Monthly Archives: March 2010

FileMaker 11: Discoveries

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Recommended Resources on the Web:

Mighty Data is doing 11 Filemaker 11 video tutorials in 11 days. The first one is on charting and is a little over 7 minutes long. The second one is on the Inspector. Highly recommended.

Matt Petrowsky has a 10 minute video on FileMaker 11 New Features for the FileMaker Developer.

Secret Weapons Lab has a 2-part in depth review of FileMaker 11 from a developer's perspective.

BillonFileMaker by Bill Doerrfeld has more good FM11 commentary from a developer perspective.

More of My Tips and Comments on FileMaker 11:

As I begin using and testing FileMaker Pro 11, I'm finding little tidbits worth sharing. Here are some of the highlights:

Quick Find is a big win. You don't have to use the Find command so much anymore. Users will quickly learn to try Quick Find before bothering with the Find command. It works in Browse mode which is the normal operating mode in FileMaker. It is really fast unless searching on unindexed fields or related fields where it might slow down a bit or a lot depending on the circumstances (how many records etc.).

Tip: Enable Quick Find Selectively in any existing database. When opened in FileMaker 11, every layout is enabled for Quick Find. So…, if there are places Quick Find makes no sense, you should turn it off in Layout Setup. Also, all fields, including merge fields, on your layouts start their lives as enabled for Quick Find. In Layout Mode, you'll see teeny, tiny yellow magnifying glasses in the lower right corner of some fields. Those are the unindexed and related fields like those in portals that may slow down your Quick Finds. I would turn all those off unless you can think of a reason not to. Then, as time goes by, you can always turn one or two back on if and when the need becomes apparent.

Charting is Awesome. Charts have a way of capturing our attention that numbers don't. It is as easy to do charting in FileMaker as it is in Excel so this doesn't require rocket science or expensive rocket scientists (like yours truly) to start using. I've learned how to use Charting so far from FileMaker 11's online help examples – 4 of them to show different ways to use it. Then, I learned more by watching MightyData's free 7 minute Charting tutorial. Get the tutorial and free demo file here. There are twenty gorgeous color schemes to choose from with the option to specify your own colors if you like. You can hover over a bar or pie slice to see the exact numbers reflected.

Portal Filtering. The Portal Set-up dialog box has a new checkbox called Filter Portal Records. Let's say you have a portal in your clients entry screen that shows invoices for that client, but you would also like to see just the unpaid invoices and just use the full history of all invoices for reference as needed. What I would do is make my portal just a bit smaller and then create a tab control with 2 tabs. The first tab would be Unpaid Invoices and the second would be entitled Invoice History. I would cut the current portal and portal fields and paste them onto each of the 2 tabs. Then in my first Unpaid Invoices tab, I would double-click the portal to bring up portal setup and check the new Filter Portal checkbox. There I would enter Unpaid Balance > 0. And click OK to save it. That's it. A 5 minute project.

Limitations of the New Portal Filtering Checkbox. Apparently, the Go To Related Records command ignores the filter. So that means, to use my same example above, when you click the button to the left of an Unpaid Invoice, you'll go to that Invoice but the found set will most likely be all the invoices for this client, not the nicer subset of unpaid invoices. Up till now we've had to get into the relationships graph and create new calculated fields or use custom functions to get a portal to filter. Now portal filtering is not so arduous. In my product, I'll probably do it the old-fashioned way so my found set behavior is consistent. But sometimes this limitation won't be a problem and the quick and dirty way will serve just fine. It is always helpful to have a quick way to try out a new feature. If it is a as valuable as you think it is going to be, you can implement it the more robust way on the relationships graph when time permits.

Layout Object Badges. Now that layout objects can do all sorts of back flips, it is helpful to see which ones have special features. There are really nice new colored badge icons to show: Conditional Formatting, Quick Find, Script Triggers and Tooltips. For instance, the Quick Find magnifying glass icons mentioned above come in green or yellow depending on whether the find is going to be fast or slow.

More on Manage Layouts. I mentioned in Tuesday's post that you can create layout groups with the new much improved Manage Layouts window. Besides that, you can leave it open and return to browse mode. This is one more case where more than one tool can be kept available one click away. You can switch to different screens and use the layouts groups after you've checked out a few of those layouts with funny names.

You Don't need to use the little up-down widget to move items in Manage Scripts and Manage Layouts. Now you can drag anywhere on a script name or layout name and move it easily with excellent visual feedback as you do so.

The Text Engine has Changed (Again). In my Studio Manager product, a lot of the buttons are underlined text. All of these links looked cramped when opened in FileMaker 11. With a little experimentation, I found that if I increased the vertical height of those link-styled buttons by 1 pixel, the underscores would move down a bit and look better.

Layout Inspectors. Floating palettes are all rage on the Mac these days and FileMaker Layouts are now the beneficiaries of this trend. In FileMaker 11, you can open 1 Inspector. It has 3 tabs that cover just about any possible layout characteristic. And, you can apply those characteristics to multiple objects at once. Very handy. Even handier you can close the triangles on characteristic groups you don't use often to shorten the palette. Handier yet, you can open multiple Inspectors and show 1 tab on each if you like. This is a killer feature for FIleMaker 11 for the developer who spends more time than he or she might like on layout details and polishing.

Editing Scripts from the Button Setup Screen. This is definitely a developer feature. It is ideal for debugging and for fixing. Here's the deal. Before you would double-click a button that wasn't working right. Then you would click to see what the name of the script was that it was running and scroll up and down the list to see where in the scripts list the script was. Then you would open Manage Scripts, find the script, open it, check it out and fix it if necessary. Now, once you see the script that the button uses, you can edit the script directly from there.

I'll be posting again soon I hope the next batch of things I've found in the new FIleMaker 11.

FileMaker 11 is Out Today and Looking Fabulous

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I've got Filemaker Pro 11 Advanced running on my Macbook Air right now
. It came out this morning and ever since I've been working to understand its new features and begin to write about them. I saw a preview at the FileMaker Developer's Conference last summer, but there's nothing like the real thing, released and usable now!

Before you get too excited, you need Leopard 10.5.7 or higher to run FileMaker 11. And Snow Leopard is recommended.

Linear Chat and CNET says FileMaker 11 is Cocoa-based on Mac. I'm still researching this, but apparently the reason FileMaker 11 looks so good on my Snow Leopard Mac today is that is Cocoa-based.

Yay! FileMaker 11 has end-user charting and, of course, developer charting as well so canned charts that show important information can be set to pop-up with a click. The charts look really good and have a lot of functionality and tweakability without scripting or head-scratching.

Layout Groups will be appreciated by just about any firm using FileMaker to cleanup the layouts menu. Now you can put all those junky layouts that may never be used again in a Folder or two and get them out of the way. For my Studio Manager product with 250+ layouts, it sure will be a faster scroll once layouts are organized into folders. There's also layout search built-in, just start typing.

Learn More. FileMaker.com's FileMaker Pro 11 New Features page is a good place to start to see the new features and watch little videos to learn more. You might also find FileMaker's Features page helpful as a list of key things in each release of filemaker starting with what's new in FM11.

Keep an eye on FileMaker Fever for more details in this post and others to follow.

I've got a brief post on FileMaker 11 on my Studio Manager Story blog for Studio Manager customers. Don't miss it, if you are a customer.