Category Archives: FileMaker Discoveries

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.

VTC’s Video FileMaker Tutorials Are Great and whole bunch are Free

I heard about this but never got around to checking it out till today. Somehow or other I landed on John Mark Osborne's FileMaker Pro Beginner Tutorials page today. It lists about 40 free training segments of about 5 minutes each. Some of these are featured at the FileMaker.com site.

No matter. The point is John Mark Osborne does a great job and a lot of this beginner tutorial applies whether you are a beginner or not. It features a top FileMaker  guru and master teacher talking about the new Features in FileMaker Pro 10.

That's not all. There are other topics like FileMaker Pro 10 Intermediate and another for Advanced. Again there are large numbers of free segments. The Intermediate and Advanced trainings are also taught by John Mark.

This is a try it and we think you will like it way of selling the VTC training. It's a gift. I don't know about you, but I'm watching these videos – the free ones at least. And, I'm telling my customers about them.

 John Mark starts teaching FileMaker Pro 10 certification this Spring, so he knows the latest in a very thorough way. Even advanced developers will benefit from listening and watching John Mark teach the beginner, intermediate and advanced tutorial. He talks about a lot of fundamentals and expresses his opinions on best practices such as field naming.

FMTouch: FileMaker in your Pocket on your iPhone

Fmtouch_smallUpdate Aug 8: FMWebschool has just lowered the price of FMTouch to $69.99 from $99.99. They are offering $50 FMWebschool store credits to buyers who paid the full $99.99 amount.

I didn’t see this one coming. FMWebschool is rocking hard. Their new FMTouch iPhone app shows true promise.

FMTouch provides a way to migrate a relational FileMaker database to reside locally on your iPhone or iPod touch. You can enter and edit data from your phone.

Even better, you can wirelessly sync your changes both ways back to a local or hosted FileMaker database. Realistically, you have to expect all sorts of constraints in these early days. But, watching the video, this mobile FileMaker app is already pretty darned amazing.

Today’s press release provides you some of the details, but there’s also a quick Intro Video and a detailed nuts and bolts tutorial video for your viewing pleasure. There is a downloadable list of features.

You get native performance, syncing and you are untethered. You don’t have to have wi-fi while you are out away from your computer the way you would with a web app. This is truly fascinating.

FMWebschool uses a current DDR of your database to create a native iPhone version of the database. That’s a pretty good trick in itself. Keep an eye on FMTouch. It is worth seeing how things go.

Hardcore FileMaker iPhone enthusiasts (especially those with bucks up clients who want to be first on their block with a FileMaker database running on their iPhones) should dive in now. It will cost you $100.

FMtouch was released on the Apple App store on August 5. You can buy FMTouch on the App store. A newer version (1.6) has already been submitted and is awaiting Apple approval.

FMTouch Youtube Video

FMCode: new FileMaker resources site

Hey FileMaker developers and advanced users. Someone in the FileMaker community is helping us out. Next time you say to yourself, “someone else must have figured out this FileMaker need before”, head over to FMCode and have a look see. I’m grateful for the efforts. I could not find an About screen and it looks like the site is just now coming online. Bookmark it and keep an eye on this timely resource.

Getting Your Mac Disk Catalog into a FileMaker Database

Diskcatalogmaker

I don’t know about you, but as a FileMaker developer, I have about 12 usable hard drives in my house. I don’t seem to ever get around to reconciling them so that I can stop buying hard drives for a while.

I was getting into the project last night because I have a misbehaving 1 terabyte drive I need to exchange. That means I need to move a terabyte somewhere else temporarily. To do this, I need to eliminate 1 terabyte worth of redundancy in a hurry.

So, I figured, I’ll create a FileMaker database: a table called hard drives and a table called folders. I looked in Automator to see if it would take a folder and give me a list of its contents as text. Let me know if I missed this. I can’t imagine someone hasn’t added this to an automator script but I couldn’t find one on short notice. That lead to me typing in about 50 folders and a couple drives. NOT!

Today is a new day, and I wanted a utility to give me the contents of a drive as a text file. Voilà, I found one called DiskCatalogMaker and it works great. Prints catalogs. It’s fast too.

You get 60 days to try this out with full functionality so that’s where I am with it for now. MacDiskCatalog is a nice little Cocoa app. VERY straightforward. You select Scan and it gives you an open dialog. You select a hard drive and it scans that sucker into its own catalog in 3 minutes or so for maybe 300 gigs of files.

Then you have a nice and handy export to text button. It creates a tab-delimited (I think) file with 5 fields: Name, Size, Type, Creator, Date Modified. I just dragged and dropped the exported text file onto FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced and it gave me the option to use the first row as field names – choose yes.

I wound up with a 179 mb file after I had done some Finds and Replace commands on it. Name is the full file path with the file name at the right of that path. I got rid of the hard drive as part of the path for my current purposes and put that name into its own hard drive field. I can always create a calculation to get that drive name back into the path if I need it.

