Category Archives: Migrating to FM7

You Should be Accessing Your FileMaker Database from Home

Fm8 Adv Box

If you are running FileMaker 7 or FileMaker 8, there’s no excuse for not using FileMaker’s robust and speedy remote access capability. All it takes to get it going is to have a fixed IP address for your FileMaker server (even if it is run from FileMaker Pro not FileMaker Server) and holes in your firewall for 5003, 50003 and 50006.

I’m not a networking expert, but the typical in-house IT guy or gal can handle this with a quick look at the documentation for the device on your network that is running your firewall. If you don’t already have a fixed IP address, you can either get one or use a DNS service for a small monthly fee (less than $10) that will make your dynamic IP address operate like a fixed IP address.

You don’t even need extra copies of FileMaker for home use. Just install the same copy of FileMaker that you use at work on your home machine. Since you can’t be in two places at once, you’ll never have a conflict between your identical installation codes. If you are already using a Powerbook as your main machine, run don’t walk to get this remote access going. It’s way too convenient to miss out on.

You and your employees should set-up your FileMaker database at work as a favorite host so you can easily log-in and get things done when the need arises. Most executives have days when they don’t need to be in the office except for perhaps one little thing. If you’ve got your business data in your office database, you can usually do that one little thing and avoid the commute.

Also, if you’ve got your database set up for remote access, I can log-in and fix things on the spot even if I’m at my local Starbucks having coffee and away from my office. This is an amazing safeguard and convenience. Instead of your sending me your file(s) by email, I can often do a quick fix in 5 or 10 minutes and we are done. Same day, same hour as when the need arises.

My clients are designers. They often travel for press checks, photo shoots or simply meetings with clients in other cities. With remote access set-up, you and your employees can log-in and get very good performance from any broadband connection wired or wireless. Life goes on. Nothing changes. No disruption. Just a lot more convenience.

If you are still using FileMaker 5 or 6, remote access is a good reason to seriously consider an upgrade to FileMaker 8. Already some of my clients operate one database from multiple locations. If you are one of those firms and haven’t upgraded yet, you need to check this out.

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If it Works, it’s Obsolete

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I was just reading the #2-rated pdf manifesto over at Change This. The manifesto is entitled This I Believe! – Tom Peters 60 TIBs that he wrote right around his 60th birthday. I found the above quote by Marshall McLuhan applicable to FileMaker 7 and my product, which is still in Beta, Studio Manager 7. FileMaker 6 is solid as a rock and 7 still has teething problems here and there. FileMaker 6 is obsolete – it’s not built with FileMaker 7. Same for Studio Manager 4.6. If McLuhan could say this in the sixties, I hate to guess how utterly true it is now. Food for thought.

The work of building Studio Manager 7 has been monumental. But, I’m so glad that FileMaker Inc. had the courage and vision to create such a big, progressive, ground-up re-write of FileMaker that I would find the work so compelling. The possibilities so exciting. I thought Studio Manager 4 was a big deal. Little did I know…

FileMaker 7 Migration Tip: Use FileMaker 6 too

ToolBoxIcon_smallI should have started doing this sooner. I’ve found that the FileMaker 6 versions of files I’m migrating to 7 are really handy. I can be in the Database Design dialog of 7 and switch to FileMaker 6 and open the Define relationships dialog for the file I’m working on without disturbing my 7 dialog.

One of the chores of moving FileMaker 6 files into a single file 7 solution is fixing calculations that break in FMrobot because the relationships they are based on aren’t defined yet in 7. What you get is a commented out calculation with the FM6 relationship name. I can open up the 6 Define Relationships dialog for that named relationship and see which fields I need to connect in 7 to make my calculation work.

To save time, I’ve made screenshots of the Define Relationships dialogs in 6 so I have a list of the names of the relationships and matching fields. I widen the dialog columns first so that I can see the full relationship and field names. Then I keep those lists in one corner of my screen for reference as I work in 7, creating relationships in the database dialog. Works great.

Another help is to open up the files you are migrating in 7 and use them for reference – this is also where you’ll do your copying and pasting of layouts. So when I’m working with the Jobs table in my single-file database, I have the 7 version of the individual Jobs file open too. Looking at the simpler Relationships diagram for this single table is much easier on the eye – especially if you spend a little while organizing that diagram. I color-coded my individual file diagrams, so they were very usable for reference (this was when I thought I was going to release a multi-file 7 solution). Since the names are inherited from 6, it’s easy to see the 7 version working and then replicate that in the single-file diagram.

