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What is a field?
Solution No. 666

In order to explain what fields are, let’s imagine a hypothetical, super-simple Customer table.  Obviously this table was made in Microsoft Excel, but you get the idea.

A table works much the same way as a grid in a spreadsheet program.  In grid terminology, our hypothetical table is divided into three columns: first name, last name, and email address.  In Method terminology, each of those three columns is considered a field.  Likewise, each line in the grid (containing customers like Bob Crenshaw, Amy Jones, etc.) is considered a record.  See how these two interact?  The record refers to a specific customer, and the fields determine what information is associated with that customer.  You really only require a single field in order for Method to save a record, but the more fields that are associated with a record, the more valuable the record becomes.

Fields are subdivided into field types, each of which has its own unique properties and characteristics.  The type of field you add to a screen is important because it will dictate how the data can be entered into the field, how it will be displayed, and how you can interact with it on the finished screen.  It’s important to note that every field you use or create in Method will fall into one of these types, but don’t worry – they cover all the bases!  The field types are:

  • Text
  • Decimal
  • Integer
  • Date/Time
  • Dropdown
  • Money
  • Yes/No
  • File
  • Picture

Now that we have a basic understanding of how fields relate to tables and records, let’s take a closer look at each type to further break down how they work within Method.

  • A text field type is used when you want to express a piece of text on a screen, or when you want to be able to type information in.  There are a ton of great ways to use a text field, but a good example would be on a screen where you want to save customer information (so the customer types his or her name into a text field and clicks Save, which saves the typed information to a table). 

  • A decimal field type is used to express a numerical value with decimal places.  There are a million possible uses for this kind of field, but a good example is where you might want to express measurements - in an inventory screen, perhaps, where things like the size or weight of a product would be important to know.
  • An integer field type is used to express a numerical value that could have a positive or negative value.  For example, if you wanted to express a deficit of a certain product (we have -125 teeshirts in stock) you could use an integer field type because it allows you to express a number that’s less than zero.

  • Date/Time is pretty simple - this field is used to express dates and times.  The flexibility of this field type allows you to express dates in a wide variety of formats, from years all the way down to seconds if you want to.
  • A dropdown field type (sometimes called a list picker) is a little more complicated.  You’re probably familiar with dropdown fields from other websites you’ve used in the past: the kind you click on and then choose from a preexisting list that - well, drops down.  A dropdown list in Method is a field that displays a list based on information pulled from a table.  A great example of where a dropdown field could be used is on a Create Invoice screen - you could use a dropdown field to choose a customer to assign the invoice to, which means that field would point to the Customer table and possibly display customer names.

  • A money field type should be fairly obvious too - it’s used to denote a dollar amount the way we normally expect ($101.75, for example).  These fields are great for expressing outstanding balances and other dollar amounts. 

  • A Yes/No field type has a number of possible applications, but generally speaking it’s used to express a value that has a “true” or “false” answer (in programming language, this is called a Boolean value).  For example, if you were a veterinarian and you wanted to keep track of which animals had been vaccinated, you could use a Yes/No field to denote “yes, this animal has its shots” or “no, it doesn’t”. 

  • A file field type allows you to upload an external file - much like the dropdown field type, the file field type will interact with a table in your database to upload a file stored there.  If you have an external file like a .doc or .xml file you want to have access to in a screen, this is a great way to do it.

  • A picture field type works in a similar way as the file field type, in that it allows you to upload an external file to your screen.  The difference is a picture field type will target specific file types - for example, a .jpg or .png file.  This is great for adding elements like employee or customer photos to a profile screen.  


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