Monthly Archives: December 2010

Adding iPad and iPhone Compatibility to your FileMaker Database, Part 1

IPhones_with_FileMaker_Go
FileMaker Inc. released FileMaker Go in July. It is powerful in its current early form and we expect it to just get better and more essential from here on out. As soon as we got the word, we immediately put iPad and iPhone compatibility at the top of our list features to add to Studio Manager.

We are just about done with Studio Manager 11 which is devoted to adding iPhone and iPad features to Studio Manager. We are learning a lot and want to start sharing what we are coming up with.

We Are Creating Dedicated Layouts for iPad and iPhone

The best tool to get you started on that is the free FileMaker Go Toolkit from Soliant. It has a lot of nice parts for your iPhone layouts especially. You'll need to quickly figure out whether you are going to support landscape and portrait on your layouts. We decided that it is too limiting at this point and are just doing portrait for iPhone entry screens and landscape for iPhone list and table views. Seems to work. For iPad, we are supporting landscape just as you would on a Mac or PC. Our use testing shows this works fine.

Size matters on these layouts as you don't have a resize script step in FileMaker Go. If you size the layout exactly to fit the iPad screen and resolution, things go really well. This was our approach and we are happy with it.

You Can Build Out Functionality Fast

If you are building iPad and iPhone layouts into an existing robust database, you already have scripts and report layouts that just need some tweaking to add logic to use your iPhone and iPad layouts as appropriate. This speed of development is a huge benefit that FileMaker Inc. has gifted us with. Thanks a lot! Creating this much compatibility in version 1 of FileMaker Go is awesome.

Naming Layouts

SM11_Layout_Menu_Left_Aligned We like to show some layouts in the Layout Pop-down Menu in Studio Manager, so we had a little bit of a challenge figuring out how and where to add iPhone and iPad layouts to the already full list of table names on that menu. We name entry screens for each table the name of the table so that it looks nice in the layout menu.

First change, we decided to keep our naming convention for layouts with one exception: we added a special character and a space before all iPhone layouts and a different special character and space before all iPad layouts. That gives you names like this for iPhone: ◊ Contacts and ◊ Jobs. And layout names like this for iPad:
 Contacts,  Jobs. You get these characters in Lucida Grande which is FileMaker's screen font by typing Option-Shift-v and Option-Shift-k. We think of the diamond as a littler screen and the Apple symbol was just too good to pass up so it was used for iPad.

We found that it helped to create a Custom Function called LayoutPlatform. It just looks at the first character in a layout name and knows you are on an iPhone layout if that character is ◊ and an iPad layout if a . The main advantage of this so far has been that we can develop and test iPad and iPhone behavior on our laptops and desktops and get the behavior we would get on the iPhone or iPad. At first our logic was limited to whether you were actually on an iPhone or iPad and that got old really fast when we wanted to be in iPad or iPhone-mode while in FileMaker Pro.

Ordering Layouts

We decided, you have the least ability to move around and perhaps are less advanced when on an iPhone so put those layouts in a group at the top of the layout menu with a heading that says IPHONE and dividers above and below. Then we grouped the iPad layouts under IPAD. Finally, the rest of the visible layouts are under DESKTOP.

I have to get back to polishing Studio Manager 11 for release on Monday. You may want to take a look at some of the blog posts I've got on the studio-manager.com site for some screenshots of the layouts themselves. Some are pretty rough, but we've been improving with experience and are liking the results we are getting.