How Themes Can Speed Up your FileMaker Application

March 24, 2022
William Miller

Nobody likes a boring looking application!

And that is why people like to add graphics, and colors, and text highlights, and sizes, and lots of other visual enhancements to their application. And there is (almost) nothing wrong with this. An application needs to be aesthetically pleasing or people don’t like using it.

Before I get into our topic of how to speed up FileMaker using themes, allow me to share one story about why a good looking interface is important:

We were contacted by a new client at one point who hired us to fix their FileMaker user interface. As with many solutions, she had built her own for her organization, as a ‘citizen-developer’, as Claris likes to call them. The system functionally did what they needed it to do, but it was an ugly mess! She told us that she needed us to fix it because her people didn’t want to use it anymore. I think it was the digital equivalent of working in a messy, unorganized office. It just wears on you after a while. So we rebuilt a number of the main interfaces, and developed some consistency in user experience, standard muted color themes; got rid of the rainbow explosion look, and made it visually appealing. Staff was happy once again.

But for anybody looking to improve the visual experience of working with FileMaker files, means that you will want to know about, and start using the FileMaker Themes. What is a Theme? It is a set of predefined object and text stylings which create a consistent user visual experience throughout the application. There are separate styles defined for fields, for buttons, for text, for objects, for portal, checkboxes, calendars, lists, popup menu’s, etc. Basically anything that is on the layout can have a set of predefined values assign to it which determine and lock in all of is visual design elements. And the beauty of a ‘theme’ is that once you define, and save a style for any object, you can assign it to a theme.

Themes have two beneifts:

  1. Visual Consistency
  2. Improved Rendering Speed

Visual Consistency is important, as already mentioned because the human eye is very perceptive, and can perceive very slight variations in style. This creates an internal dissonance which is distracting, and unpleasant. Note my story above concerning this.

Improved Rendering Speed is also important.

Here’s why: When a FileMaker layout is first viewed when someone navigates to the screen, every single element and object, and font, and color, and line, and box, etc, must be created and visually rendered with all of its styles and characteristics. If you have hundreds of objects on a busy layout, this takes processing time, and therefore slows the application down. Every time you go to a new layout, for the first time, it has to be rendered again. So Claris applied the system of themes which are more or less just hidden CSS files and styles to keep and track all identical objects, and render them more quickly. Every time you create a ‘rogue’ object without storing its style as part of a theme, then a new file needs to be stored somewhere and loaded and rendered each time. This takes up space, and it takes up time.

So how to use Styles and Themes in FileMaker?

The Inspector has a styles tab which displays all styles on your layout. When a style is changed, a small red triangle appears next to it, to show that it has not been saved as part of the theme. So each style needs to be saved to the theme, and then the red triangle disappears.

So there are a lot of factors that can affect FileMaker speed. In the big picture of things, themes and styles are not a major factor but they are one thing to consider. And even more important, consistent use of themes and styles will make your application look much more pleasing.

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