Category Archives: Migrating to FM7

MetaDataMagic 2 Roadtest, Part 1

metadatamagic_logo.gif

I’ve run three complete FileMaker 6 databases through MetaDataMagic 2 with no problem in the last 48 hours. The biggest one so far, my Studio Manager product, took about an hour to process with its 27 files and tons of fields, layouts and scripts. I was quite pleased with the level of detail of information I got and the ease of getting it.

mdm_2_log_file_large

I love that I don’t just see a progress bar during the analysis but instead a list of records with time elapsed as each analysis task is completed on each file. There are 27 analysis tasks. Some tasks are quick and others take longer. The longest task in most situations is going to be *get layout item data* – that’s the step where every layout object is itemized and described down to it’s exact position on the layout.

One of the most interesting pieces of information I found out about my Studio Manager product was how many times files had not been closed properly. Many of these files have been around for several years and I could scan the list to see how much wear and tear they have endured. Good to know. In one file the number of improper closes was 20. Since I’m having no problems with it, I won’t do anything about it right now, but this information would go into my decision-making for whether or not I would want to rebuild it from scratch in FileMaker 7. I like this information!

The process. Here’s what I did to get started.

  1. Went to New Millenium’s website and downloaded MDM using their shopping cart
  2. Cracked open the ReadMe file for basic operating instructions.
  3. Opened the main FileMaker file.
  4. Decided which system to analyze first.
  5. Clicked the *Process a New Solution…* button
  6. Selected the folder to process, entered master passwords and clicked *Go*
  7. Immediately up came a second window with records listing progress and duration
  8. I watched most of it go because it was fun and then did something else while waiting for completion
  9. Then I jumped to looking at any error listings.
  10. Next stop was the Files Not Closed Properly list…
  11. Later, I wanted to do a 2nd analysis for files for one of my clients.
  12. To do that, I just duplicated the folder for the first analysis, renamed it and started MDM up again.
  13. Then I clicked the *Delete all Metadata* button.
  14. Then clicked *Process a New Solution…*

I needed one of my analyses for a specific purpose: to give my client a correct list of relationships in all the files so that she could double-check them to make sure they were correct. She had opened files from a remote machine when only some of the files were open on the server and some of the relationships got misdirected. I was able to go to the Relationships file for her analysis and quickly send her a pdf by email.

More soon as I use MDM 2 for helping me analyze my product’s readiness for conversion to FileMaker 7!

Just bought MetaDataMagic 2

metadatamagic_logo.gif

I just completed my purchase and download of version 2.0 of MetaDataMagic by New Millenium. Version 2, released last week on March 30th, is an essential tool in migrating your existing FileMaker files to FileMaker 7. Here’s why:

  1. It incorporates Danny Mack’s new Conversion Issues Reporting Tool and as it creates its detailed analysis of your files, it also records any conversion issues it finds (Danny is the author of a 27 page document on FM7 migration that is featured on the FileMaker, Inc site right now and the author of FileMaker 7 Migration Foundations and Methodologies that is due out any day now – he gave an excellent presentation in Santa Clara on behalf of FileMaker, Inc. regarding FM7 migration in February).
  2. It includes a File References Fixer that streamlines the process of eliminating extraneous file references in your files so they don’t slow things way down when you convert to FM7. The File References Fixer will also help you clean up FileMaker Pro 6 files to their benefit.
  3. It includes their Conversion Log Analysis Tool – which helps you analyze the conversion log for errors

Maybe you are still on the fence – trying to decide whether you want to put your money into this product. I was convinced by the essential migration features, but I’m also really looking forward to the extra system analysis documentation tools not available elsewhere such as:

  • Relationships: sort spec, with fields and value lists.
  • Layout items: text blocks, graphics, and buttons, including coordinates
  • File stats: times not closed properly, times recovered

I expect to run MetaDataMagic on at least one of my FileMaker solutions in the next 24 hours. So, stay tuned for my first person reports. 😉

FMPro Migrator vs. FMrobot

Just days after FMrobot came out (see my last post), .com Solutions Inc. updated FMPro Migrator to include the ability to convert multiple FileMaker 3, 4, 5 or 6 files to multiple *tables* within a single FileMaker 7 file. And it only costs $99.

Keep in mind as we go through this comparison that FMPro Migrator does many other kinds of migrations (to MySQL, Oracle, Access, SQL Server, DB2 and Sybase), so its ability to consolidate multiple FileMaker files into a single FM7 file is just one of its many features. FMrobot, on the other hand, is by comparison a one-trick pony. It focuses only on migration to FileMaker 7 and associated functions.

FMrobot, at $199, is twice the price of FMPro Migrator. Bottomline, FMrobot offers at least twice the value of Migrator’s FM7-related capabilities. The serious developer and anyone else who has a big need for migration (read lots of files and/or files with lots of fields), will pay the extra money for FMrobot. Besides the extra $100 for FMrobot, you’ll also need FileMaker Developer 6 or 7. Most serious developers and corporate FileMaker installations already have a copy of Developer which is $499 vs. FileMaker Pro’s $299. FSA Associates and Partners get Developer as part of the FSA membership – $595 a year.

I started with FMPro Migrator because .com had an OS X version and FMrobot only runs on Windows at this point – an OS X version is in the works. I hadn’t read the Migrator sales materials on the website very closely and didn’t realize that I still needed to run the second half of the migration process on a PC or Virtual PC because Migrator uses ODBC and the ODBC plug-ins for FM 7 don’t work on the Mac yet. Disappointment #1.