From here, I’ll do a bit more cleaning and perhaps export summary data cause I don’t really want to know all the files on here or at least want to work with less than about 500,000 files for most purposes. If you want to be able to use filemaker to see how many copies of things you have, give DiskCatalogMaker a try!

For me this is fun and is a great relief. I might learn something about FileMaker 9’s capabilities when handling a 1/2 million records at a time along the way. Remember, I got a lot more hard drives left to do but it is going to be very fast to get them in here.

Now that I have my hard drive files and directories safely in FileMaker, I’m still playing around with DiskCatalogMaker to see what all it can do. If it was smart enough to tell me what to delete without my searching on big folders, I’d be totally sold. As it is though, I’ve got a terabyte I need getting rid of and I think I can use it to guide me to some quick scores.

Make Sure You Know About AdminAnywhere

Admin_anywhere_large_2Wow! I was browsing 3rd party apps over at the FileMaker site and they are featuring AdminAnywhere from 360Works. Looks like a great little helper app for anyone who needs to administer a FileMaker Server and can carry an iPhone or Treo.

See my more detailed write-up over on Studio Manager Bulletin. I want my customers to take advantage of this awesome tool. I can especially imagine all my IT guys and gals using this. They like to do IT things by mobile. Click to see the photo full-size.

I know for a fact that no card-carrying iPhone or Treo owner is going to pass this opportunity up. Did I mention that it’s only $49? Have fun!

FileMaker Development Tip: Going Mobile

Iphone_script_pdf

Yesterday when I was away from my Mac(s), I had an idea for something I wanted to do in FileMaker. All I had was my iPhone. I wished for a Back-to-My-Mac for iPhone so I could run FileMaker, but that’s not here yet. Will it be announced tomorrow?

Meanwhile, I decided to print my field definitions and key scripts to PDFs and make them available to me for reference from my iPhone and iPod touch via Evernote. I did say Evernote rocks as I recall.

It is working like a charm. Here I am the next day solving probems at my local coffee (with free wi-fi) hang out (Caffe Acri). I’m able to look at a script as a PDF on my iPod touch. I can see exactly what to do to offer a new Studio Manager feature.

My apologies for this photo. I tried grabbing a screenshot using Capture on my iPod touch. Had trouble syncing that screenshot to my Mac. So we have here a photo of my iPhone. Take my word for it, the screen is pristine, extremely bright and absolutely crystal clear.

The biggest win I’m going to get is probably when doing email and phone tech support. I can just look at scripts and field definitions as PDFs and a few entry screen screenshots for reference.

I already have Evernote notebooks for Studio Manager and FileMaker. You can find inside your notes in a single notebook or all notebooks. Tagging helps too.

Even when Back-to-My-Mac becomes available, it will often be much faster to refer to PDFs in Evernote. By the way, it is quite possible Evernote is working on a native iPhone version of Evernote. It might even be announced tomorrow! Dare we hope?

FileMaker Help Trick + Cool New Mac Evernote

Textedit_filemaker_help

I pasted a page from FileMaker 9’s online help into a TextEdit document because I wanted to have it handy for a project I’m working on. I had not tried clicking on the links in TextEdit but was pleasantly surprised today when I did. The link worked.

When you click on a link from a TextEdit document that contains an excerpt from FileMaker help in it, it links you to and brings up an html document on your computer in TextEdit for that particular topic you linked to. Very cool. At that point, you seem to be able to cruise around without using the Macintosh Help application.

By the way, I then tried copying and pasting some of the help into my FileMaker Notes Evernote notebook (Evernote is now available for Mac as a Beta). Unfortunately, the html links to my local machine were lost in the paste. Hopefully that will be fixed.

Evernote

Because I think Evernote is a cool note-taking tool for FileMaker developers, I’ll mention a few more things. You can see a bunch of instructional videos about Evernote. One reason Evernote is so cool is that you can access your data from any of your machines or from the web or from your iPhone or other mobile phone. The iPhone version of Evernote came out today! One of the things you can do is photograph things like your handwritten notes and diagrams in notebooks or on cocktail napkins. Your iSight camera will work too. Evernote does handwriting recognition on the photos automatically.

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.

FileMaker Pro 6 Worked Once in Leopard

No guarantees, but I did have success working in FileMaker Pro 6 with a copy of a client’s data in Leopard. I would not try this with live data at all. But, it’s nice that I did have no problems working in FileMaker 6 for 30 minutes doing several different operations.

FileMaker Inc. will not go back and test FileMaker Pro 6 to assure that it is fully compatible with Leopard. They don’t have the resources to go back that far. That means, use at your own risk. This is a tough situation for FileMaker consultants because most of us want to run the latest version of OS X. I have enough computers (3) that I can keep one on Tiger, if need be, but many of us will need to choose to stay compatible or move on.