Category Archives: FileMaker 9

FileMaker VOIP Phone – Make and Receive Calls

Geist Interactive is pushing the envelope once again. Todd Geist has a video up on Blip.tv demonstrating a product he is working on called FMRibbit. He’s developed the demo with Ribbit’s developer tools.

The video shows Todd receiving a call right on his computer into his Filemaker database and then making a call to an iPhone from the Filemaker database.

If you are a developer and think using a FileMaker database as a phone, you’ll want to keep FMRibbit on your radar. Looks like a nearterm thing. Ribbit is still in beta. You can sign up now to be notified when Ribbit is available. Geist is on the case! You can subscribe to Geist Interactive’s fmtv in iTunes.

Using BaseElements for FileMaker Pro 9 to get PrivilegeSet data

Baseelements_privilegesets

I purchased BaseElements from Goya in mid December and it is a must have tool from my perspective as a FileMaker developer. I need all the help I can get to document my solutions, check them for errors and find my way around my solution when I’m building new features or debugging something that’s not working the way I want.

BaseElements takes the XML in the DDR and puts it into nice little FileMaker records where we can see exactly what is going on and get to the heart of the matter in a hurry.

I’m enjoying having this tool very much but I found it even more valuable after making a discovery. The solution is pretty open but where it is really wide-open is when you create new layouts. I was trying to get all the table and field access details of the 16 privilegesets in Studio Manager into records so I could print them out as documentation and use them as a reference without having to go into Manage Accounts & Privileges.

It wasn’t obvious how to do this because all I could see was a privilegeset record with some tabs, one of which showed each table in a portal with things like whether you could create, edit or delete records in that table given the current privilegeset. I wanted all the custom field access. What fields could they not see? That seemed to require getting down to a lower level of granularity but there was no tab for that.

I happened to try creating a new layout and voilá all the related tables within the PrivilegeSets table were there for my choosing. End of problem. You can export data too. I don’t really need to export, but creating a simple custom report layout will give me what I need.

My next experiment will be to try out the compare file capability introduced in version 1.6 that lets you compare one version of a solution with another. I already purchased and wrote about FMdiff and recommend it to the skies for those who need a near instantaneous way of comparing two filemaker files.

FileMaker Pro 9 Roadtested

Filemaker Pro 9 Advanced

It’s been over four months since FileMaker Pro 9 was released in July. The first 30 days or so, I used FileMaker Pro 9 with some hesitancy to be sure no serious bugs would be found. I am happy to say that FileMaker Pro 9 and 9 Advanced have held up like champs. They just work. I highly recommend FileMaker Pro 9.

To be clear, there will always be bugs and issues with any large, complex piece of software. You never squash all bugs because changes have unintended consequences that may only show up in extremely rare situations. So, don’t stop backing up. If you have a complex installation, you know it and know to (1) have an impeccably thorough and frequent backup system that matches that complexity and (2) do a lot of testing when you upgrade to new software to make sure everything works. I will say, though, that in these hectic times, corners are cut in the testing department more often than I would like. So, this is the disclaimer/reminder.

That said, I would not hesitate to recommend FileMaker Pro 9 as the basis for the work of all of my customers who have upgraded beyond FileMaker Pro 6. Maybe you still haven’t crossed that hurdle. Even though FileMaker keeps getting better and better at conversion of FileMaker 6 with each new release, you still need to test and prep the files before you convert. The minimum you want to do is use the File/Save a Copy as… command on each file you have before you convert. That goes for anyone upgrading to FileMaker Pro 9, whether from FileMaker 5 or FileMaker 8.5!

So, you’ve fluffed up your files with Save a Copy as and done some testing commensurate with the complexity of your database, system configuration and deployment (how many users do you have?). Then you are ready to experience a great, great piece of software.

You can sleep easier at night with FileMaker Pro 9. Remember how I was saying that a surprising number of people don’t test and backup as much as they should? Well, FileMaker Inc. hates it when a database is damaged or lost because a hard drive goes bad or something else goes wrong and there’s no good, current backup. They don’t like tearful phone calls anymore than the rest of us do. Besides spending a lot of time making sure the FileMaker community knows about backup best practices, they’ve put a special new feature into FileMaker Pro. FileMaker Pro 9 spot checks the quality of your files for you. When you open up a file in FileMaker Pro 9, a quick check is done to see if the file is OK. This is not a foolproof test, but I like the due diligence.

You can sleep even easier at night with FileMaker 9 Server. Geared to larger installations where more is at stake, FileMaker 9 Server takes this data checking and notification way further. You have the option to receive automated emails when the Server’s automated backups occur. You have the option to be notified when and whether verification is successful. This isn’t sexy but it is new and really helpful. If you are using a mission critical FileMaker database, you want this stuff!

Most of us FileMaker users are like other software users, we don’t scratch the surface of what the software is capable of. We don’t take the time and effort to learn what the software can do. It’s often just that we can’t find the spare time. If there’s anything you should do to improve your database after you upgrade, it is to use the new Conditional Formatting command to make your database more expressive. In a couple of minutes, you can make your overdue invoice numbers automatically turn bold red when they need attention. conditional formatting will make your users aware of important discrepancies and missed deadlines.

But, I’m a FileMaker Professional and I’m enamored of all the little things FileMaker did to make FileMaker Pro sing. The little touches that make all the difference. All the heavy FileMaker users who get under the hood on a regular basis are thrilled that now they can have script windows open while they test those scripts or add or modify calculated fields. You can keep the ScriptMaker window open and do other things and come back and it’s still right where you left it. You don’t know the time that saves!