After running FMPro Migrator on my 48 open FileMaker 6 files which created all sorts of CGI scripts, I copied the CGIs to my PC and then downloaded Perl on my XP machine and installed it – I was directed to a free download. Then I had to install a FileMaker ODBC driver which was on my FileMaker 7 CD. I got stuck activating the ODBC driver and emailed .com Solutions and received a reply from David Simpson, the man behind .com Solutions, at 10 pm Friday night. Not bad – he answered my questions and offered to help me by phone on Saturday! I sent a few more emails that night. David called me on Saturday morning. He spent over an hour with me walking me through installation issues, some problems I had converting one of the simpler files and giving me some PC tips. He’s very helpful and patient.

When I ran the CGIs for my 48 files, 23 of them were created with no problem. I was disappointed again, though, even with the files that converted easily and very quickly (less than a minute per file). All I got was text, number, date, time and container fields. Calculations just came out as static text, number or date fields. Ouch! Further, no entry options made it through the translation process and all field names got forced to lower case and spaces were replaced with underscores.

That left me with 25 more files to investigate and *fix* one by one. I spent another hour and got about three more files through the process. At this point, I decided it was time to try FMrobot! Remember that I bought FMPro Migrator the day after it was released. Field name filtering had not yet been perfected. Documentation wasn’t sufficient – at least for me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the conversion success ratio is already much higher by now. By Monday a QuickStart manual had been posted to the .com Solutions site that would probably have allowed me to handle the PC part of the process with dispatch except perhaps for CGI failures that may still have occurred in some cases.

Then I tried FMrobot. As soon as I tried it, I stopped all further use of Migrator. No contest. Besides its ability to smoothly build tables in a FileMaker Pro 7 database from a FileMaker Pro 6 Database Design Report with entry options and calculations (even though lots of the calculations were commented out), it does more. It provides a way to duplicate a table within an FM7 database. It provides us with the ability to move tables from one solution to another. FileMaker consultants and developers can build utility tables of various sorts and sell them because they can be copied into a customer solution (since layouts and scripts don’t come along for the ride, there would be some limitations). A FileMaker front-end for FMrobot is in the works and will be a free upgrade.

Hopefully, these upstart migration utilities that have been released within 30 days of the release of FileMaker Pro 7 will be improved and extended in many ways in the next weeks and months. I suspect that we may see additional entrants in this market as well because the need is great and universal for anyone with a sizeable multi-file FileMaker Pro solution. I wouldn’t even be shocked if FileMaker, Inc. further improves its conversion routines to help us out in a few months. It will get easier over time as utilities improve and we learn more about the best migration techniques.

Migrating to FM7 with FMrobot

FMrobot_logo.gif

You don’t need FMrobot to move your FileMaker 6 and below files to FileMaker 7, but you sure will be happy if you have it. Although groundbreaking in many ways, FileMaker Pro 7, has one glaring weakness – it doesn’t convert files created in previous versions of FileMaker Pro cleanly and completely. And one thing it just doesn’t even try to do is take a database with multiple files and combine it together under one roof as multiple tables inside of one file – in most cases the most desirable set-up.

If you want some or all of your files under one roof, you are faced with rebuilding all but one of the files from scratch. You do this by converting all your FM6 or earlier files to FM7. If you start with 10 files, you’ll get 10 files when done converting to FM7. Let’s say for argument’s sake that a Contacts and Invoices file are among your 10 files. Name the Contacts file something like Company Database. Now create the Invoices file and all its fields one at a time as a new table inside the Company Database. Make sure to create all the calculations (you can copy and paste from your old file if you like going back and forth between files for each individual field). This is where FMrobot saves the day.

New Millenium has built FMrobot ($199), an automation tool that will rebuild a file that resides outside the walls of your single-file database and put it inside. It works only in Windows for now. It works by automating keystrokes and will rebuild a file before your eyes field by field including calculations, entry options and lookups. If it runs into something that produces an error in a field and it will, it just comments the calculation out but preserves it so that you can make what is usually a small change to get the calculation to work.

I bought FMrobot about ten days ago to help me convert my 28-file business database running in FileMaker 6 into a single file, 28-table FileMaker 7 database. What a life-saver. FMrobot draws upon the Database Design Report that is generated by FileMaker Developer 6 or FileMaker Developer 7 which lists for $499 and is free to Associate and Partner members of the FileMaker Solution Alliance. FileMaker Developer is a full version of FileMaker, so you pay a $200 premium for its extra capabilities.

Once FMrobot has done its magic and you have all the files built. You’ll need to fix some of the calcs and will also need to build or copy layouts into these files and import scripts. You’ll then need to fuss a bit with these layouts and scripts to get them working exactly as they did before.

What I did to make it worth my while is I streamlined my system that had been built over many years and had lots of junk in it – extra fields and layouts no longer used. Now that I had been using the system for years, I knew which parts of the system worked well and which seemed like it would be a good idea but really never got much use.

This partial rebuild process starts to become worthwhile if you take advantage of it as an opportunity to take a fresh view of your system and build it better this time. Of course, because FileMaker 7 is so new, your first cut at a FileMaker 7 version won’t always fully and best exploit its new features and differences from previous versions of FileMaker.

As a serious FileMaker developer, I’ll be learning everything I can as fast as I can about FileMaker Pro 7. Stay tuned as I record my discoveries here.