As you might imagine, a big 20″ screen or two screens can be an advantage here. If you’ve got the real estate, have these open:

Textedit: you’ll want a text editor handy to hold copied calculations, relationships and field names.

Preview to see your screenshots of FM6 define relationships screens

FileMaker 6 versions of the files you are migrating.

FileMaker 7 versions of the individual files you are migrating. I keep them stacked up to the side so I can open them while having my single-file 7 database open as the main event.

This set-up will make you quite efficient. If you can spare the change, Waves in Motion’s Analyzer 4 can be helpful too. More on that later.

FM7: What it takes to migrate to a single file solution

SM7 relationships graph

After attending the FileMaker Developer’s Conference a couple weeks ago, we are back to looking to see if we can do a single file solution for our product, Studio Manager, in the near rather than distant future. Unless money starts falling from the skies and we can hire more help, we will still release a multi-file version with minimal changes first. We’ve been working feverishly on the single file version lately to see just how much work it is going to take to deliver this solution. It is a LOT of work.

Again, the quickest way to 7 is to plan, prepare, convert, fix what broke, enhance slightly and deploy. Since attending Filemaker 7 Bootcamp in July, this has been our target. We are well along that path in the testing and refinement stages now. We are still hopeful that we can get the multiple file version out by October 1st.

Here’s what’s involved to migrate to 7 the hard way without simply starting all the way from scratch:

1. Run the best version of your files through MetaDataMagic.

2. Clean Up the File References so your files will open quickly in 7. MDM can do that with auto-fix with a little manual tweeking using the program. It’s easy. Document and clean up passwords so that you can open the files at all in 7. You can always sneak back into the FM6 version to see what went wrong if need be. But this might require reconversion – a pain.

3. Use FMrobot to convert all these FileMaker 6 files to tables in FileMaker 7 within a single file: FileMaker 7’s holy grail. You’ll get all the fields but most of the calculated fields will be commented out. Once your relationships diagram is clean, most of the calculations will work by just deleting the comment syntax, but the calcs with relationship references will only work if the relationship names match.

4. Look at the Conversion Issues in MDM and clean up your FM6 files as much as you can.

5. Convert all your files to FM7 by dropping the folder onto the FM7 application icon (Mac) or blank FM7 window (Win).

6. You have no decent layouts right now in the 7 version just fields and raw layouts with no formatting, logical placement, color, tabs, buttons or value lists. Decide on screen sizes for the new layouts you need. I decided to go with 845 x 650. We are assuming 1024×768 minimum screens for Studio Manager 7. This is up from 650 x 500.

7. Import sample data file by file.

8. Create blank layouts and copy and paste in your old layouts. Increase their size as planned. You can duplicate layouts and modify when you’ve got several that are similar.

9. Come up with a table navigation script that can get you from one table to another (such as from Contacts to Jobs to Timesheets and back to Contacts). The script needs to keep track of the layout you were on in Contacts so that when you eventually return to Contacts, you come back to the same layout. This is not automatic as it was in FM6. We created a Tables table that has a field called LastLayout so that every time you switch tables, you write the name of the layout you are leaving from into this table. When you move to a new table, you lookup that table’s LastLayout and navigate to it. It works!

10. Come up with a scheme for layout navigation buttons. Control all layout navigation within the same table with a single script. This is possible using the script parameters. The minimal scheme would have the layout name as the script parameter in each button. The only problem with it is that if you change a layout name, all the buttons that point to that layout break.

11. Figure out how to handle the fact that you now have a single layout navigation button and a single Scripts menu for your entire solution instead of separate ones for each file. You’ll need to sharply limit what appears on these lists or they will be too long and cumbersome.

12. Organize, re-organize, color code and carefully name and label the elements of a huge relationships graph. As you go along, this graph gets bigger and more complex all the time. We didn’t really fully anticipate the size and complexity this graph would have as it gets close to full size.

13. After you’ve got your navigation buttons working and all the layouts you are sure you’ll need, your next challenge is to script it all. Remember, the scripts didn’t come over with FMrobot. You can import your scripts from your old files and group and name them so that you can keep track of everything. This is your chance to decide not to duplicate all functionality. In many cases you’ll need to modify the scripts in some way to get them to work properly.

14. Get a journal going to capture the problems you encounter, the changes you are making and the ideas you are getting, etc.

15. Start using the ability to write field comments and to comment within calculations as opportunities arise.

16. Stay alert to new ways of doing things that will save time or provide more value, but keep on task. Don’t let feature creep keep you from completing your version 1.0. Just note other possiblities as you go along. Only the best of the best ideas that appear to offer immediate rewards should be introduced into your development process at this point.

