FileMaker 17: Found Set Portals and Master-Detail

FileMaker 17: Found Set Portals and Master-Detail

Rohit Roy, FileMaker Consultant, IT Solutions

Prior to version 17, portals could only be set to related tables. Now, we can set a portal’s context to the current layout table to display the entire found set, opening the door for new design options such as master-detail. Previously, developers managed to mimic Found Set Portals, the efficient native support offers promise for all users of the FileMaker platform. 

How it works

You create a Found Set Portal the way you do any other portal, but you select “Current Table” from the "Show Records From" dropdown in the Portal Setup. The active portal row always matches the record number of the current record being viewed, and when you enter a different portal row, the current record selection of the page/window automatically shifts to that record. You can delete portal rows and as well as perform finds on portal fields.


Found set portals come with a few more restrictions over related record portals. The portal must reflect the entire found set as is. You can neither filter nor sort the portal separately from the current found set. The initial row must be one and the portal must allow scrolling. Since the portal and the broader layout are using the same table occurrence, there isn’t much difference in what you can do with conditional formatting and other calculations vs. a native list view.

Performance Considerations

WAN or not, there doesn’t seem to be any difference in how Found Set Portal records load when compared to a list view (although there are slight UX differences to consider). We are eager to hear what FileMaker engineers might may have to say about architectural differences.

Vertical Navigation… Finally, a reality!

FileMaker separates layout parts vertically, which has been an impediment to implementing horizontal navigation patterns. In form view we can easily separate the record detail from the rest of our application interface in the body part, but that is not an option in a native list view. However, we can now functionally imitate list views with a Found Set Portal, expanding our options for UI/UX!

Master-detail for everyone


Master-detail is a popular design pattern where both a master list of records and a selected record’s details share a single page. The interface design has been around since the 1980’s, but FileMaker developers have mostly taken their cues from the platform’s explicit separation of form and list views. As with everything FileMaker, there were techniques to get a functioning “found set” portal. With native support for Found Set Portals, there are more opportunities for this design.

“As one of the people who spent a long time honing a technique for Master Detail, I can say with 100% confidence that I will never use [that technique] again.” – Todd Geist

If you already have your own technique for master detail, you might be disappointed that Found Set Portals don’t have complete feature parity with what you are used to. Every developer must decide for themselves if it is worth making the switch, but the new native support is a win for everybody.

Fewer list views?

Even simple list views take up development budget when a shared detail/list view may be just as good if not better! Dedicated list views will always have their place but Found Set Portals can help extend development budgets and make FileMaker an even more cost-effective, custom database solution than before.

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