occurrence in the front-most dialog, then try to add one with the exact same name in the previous one

Here's What Happened:

In the first case, interestingly, when I deleted a few table occurrences in my front-most relationship dialog, and then rolled back to the previous one, they did disappear from the dialog when I returned to it. Granted, I did have one of the relationships selected of the deleted Table occurrence which may have had a factor, but in any event they disappeared.

This time, I cancelled my changes as I rolled back in an attempt to get them back, were they really gone? the answer was no. Once I returned to the original main "Manage Database" dialog I had open, and tried to cancel this, I was asked to revert my changes, and upon doing so, the table occurrences came back.

FileMaker does a great job at keeping it's transactions nicely separated, even though it appears I have many many dialogs going, They always all relate back to a single dialog, and anything done in subsequent dialogs can always be reverted.

And in the Second Scenario?

This one was particular unexpected. In my front-most relationship dialog, I added a table occurrence "Test". I then OK'd my dialogs back to the previous one. Test was not on it, and when I went to add another Table occurrence called "Test", FileMaker automatically renamed it to Test 2 - even though visibly there was no "Test" table occurrence on the graph. Filemaker knew I had created the Test TO in another dialog, and even though this one was not showing it, it was still smart enough to not let me name another Test. Upon OK'ing all the dialogs and then jumping back into the relationship graph, both Test, and Test 2 were present.

Final Thoughts:

If you want to play around with this, you don't need to repeat all the steps I mention above, you can bring up multiple relationship dialogs by:

  1. Going into relationship graph
  2. Ensure you have a relationship, click on it and click sort
  3. Choose a field and choose "reorder based on summary field"
  4. In this dialog, click the To list and choose "manage relationships"
  5. Repeat...

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