17. Test, fix and polish.

FileMaker 7 Migration Bootcamp Day 3

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Day 3 wasn’t quite the triumph I was hoping for, but it delivered the goods. I suspect we were all too exhausted for it to be as ecstatic as it might have been. Nevertheless, we did find the consolidation of knowledge we were looking for.

By day 3, brain death was still an issue for me. I was in bootcamp, and I was getting tired, so it was sometimes hard to think clearly. However, armed with the previous evening’s clarity in written form, I was able to ask the questions I needed to ask and get a sense of closure from my 3 day inquiry and education.

Sitting here in my living room, the day after a good night’s sleep, I am feeling powerful, excited and confident to move forward with dispatch on the process of migration. This training has been such a positive experience that I’m now considering taking The Support Group‘s 4 day FileMaker 7 training called What’s Next? in the next couple of months. They do kick ass training too and offer classes near me in San Mateo. For now, though, I’m going to give myself some time to assimilate, incorporate and elaborate on what I learned here.

Planning and being organized about migration have been key themes. My good intentions about planning the process and adhering to the discipline of tracking every step along the way have been strengthened mightily. Trial and error testing is a great compliment but a poor substitute for using the MetaDataMagic tool to get a list of possible conversion issues and addressing them one by one.

I had two goals going into the training. (1) Get a handle on migration issues and (2) learn a lot more about FileMaker 7. These two goals were accomplished. My approach and strategy for converting my powerful and complex in-house filemaker system and my product has changed. On my own, I’ve tried both ends of the spectrum: (1) Build from scratch and (2) Convert and run and modify. I’m abandoning both of these approaches for a better third approach. And, I’ve learned a great deal about 7 so that knowledge will inform my work.

My new *big picture* migration plan:

  1. Create an action plan even if it’s only the first phase – I can do phase 2 after I’ve gained some experience in phase 1. This will include a list of key business processes that need to work correctly – giving me a master checklist against which to measure my progress.
  2. Fix the file references and make sure passwords and groups are set-up cleanly so the conversion will work. Use MetaDataMagic to help with this.
  3. Use MetaDataMagic to identify conversion issues and handle as many as possible in FileMaker 6 prior to conversion. The free Conversion Issues Database is very helpful here.
  4. Convert to 7.
  5. Handle the rest of the identified conversion issues to clean things up with testing as I go along. I received a great set of example files mentioned yesterday that will let get some hands on mastery with key conversion issues by playing with the files.
  6. Avoid introducing 7 features into the converted files because they were designed in an environment where multiple windows and multiple tables in the same file were not possible. The logic within these converted files will work surprisingly well as long as I don’t complicate things.
  7. Then – the fun part. Create a new UI file to start creating new FM7 features. This gives me a sandbox where I can learn 7 and start gaining benefits from it.
  8. Rebuild the converted files in a new 7 file. One approach is to call it data but there are many more options. Using FMrobot and other tools, it is surprisingly easy to do this in 7. This step can be done over a period of months. There’s no hurry.

The migration plan above is directly based on what I learned in this class. Knowing what I know now, I am certain that I will be worlds better off with this approach than with what I had going before attending the class. This class gave me the concepts and information I need to move forward in a bold, clear-eyed way. Very exciting! More FM7 insights coming soon.

FileMaker 7 Migration Bootcamp Day 2

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In keeping with the bootcamp theme, Danny and Todd showed little mercy today. We were subjected to hour after hour of all the things that can go wrong (Danny calls them challenges) when files are converted from 6 to 7. It wasn’t pretty.

Even though we were all near brain death by the end of the day, we staggered out knowing much more than we came in with. Finally, in the last 1/2 hour of the day, Danny spent some time talking about how we can deal with, ameliorate or prevent the kinds of things we spent all day with. Needless to say we were grateful.

As a sort of reward and encouragement, Danny gave us two key tools to help us when we get back to the *real world* and start the work of migration in earnest:

  • Example files for the entire day’s trainings, each illustrating a particular potential point of failure. Each of the examples includes an FM5 version and an FM7 version.
  • Migration Manager. A roadmap and resource cache – naturally occuring as an FM7 application devoted to helping us manage our migrations systematically and precisely.

After the class, I was so motivated that I spent about an hour and half this evening writing notes and planning the next steps for migrating my Studio Manager product to FileMaker 7. That really helped me feel ready for Day 3 of bootcamp. I’m still on my feet and ready to go. Day 3 should be the best day. Stay tuned!

