Working with Fields
Before working with individual data types, it's helpful to understand a few basic points about fields in general. For instance, regardless of data type, all fields are generally added to a table and modified in the same way. One exception is default fields, which are fields that are automatically added to all new tables. Default fields can be added, removed, and customized, and the out-of-the-box knowledgebase contains a handful of commonly used default fields. It can be useful to designate one default field as a summary field, which is another special kind of field that represents records in certain parts of the system. This article discusses each of these topics in greater detail, as well as provides a variety of tips and best practices for designing fields.
Adding and Modifying Fields
To review the fields for a particular table and add, modify, or delete fields, click Setup [Table] on the navigation menu and click the Fields tab.
To add a field:
- Hover over New to view the drop-down of all available data types.
- Select a data type. The Field wizard opens.
On the General tab, name the field and enter admin notes to describe the field's purpose.
You can print admin notes to create system documentation for end users or other admins. This is especially helpful if another person takes over administrative duties or you need to edit a field months after it was created.
- Work your way through the remaining tabs, configuring the field as desired.
- Click Finish.
The exact steps vary based on the field type, but you generally work through the Field wizard and set default values, basic permissions, visibility or edit conditions, display options, and other settings based on the type of field. For more information, see List of Data Types.
To modify a field:
- Click the Edit icon next to the field name. The Field wizard opens.
Change any settings as desired.
Certain settings can't be changed after the field is created. For example, the field name cannot be changed, nor can the multiple value setting for linked fields.
- Click Finish.
Mass Editing Fields
The Set Field Properties drop-down menu on the action bar lets you set certain properties for multiple fields at once. The following properties can be mass edited:
- Set Visibility Dependence: Determines whether a field is only visible when another field has a specified value.
- Set Edit Dependency: Determines which groups can edit a field when another field has a specified value.
- Set Requirement Dependency: Determines whether a field is optional or required.
- Enable/Disable Quick Edit: Determines whether Quick Edit is enabled.
To mass edit a field:
- Select one or more fields to edit.
- Hover over Set Field Properties and choose which property to change.
- Use the Field Properties window the change the settings, and then click Finish.
The Field Properties window displays the names of the selected fields and indicates any fields that cannot be modified due to a data type incompatibility. Most types of fields support all of these properties, but others offer only some or none of these properties for mass editing, such as calculated results, field types that display image graphics, and field types that are displayed as embedded tables.
All tables, including newly created tables, have a set of default fields:
- Created By
- Creator Login
- Creator Team
- Date Created
- Date Updated
- Updated By
- Updater Login
- Updater Team
- Demo Data
To change these default fields, click the Setup gear in the top-right corner and go to Tables. Select the Table Tree and click Edit to change the default settings for new tables, and change the set of default fields. However, any changes you make to the default fields are automatically applied to all the tables in the system, and all the tables are locked by the system while those changes are applied, so make the changes outside of working hours whenever possible.
The default "Type" field is really only a label that holds the table name, and it can't be the parent for a dependent Choice field.
For a new table, we recommend some general field cleanup for the default fields:
- Make the following changes to the default History field:
- On the Permissions tab, give the admin group all permissions.
- On the Display tab, make sure all the columns to display are checked.
- Place the History field on layout; it's usually best to create a new History tab.
- Place some of the default fields, such as Date Created, Date Updated, Created By, and Updated By, on the new History tab.
- On the layout, change the name of Communications tab to "Emails," which uses less space. Make sure it contains the default Communications field.
Every table must have exactly one summary field. A summary field represents records at certain places in the system. For example, a table's summary field controls the items displayed under Last Opened on the navigation menu. If you link two records in a table, the system also uses the table's summary field and record IDs to indicate the linked records.
A regular Text field often works best for a summary field, but you can use any text field data type. To make a field a summary field, select Yes for Display as summary field? on the Options tab of the Field wizard. If you already have a summary field defined for the table, you receive a message indicating that the current field will be used instead.
Field Design Considerations
When you're working with fields, keep in mind the following tips and best practices.
- Create fields in an efficient order. Start by creating fields that other fields will depend on for visibility, requirement, or editing conditions.
- When you're working in a live system, adding fields to a table locks it for other users. If you're adding many fields, consider making these changes after working hours.
- Fields cannot be converted from one data type to another. However, it is usually possible to create a new fields of the desired data type and use the Set Field Properties drop-down to quickly give them the same properties.
- When you're creating a linked field set, pay special attention to the Mapping tab and how you choose to update fields. Never choose Do Not Update if you don't also allow entries not in the source table; otherwise, the system may report errors in certain situations. In most cases, select one of the Automatically Update options. If you do allow entries not in the source table, you may also choose the Update Matching Fields option.
- Avoid using the Link to Single Field from Other Table data type, except when multiple values must be enabled. Experience has shown that when you create a Link to Single Field from Other Table, you invariably want to include additional fields at a later time, and to do so you would need to completely create a new field. Instead, use a Link to Selected Fields from Other Table.
- Certain data types use less space in the system than other data types. If you are creating a table with many fields, use Text fields rather than Short Text fields and Choice fields instead of Multi-Choice fields, which saves space and increases loading speed.
- When you're assigning a field name, choose one that makes sense and indicates the field's purpose.
- Editing the linked field settings for a subtable in a hierarchical table setup will change the settings for all other subtables in that hierarchy.
- For a linked field with a default value on the Options tab, carefully consider the options that determine how the value is affected by changes to the source condition. Make sure to choose an option that makes sense for your configuration.
- Default values for fields can be set dynamically based on changes in other field values. For example, a Date Completed field might be set to the date that the Status field changes to Completed. However, this method can sometimes be counter-intuitive, so using a rule may be a better option in some cases.
- You can delete any fields that are marked as deletable on the Options tab, but it's often safer to hide fields with permissions or remove them from the layout. Reports or searches will break if you delete fields that they use. If you try to delete a field used by linked fields, you receive a warning and must follow a wizard to complete the deletion process.
- Until you are familiar with each data type, always review the Display tab to be sure the display settings make sense; this saves time when creating layouts.
- When setting up Date/Time fields that will never be entered by users, use an input box display with a field length of 22, rather than a calendar and popup display.
- To make a Text or Short Text field display properly in most cases, change the default number of characters in the Width of Input Field to a value that fits with the other fields in your layout.
- Configure wide Text fields so that they have the same display length, which looks best. Unless you use the Expand Input Boxes... option in the Set Alignment area of the layout, 90 or 95 is typically a good width for most screens.
- When setting up Choice fields with only two choices, use the Options tab to display them as radio buttons, which typically creates the best display. Then, on the Display tab, display the choices with two per row.
- To make a Related Table display better, use the Display tab to left justify the field label.