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There's not a direct way to have a value list populate options in the way you suggest. However, you can substitute a List View layout and a global field, together with an OnKeystroke triggered script to simulate the same functionality. Here's a basic plan:
1) Create a global field and place it in the header of the List View layout.
2) Set up a script that captures the value in that global field, performs a Find in the field on your List View, and then places the cursor back in the global field.
3) Using the OnObjectKeystroke, fire the script whenever a user types a keystroke.
This will accomplish basically what you want. Do be prepared for a bit of a performance lag in between keystrokes, though; it's often a good idea for the actual trigger to fire an OnTimer script that times out after a few seconds and performs the actual Find instead (thanks to Jeremy Bante for pointing out this UX technique).
Thank you for the response. I had thought of this method, although you had a few extra pointers, but since it is on a portal row (line items on an invoice) I think I'll table this for now. Not sure if it will function quickly enough.
Do this with a relationship rather than a find.
Make Mikes global field match another field which is a calculation of the field with the actual values but separate the values by a return.... then use the build custom function from Brian Dunning's site in the calc to 'build" the values of each word.
Your related records will show matches on all values which match each letter as it is typed.
The trick is to have a script trigger that instead commits the record then reinserts the cursor in the field again (at the end) ready for the next character to be typed.
I hope this makes sense...