FileMaker 7 Migration Bootcamp Day 1

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I’m in sunny Santa Clara, CA staying overnight after spending my first day in FileMaker Bootcamp. This three-day course is fantastic if you are a serious FileMaker consultant/software developer and want to know how to get from 6 to 7 without tears.

You know the expression *there’s a pony in here somewhere*? Well, Danny Mack and Todd Geist of New Millenium Communications seem to have found a herd! As you know, I’m a fan of Danny’s company and tools MetaDataMagic and FMrobot. And I’m not the only one. At last year’s FileMaker Developer’s Conference in Phoenix, Danny received the FileMaker Excellence award “For Outstanding Innovation and Contribution to the FileMaker Platform”.

OK. Enough of the fluff. What did I learn today? This is a very strategic and hands on class and it’s getting late, so I’ll deliver the learnings as bottom lines:

There’s a terrific and sane way to get from FileMaker 6 to 7. New Millenium calls it Convert-Restore-Extend-Consolidate. I’m already convinced by NMCI’s thinking. It makes most sense with complex FileMaker databases to convert your files and just clean them up enough so they work under 7. Then add a new user interface table that points to your converted files and from there build new functionality in your UI file.

Eventually, you can move the old converted files from your 6 app inside your UI file if you like and replace the originals – without the huge effort you might have imagined. This brief description doesn’t do the approach justice. Read Adding a New Interface File to an Existing Solution, Later Consolidating Tables by Todd Geist in the free pdf Upgrading to FileMaker 7: Migration Foundations and Methodologies for the details.

FileMaker 7 is even more different than we’ve been thinking. That’s actually the problem – six thinking! There are so many new possibilities in 7 that confront with overwhelming options. One of the smart things to do, according to these guys, is to shut some of the doors that 7 has opened. I’ve been sensing the same thing. The outside validation I’m getting here is just the extra nudge I needed to follow my instincts and stay sane with this intoxicating product.

You don’t have to know all the answers with 7 to start using it. It is so flexible that you have lots of different ways to change course in midstream as you learn more. Because you can do things so many different ways and the power is virtually unlimited, you have options upon options even when you think you’ve backed yourself into a corner.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but perhaps these thoughts will help you avoid a pitfall or open up a new way of thinking. I’m hoping to deliver another installment tomorrow night.

How to get 6 with FileMaker 7

Little Known Fact Department

Those ordering FileMaker 7 can get a FileMaker 6 installation CD and installation codes as a free add-0n by making a request that FileMaker 6 be included so that they can gradually migrate to 7 and run FileMaker Pro 6 until they are ready to switch completely to 7.

fmp6 box smallI haven’t tried this request yet, so I don’t know all the particulars. But I’ve been assured by multiple parties that it works. Individual product purchases and upgrades may not be covered. Volume licenses are covered. It appears that the only way you get this deal is when you buy direct from FileMaker Inc.

If you have any question about your readiness for 7 and you don’t already have FileMaker Pro 6, buy yourself some extra flexibility. You don’t have to choose between 6 or 7. Get both. Purchasing 6 without 7 makes no sense and, at this point, purchasing 7 without 6 makes equally little sense.

FileMaker Pro 7.0 (please note the “.0”) is a new, complex product with immature support around it. As with any product upgrade of this magnitude, it has more bugs, limitations and rough edges than it will have once it is subjected to the scrutiny and demands of early adopters. This is not meant as criticism. FileMaker 7 is surprisingly useable and reliable – already. But, if you have a mission critical application, it’s too early in FileMaker 7’s product life-cycle to be switching over.

Anyone with a significant investment in FileMaker who is eager to gain the benefits of 7 should be working on migration preparation and planning, experimenting with FileMaker 7 development while still relying on FileMaker 6 for anything you depend on.

FileMaker 7 Security is Sweet

FM7_box_120px_wide.jpgAfter screwing up my courage and reviewing my error list from MetaDataMagic today, I decided to just go ahead and convert my files and see what happens. Looking at MDM’s conversion issues report and looking at my Studio Manager database, I could see that I’ll need to check a lot of things systematically but the nature of the problems is such that it might work to make the adjustments after conversion.

This breaks the general guideline suggested by FileMaker 7 migration guru, Danny Mack, but I’m planning on multiple trial conversions of my product anyway and wanted to see what would happen when I just threw the FileMaker 7 conversion switch.

First, the good news. The conversion took less than ten minutes. Nothing blew up. I didn’t need a fire extinguisher or anything. Remember, I did clean up the file references before converting and ran MetaDataMagic on my files and reviewed the error list and recommended fixes. For each recommendation, it tells you whether you should make the changes before or after you convert or that you can do it either way.

