Monthly Archives: July 2004

New FileMaker 7 Graph Rules Video

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Matt Petrowsky has done it again. He released a free one hour video on Saturday that walks you through a particularly confusing aspect of relationship creation in Filemaker 7. The video article is called Graph Rules – Four rules to remember and is available at the ISO FileMaker Magazine site.

I recommend this video for anyone who is grappling with how the relationships diagram works. If you are knowledgeable about FileMaker, you probably will get more out of this than if you are a newcomer because you have habits to break. But he’s managed to make it work for either audience by covering basic principles in the first part and then tackling a tricky *rule* later on.

Matt includes a free download with before and after file examples so you can practice and experiment with the first and doublecheck yourself with the second.

His four rules are a little hokey but effective:

1. There shalt not be any circular references. Thou must have a start and an end between table occurrences.

2. Thou shalt have as many table occurrences as needed. The key to the graph is organization.

3. From wherest thou is, if thine eyes cannot see what thouest desire, another TO is what ye may aspire.

4. Along thy relationship chain, any given TO knows of all others but only through his brother.

Right now, if you plan to do even moderately sophisticated development with FileMaker 7, you probably need all the help and repetition you can get. Take the hour. I followed along while lying on my couch with my Powerbook.

FileMaker 7 Migration Bootcamp Day 3

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Day 3 wasn’t quite the triumph I was hoping for, but it delivered the goods. I suspect we were all too exhausted for it to be as ecstatic as it might have been. Nevertheless, we did find the consolidation of knowledge we were looking for.

By day 3, brain death was still an issue for me. I was in bootcamp, and I was getting tired, so it was sometimes hard to think clearly. However, armed with the previous evening’s clarity in written form, I was able to ask the questions I needed to ask and get a sense of closure from my 3 day inquiry and education.

Sitting here in my living room, the day after a good night’s sleep, I am feeling powerful, excited and confident to move forward with dispatch on the process of migration. This training has been such a positive experience that I’m now considering taking The Support Group‘s 4 day FileMaker 7 training called What’s Next? in the next couple of months. They do kick ass training too and offer classes near me in San Mateo. For now, though, I’m going to give myself some time to assimilate, incorporate and elaborate on what I learned here.

Planning and being organized about migration have been key themes. My good intentions about planning the process and adhering to the discipline of tracking every step along the way have been strengthened mightily. Trial and error testing is a great compliment but a poor substitute for using the MetaDataMagic tool to get a list of possible conversion issues and addressing them one by one.

I had two goals going into the training. (1) Get a handle on migration issues and (2) learn a lot more about FileMaker 7. These two goals were accomplished. My approach and strategy for converting my powerful and complex in-house filemaker system and my product has changed. On my own, I’ve tried both ends of the spectrum: (1) Build from scratch and (2) Convert and run and modify. I’m abandoning both of these approaches for a better third approach. And, I’ve learned a great deal about 7 so that knowledge will inform my work.

My new *big picture* migration plan:

  1. Create an action plan even if it’s only the first phase – I can do phase 2 after I’ve gained some experience in phase 1. This will include a list of key business processes that need to work correctly – giving me a master checklist against which to measure my progress.
  2. Fix the file references and make sure passwords and groups are set-up cleanly so the conversion will work. Use MetaDataMagic to help with this.
  3. Use MetaDataMagic to identify conversion issues and handle as many as possible in FileMaker 6 prior to conversion. The free Conversion Issues Database is very helpful here.
  4. Convert to 7.
  5. Handle the rest of the identified conversion issues to clean things up with testing as I go along. I received a great set of example files mentioned yesterday that will let get some hands on mastery with key conversion issues by playing with the files.
  6. Avoid introducing 7 features into the converted files because they were designed in an environment where multiple windows and multiple tables in the same file were not possible. The logic within these converted files will work surprisingly well as long as I don’t complicate things.
  7. Then – the fun part. Create a new UI file to start creating new FM7 features. This gives me a sandbox where I can learn 7 and start gaining benefits from it.
  8. Rebuild the converted files in a new 7 file. One approach is to call it data but there are many more options. Using FMrobot and other tools, it is surprisingly easy to do this in 7. This step can be done over a period of months. There’s no hurry.