I took a 1/2 day course on PHP and FileMaker and took many additional hours of sessions on PHP and FileMaker at the FileMaker Developer’s Conference this year. There was huge excitement about FileMaker making it easy to use PHP when you want to deploy a database on the web. I have to admit that I have not yet ventured to the web with PHP with my Studio Manager product. But, give it a little more time – I hate being an early adopter when mission critical systems are at stake. We should see some amazing stuff in the next year or two.

In my memory, I can’t remember a release of FileMaker that inspires such devotion in the FileMaker developer community. It seems that a lot of these developers refuse to work on systems that are based on anything but FileMaker 9. FileMaker 8.5 just won’t do!

FileMaker Pro is a seriously mature database development environment these days. It’s still easy to use at the entry level for quickie database needs, but it has graduated to the big leagues. And, of course, there will be more where that came from. I am so impressed with the commitment of FileMaker, Inc. They’re like Apple (big surprise, they are a subsidiary of Apple)! They do great things for a living.

The magic is still there and growing with my use of FileMaker Pro Advanced. I recommend everyone who gets FileMaker Pro 9 makes sure they have a copy of the Advanced version. I see FileMaker Inc. has caught on and now include a copy of Advanced with their multi-user bundles these days. Debugging, copying script steps, copy and pasting tables and lots of other things make the Advanced version a must have.

Before I end this little rave, I just want to mention FileMaker Inc’s new product, Bento. From what I hear it is sexy and it is meant for personal applications, not the bigger, more elaborate stuff that FileMaker is often pointed at. I’m so busy at the moment, I haven’t taken much of a look, but I’ll be back with my take on it soon.

Developer Productivity in FileMaker Pro 9 Awesome

I’m getting incredible productivity in FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced. The Advanced features help mainly in the debugging phase. The regular Pro 9 features help in development with the multiple script windows open while I test.

All the pieces are in place now to be very efficient as a developer.

I’m in the middle of a project converting a FileMaker 5.5 system to FileMaker 9. This is way fun. I’m taking multiple scripts and cranking out single script parameter and variable driven versions in a couple minutes. Maybe its the growing experience along with the fine-tuning FileMaker Inc. has done in 9.

A great experience. FMI has put it all together. I expect you’ll be hearing a lot about FileMaker 9 here and elsewhere.

My Ten Reasons to Upgrade to FileMaker 9

Just a note to let you know I wrote a new entry on the front page of my FileMaker Kingdom page on the above subject. Scroll past the Big Picture preliminaries and you’ll see my top 10 reasons to upgrade. If you aren’t already on FileMaker 8.5, you can continue down the page to see more reasons included in previous upgrades. This is my personal list. What I like and a little bit about why.

First FileMaker 9 Review I have Seen

Filemaker Pro 9 Advanced

MacWorld has a short but good review of FileMaker 9 out already. Since I haven’t written my own thoughts yet, I thought it would be helpful to point you to this in the meantime.

Well written. Friendly to FileMaker by someone who seems to know it well. The author, William Porter, is an independent database developer and writer in Dallas. William is the founder of Polytrope LLC and is a classics scholar with a penchant for FileMaker. Sounds like a neat guy. I hope we can meet up at the Developer’s Conference this year.

Some Highlights:

FileMaker 9 can, by itself, serve to up to 9 FileMaker clients (without using FileMaker Server). The previous limit was 5. It used to be 10 before FileMaker 7. That’s a nice thing when a client is trying to get started and wants to cut some corners temporarily to get in the game.

There’s a cool PHP Site Assistant feature now. FileMaker 9 still has instant web publishing and custom web publishing but now FileMaker Server 9 gives us an intermediate option – a PHP site creation tool that is extendable. Instant Web Publishing is fantastic as far as it goes, but it has a fairly low ceiling. If you need something else, you are stuck. But, the easy PHP stuff here can be programmed additionally to handle extras and exceptional situations. I will be brushing up on my PHP pronto because of this tool that gives you a jump start.

FileMaker Server 9 and Server 9 Advanced are much easier to install. I rarely install FileMaker Server, but I do know my customers have frequently gotten stuck trying to get it up and running. I always attributed it to short attention spans and unwillingness to crack up the documentation, but, the new versions apparently can be installed in around 20 minutes, William, says.

FileMaker 9 should in almost all cases be compatible with FileMaker 7, 8 and 8.5 databases. William says: “it’s reassuring to know that upgrading to FileMaker 9 is not going to break anything”. This means you can operate with some users on one version and some on another but remember that if a feature is Filemaker 9-specific, it won’t work in earlier versions. That’s the reason to consider a maintenance contract so you can just put a maintenance payment into your annual software budget to keep your software current.

You can now easily create interactions between FileMaker databases and the big iron SQL databases. FileMaker 9 can talk to MySQL, MS SQL and Oracle databases. That covers most of what’s out there. This will be helpful when you want to connect to web-based databases which are often MySQL or corporate databases that typically use Oracle or MS SQL.

You can combine filemaker reports into one PDF. This is practically my favorite new feature. Now I can create a single invoice pdf that actually involves three different pieces such as a cover page, a middle detail piece and terms. Very handy. Previously, you had to resort to buying and integrating an external plug-in to get this functionality.

William promises a more extensive review for MacWorld.com. This initial review was technically called a “first look”.

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