I have 4 levels of groups and passwords in my Studio Manager files. I wondered what would happen with them. My first experience was good. I was able to use my master password to get into my files after the conversion, using the master password for both the account name and the password as I had read I should. Whoopie!

My luck didn’t last long, though. When I clicked on a script-protected tab or file navigation button, I got my self-authored “sorry, access denied” message even though I was logged in with the master password. I wasn’t surprised – I wasn’t expecting miracles. I just went in and looked at my security calculations and security checking scripts looking for a culprit and couldn’t figure it out.

Next, I changed the master-access account name (formerly the group name) to “master” to match my security calculations but that didn’t work. The calculations were actually using the privilegesetname not the account name, but I was still getting my sea legs and wasn’t crystal clear on the distinction yet.

Notice that I was focusing my attention on technologies I was familiar with. Finally, I got smart and cracked open the new Define Accounts & Privileges command. There I saw what some of you already know – the master access privilegesetname is hard-coded to be “Full Access”. So I just went around and changed my security calculation fields to use Full Access instead of master and things started working!

One other little problem occurred around this. When I opened my files for the first time in FM7, I was offered the option to remember the passwords and I said yes to all. Seemed like a good idea at the time. But then I ran into the problem that I had not entered the master password in one of the files which has a special secret password and now it was set to automatically open with a lower level password by my OS X keychain.

Not to worry, I looked up keychain in the help and found the keychain entry for the file I was having a problem with and after futzing around for a while just deleted it. That worked! This time when I tried to open the file, I got an account and password prompt and could enter the high-end account and password. Good to go!

Now that I’ve conquered these little hiccups in my security learning curve, I am really getting psyched. I know how incredibly easy the keychain stuff is. Opening my FM7 Studio Manager files will be effortless. My system password protects all these saved account names and passwords along with all the other passwords I have. Thanks, FileMaker Inc., for making your password and privileges system compatible with the OS X keychain! FileMaker Inc. is owned by Apple, so I guess it’s about time, but thanks anyway!

For years I’ve steeled myself to the fact that the password and security part of FileMaker has been convoluted and unintuitive. It was the one thing in FileMaker I hated to use. Now, even though the new FileMaker 7 security is much more powerful, it’s easy. It’s straight forward. For a FileMaker geek like me – it’s fun!

MetaDataMagic 2 Roadtest, Part 2

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MetaDataMagic 2 rocks bigtime! I did two new things with it since my last report:

  1. Fixed the File References in my product.
  2. Built a Conversion Issues report for it.

Both of these functions are excellent with the second providing more value to me than the first.

FIXING FILE REFERENCES
Prior to FileMaker Pro 5.5, you couldn’t specify that you only wanted relative file references which are great because if all your files reside in one folder, then you can move that folder anywhere and none of the file references break. Prior to 5.5, less robust file references like IP addresses were stored and, worse, the references weren’t directly accessible for modification. They are in FM7, but even so, the manual method can’t compete with MDM’s file reference powertools.

There’s an *auto-fixer* that will eliminate all references to files outside your solution *and* convert and set your file references to *relative path only* – all the rest go away. I ran auto-fixer without a hitch in less than 2 minutes on my complex 27-file Studio Manager product. That’s time savings!

I had tons of file references in these files and was left with the minimum I need to have things work correctly and as fast as possible. I’ll let you know when I try the performance out how much performance gain I get in FM6 and FM7.

FINDING CONVERSION ISSUES
Whoa! This thing is amazing! New Millenium has identified a total of 82 different possible issues so far. I had 23 of them applicable to my solution. Of those 23, 18 were considered high impact and 7 medium impact. You get a brief description of the element that is causing the issue and then a potentially multi-paragraph description and pointers directly to the files impacted in your solution so you can go fix them right now.

I was tempted and on the verge of converting my Studio Manager files to FM7 without doing much cleanup in the hopes everything would be OK until I ran this report. Here’s just the first 3 of 23 conversion issues found:
(42) Go to Related Record button function
(216) Go to Related Record Script step
(25) External subscript transfer focus to another file

Ack! Those numbers in parentheses beside each issue are the number of occurrences of that issue in my files. I’ve got some serious work to do. It will be easy work with this information and tool but it will be a lot of work.

Luckily, I will at least have a hope in hell of doing the fixes in an organized way and I can run the report on my files to see where I stand in handling the issues. There’s a checkbox that lets me tell it to ignore that issue for now which I bet will come in handy.

FREE STUFF ALERT
You get the Conversion Issues database free when you download the trial version of MDM2. There’s a lot of information in there. Go forth and download!