The migration plan above is directly based on what I learned in this class. Knowing what I know now, I am certain that I will be worlds better off with this approach than with what I had going before attending the class. This class gave me the concepts and information I need to move forward in a bold, clear-eyed way. Very exciting! More FM7 insights coming soon.

FileMaker 7 Migration Bootcamp Day 2

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In keeping with the bootcamp theme, Danny and Todd showed little mercy today. We were subjected to hour after hour of all the things that can go wrong (Danny calls them challenges) when files are converted from 6 to 7. It wasn’t pretty.

Even though we were all near brain death by the end of the day, we staggered out knowing much more than we came in with. Finally, in the last 1/2 hour of the day, Danny spent some time talking about how we can deal with, ameliorate or prevent the kinds of things we spent all day with. Needless to say we were grateful.

As a sort of reward and encouragement, Danny gave us two key tools to help us when we get back to the *real world* and start the work of migration in earnest:

  • Example files for the entire day’s trainings, each illustrating a particular potential point of failure. Each of the examples includes an FM5 version and an FM7 version.
  • Migration Manager. A roadmap and resource cache – naturally occuring as an FM7 application devoted to helping us manage our migrations systematically and precisely.

After the class, I was so motivated that I spent about an hour and half this evening writing notes and planning the next steps for migrating my Studio Manager product to FileMaker 7. That really helped me feel ready for Day 3 of bootcamp. I’m still on my feet and ready to go. Day 3 should be the best day. Stay tuned!

FileMaker 7 Migration Bootcamp Day 1

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I’m in sunny Santa Clara, CA staying overnight after spending my first day in FileMaker Bootcamp. This three-day course is fantastic if you are a serious FileMaker consultant/software developer and want to know how to get from 6 to 7 without tears.

You know the expression *there’s a pony in here somewhere*? Well, Danny Mack and Todd Geist of New Millenium Communications seem to have found a herd! As you know, I’m a fan of Danny’s company and tools MetaDataMagic and FMrobot. And I’m not the only one. At last year’s FileMaker Developer’s Conference in Phoenix, Danny received the FileMaker Excellence award “For Outstanding Innovation and Contribution to the FileMaker Platform”.

OK. Enough of the fluff. What did I learn today? This is a very strategic and hands on class and it’s getting late, so I’ll deliver the learnings as bottom lines:

There’s a terrific and sane way to get from FileMaker 6 to 7. New Millenium calls it Convert-Restore-Extend-Consolidate. I’m already convinced by NMCI’s thinking. It makes most sense with complex FileMaker databases to convert your files and just clean them up enough so they work under 7. Then add a new user interface table that points to your converted files and from there build new functionality in your UI file.

Eventually, you can move the old converted files from your 6 app inside your UI file if you like and replace the originals – without the huge effort you might have imagined. This brief description doesn’t do the approach justice. Read Adding a New Interface File to an Existing Solution, Later Consolidating Tables by Todd Geist in the free pdf Upgrading to FileMaker 7: Migration Foundations and Methodologies for the details.

FileMaker 7 is even more different than we’ve been thinking. That’s actually the problem – six thinking! There are so many new possibilities in 7 that confront with overwhelming options. One of the smart things to do, according to these guys, is to shut some of the doors that 7 has opened. I’ve been sensing the same thing. The outside validation I’m getting here is just the extra nudge I needed to follow my instincts and stay sane with this intoxicating product.

You don’t have to know all the answers with 7 to start using it. It is so flexible that you have lots of different ways to change course in midstream as you learn more. Because you can do things so many different ways and the power is virtually unlimited, you have options upon options even when you think you’ve backed yourself into a corner.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but perhaps these thoughts will help you avoid a pitfall or open up a new way of thinking. I’m hoping to deliver another installment tomorrow night.