Table vs. Table Occurrence (Tutorial) Using FileMaker Pro

Basic material but very important to know…

Table vs. Table Occurrence (Tutorial)

Forum post posted November 17, 2009 by PhilModJunk , last edited February 15, 2012

In this forum and throughout Filemaker’s help system, you’ll encounter the terms “Table” and “Table Occurrence”. In many places, the terms are used interchangeably even though they refer to distinctly different but related concepts. This has generated some confusion among new Filemaker users.


A table represents the blue print for storing a group of data items into a single object known as a record. The individual data objects that make up a record are called fields. You can represent this structure with a grid of rows and columns where each row represents a record and each column of data is a specific field, in other words, a table.

Every Filemaker Pro database stores its data in one or more tables. These tables can be stored all in one file or different tables and/or groups of tables can reside in separate files. One of the goals of good relational database design is to structure the tables in an efficient logical manner that avoids storing duplicates of the same information in multiple records.

Table Occurrence:

A table occurrence is the term for each “box” you see in Filemaker’s relationship graph. Each one refers to a specific table and is used to help identify a relationship linking two or more tables in your database. For any given table, you can create as many table occurrences for it as you need to design different relationships linking your tables.

This is where the confusion starts for many new users:  When you first define a new table in Filemaker, the system automatically creates a matching Table Occurrence with the same exact name places it in the Relationship Graph. Though it has the same name as your table, it is not the same object. In fact, you can delete the table occurrence from the graph and your table will remain part of your database. Likewise, if you click on the tables tab and delete the table, the (now orphaned) table occurrence with the same name will remain in your relationship graph.

To see what table serves as the data source for a given Table Occurrence (TO), point your mouse at the arrow in the upper left corner of the TO box and the name of the TO’s data source table will popup. You can also double-click it to see the TO’s data source table and you can use this dialog to change the TO name or point the TO at a different source table.

More…Table vs. Table Occurrence (Tutorial) . Using FileMaker Pro . Forum . FileMaker Forums.

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