It sounds like you already have a good idea there! What you are describing should work. BUT, if you do want to store the files outside of FM, then don't forget to choose 'Paste Special...' and click on 'Paste Link'.
Another method is to use a plain text field to store the path to the file, like D:\pdfs\Filemaker\my.pdf and then use a script to open the file.
The script step that you need is "Send Event". Just set to 'open document/application', click on Calcultion: Specify button, then select the field.
Path names with spaces need to have inverted commas around them, so to save typing "..... " over & over in your fields, you can use:"\"" & field_name & "\"" in the formula.
Thanks for your replies to my question.
Do the container or plain text field methods allow dragging-and-dropping the file onto the field? (I got spoiled by what Bento makes easy. Unfortunately you quickly run into a brick wall when Bento lacks a particular functionality altogether.)
When you put a file into a container, you can select the checkbox to only store a reference to the file instead of storing the complete contents of the file in the database.
Double-clicking a container that already stores/references a PDF file will open it in Preview.app (or maybe your default PDF viewer application?? -- for me, it opens in Preview.app). No need for a script or extra button (though those methods will still work).
I was able to successfully drag text data (from a text editor or text-clipping file) into both a regular text field and into a container field in browse mode. Once there, the container field could be dragged and dropped into other stuff (other container fields, other container fields in other records, etc. Container fields with text data could be dragged onto text fields, and vice-versa.
I was not able to successfully drag a text file or a PDF file from the Finder into either a text field or into a container field, which is what you asked about. I'm not sure whether this was just something wrong with my environment, or something not implemented in FileMaker Pro itself. However, you can right-click (or control-click) to get the context menu to insert a file into the container field, or use the command in the Insert menu in the menu bar.
If DonorTracker is switching from Bento, then it's likely the Mac version of FileMaker Pro will be used. There is no "Paste Special..." menu command in the Mac version (it's really only involved with OLE, which is only supported on Windows). Instead you must select the container field and use the Insert>File... menu command (or "Insert File..." command in the context menu) and ensure the "Store only a reference to the file" checkbox is selected in the file dialog box. This method available on both platforms.
To get started in FMPro, would it be reasonable to initially set up a single Table with several containers for links to external PDF files, in addition to the other data fields?
Could I at some point segue to to a two Table setup where the second Table consisted of records holding one container field and the appropriate records were viewed thru a Portal Window -- with the idea being that I would copy the file paths from my initial setup through the Portal into the new container Table? Then eliminate the multiple container fields from my provisional setup?
Does that make sense from a rapid prototyping point of view?
Not sure what you're thinking here. One table with one field will hold as many pdf files/references as you could ever need.
But yes, probably the most useful thing about Filemaker is that you can pretty much make it up as you go along, experiment, try ideas, then change your mind later, and it will still be OK. If not, just fiddle some more till it works. Of course, for 'serious' developers who want every detail planned before they create a single file, this is the worst thing about Filemaker. But for the rest of us: just have fun!
"Not sure what you're thinking here. One table with one field will hold as many pdf files/references as you could ever need."
The PDF references are actually a small part of what I want to do. Each record in my principle table needs to link to one or more PDF references, but it mainly contains numeric and text fields.
I thought I'd start with just having several containers for PDF references in this principle table, then segue to a portal setup with the portal accessing the table referred to in your quote above.
Myself, I certainly can't answer the question about which approach is "best" for you, but if you want to experiment with not using a portal at first (to get used to the how containers in FileMaker Pro work), that may be helpful to you.
The question you really asked dealt with whether you could easily switch over to using a separate table + portal later on... well, you can certainly make schema and layout changes later on, but getting your existing data into that new table might require some work. You may have to import the database onto itself (picking a specific source table and the new destination table) in some way, or you might have to export to some other format and re-import?? I'm sure this is something other people have done before.
Eh, you might want to save some hassle up the road and just go ahead and try with the portal sooner rather than later.
BTW, since you are on Mac OS X, you can also insert the PDF file into a container as an image and as a QuickTime movie. In either case, you get a thumbnail viewable in the container on the layout, and as a movie, you get a control to page through all the pages in the PDF thumbnail. I don't know whether this is available on Windows, but since you're coming from Bento, it might not be an issue.