Monthly Archives: January 2005

Adventures in Data Protection with FileMaker 7

Field_is_Locked_Msg.png

One of my clients just called today about a simple error that caused a lot of upset. Someone had accidentally erased the first and last name out of an employee’s record. My client thought that the employee’s data had disappeared completely because a Find didn’t turn up the employee anymore.

The erasure might have occurred when a user thought they were in Find mode and overwrote the name and then realized they were in Browse mode and erased their mistake not quite putting it together that they needed to retype the original name which they may have not remembered.

At least that is how we guessed the problem occurred. In FileMaker 6 and earlier, you needed to either leave data editable so that Finds could be done on those fields, or you needed to create a calculated field for each of the fields and display the data with the calculations except on a protected layout where data entry could actually occur.

There’s still an issue here, but we now have a new and very handy tool in our toolbox. The Field Behavior command. We can now turn off the ability to Browse in a field while allowing the ability to Find. All those layouts where data entry is not needed should have the fields set with the “Allow field to be edited in Browse mode” unchecked. When you do that, the user can’t click into that field in Browse mode anymore.

The issue I have is that I don’t want to have to lock all fields on non-data entry layouts or create special data entry layouts that are unlocked to avoid this problem. It seems like a lot of extra work. Probably the best bet is to reserve this extra work for situations where there are many inexperienced users using a particular screen and likely to use that screen to do finds as well as data entry. In those cases, you could lock the user out of data entry and display a custom message directing them to another screen for data entry only.

Here’s what I tried: In Layout mode, I selected the approximately 25 fields that I wanted to lock and set the field behavior to not allow modification in browse mode. Then I made all those same fields into a single button by choosing “Button…” from the Format menu. I then created a script with one step: Show Custom Dialog and worked a bit on wording. Then I tried it in browse mode. When I clicked in any of the protected fields, they all highlighted at once and the message appeared. Very impressive.

In Find mode, the button effect was non-existent and the Find worked like usual. Just what I wanted. By accident, I discovered the drawback of the button with the custom message when I tried to move one of the fields on the layout. I was told that the field was part of a button and couldn’t be moved without removing the button. Assigning a button to a set of fields like this isn’t very flexible. You’ll probably want to avoid this technique with a layout that you expect to modify fairly frequently.

Mac Mini Perfect Low-End Server

Think small. This new Mac Mini rocks! It is tiny which is what anyone at home or in a small office needs. With 1.25 or 1.42 mhz G4 processor and 40 or 80 mb RAM at $499 and $599, the affordability is to die for.

The Mini has the latest OS X Panther plus iLife ’05 (iTunes 4.7, iPhoto 5, iMovie HD, iDVD 5 and GarageBand) on it. You can always steal the iLife stuff for one of your client machines because I’ll want you to keep your Mini as a pure FileMaker server (even if it is just running the FileMaker client as opposed to the FileMaker Server software).

The $500 price leaves you with no excuse for trying to serve FileMaker files from one of your regular work machines. Keep FileMaker serving files with 100% reliability and keep those files in pristine condition!

Remember that it comes sans keyboard, mouse and screen. So you may want to buy a brand new mouse and keyboard for it and a tiny monitor – or use an existing monitor. You can get a 14″ flat panel for something like $200 these days.

Mail to FileMaker Importer Rocks

If you have a need to get some or all of your email into FileMaker, Mail to FileMaker Importer is your application. I’m using their latest version 1.1 for FileMaker 7. It is simple, well-documented and does its job beautifully.

Mail to FileMaker Importer is made and published by by Automated Workflows, LLC . They describe themselves as:

a leader in professional AppleScript and workflow automation and software integration services and technology

If this app is any indication, I believe them.

You can meet Benjamin S. Waldie, president of Automated Workflows at the Apple Consultants Network booth on the Macworld Expo show floor on Tuesday, January 11th, from 2:00 PM to 6:00 PM. He will be available to answer AppleScript-related questions. Mr. Waldie writes the Applescript Essentials column for Mac Tech Magazine.

If you are reading this, I have no doubt that you think getting your email into FileMaker is a really good idea. Besides a cool place to archive email, sometimes you may want to process data that you get from web apps that send you email into your database.

When someone downloads my Studio Manager demo off the web, the fill out a little contact information form and a little PHP script sends me an email with lines something like this:

Name: John Doe
Company: ABC Inc.
Email: john@abcinc.com
etc.

With Mail to FileMaker Importer (MFI), I highlight the new download emails every so often in Apple Mail and then push the button in MFI to import that mail into my Email Archive database. That gives me all the usual fields including the Body with all the contact information.

I then run a looping script that parses the data into separate filemaker fields. It’s that simple! I love it.