Category Archives: Web/Tech

Could FileMaker Talk to Google and Mapquest?

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Today I was preparing a mailing to all of my FileMaker clients. I wanted to warn them about the fact that you can’t just upgrade to FileMaker 7 from previous versions without giving it a second thought. One of my customers called today and said she bought FileMaker 7 because she upgraded to OS X. I told her that she should return it because the FileMaker 6 she already had would work fine in OS X and unless she wanted to spend some money on tweeking before and after, the system I built for her was going to break in 7.

This was not the first customer doing a FileMaker 7 upgrade *on-the-fly* without consulting me first. So, to avoid further problems, I wanted to do a mailing to all my past and present FileMaker customers. Since I haven’t worked with some of my customers for few years, I don’t have all their email addresses. In many cases, their phone numbers had changed too so I couldn’t call to get their email addresses.

Google.
This is when I thought that it would be great to have a *Google* button right in my FileMaker database that could Google anyone’s full name or company name with one click. If I could do that, then the next step would be to create a script and button that could Google a set of records and return data to me on what it found. I’m guessing that I will be able to create a Google button for one person. And that’s probably as far as I’ll go for now, but if someone wanted to build a little plug-in or custom function that would Google a FileMaker Found Set and return records, I’m ready to plunk down the cash!

Mapquest.
Later, I was looking for a great restaurant to take my Dad to for his birthday. I got a good recommendation after trying Google and not really finding what I wanted with assurance it would be good. So I wanted a map for my sister and went to Mapquest. I had already entered the restaurant into my database for future reference and actually dragged the Mapquest map right into a Map field I had available in the database.

That worked, but why couldn’t I have a Mapquest button that would go to Mapquest, get the map and put it in my database for me based on the address that was in the database already? That would be so cool. In this case, if I can do it for one contact, I can definitely run a script that would put maps into every record (thousands) in my database. Learning about web services and FileMaker is starting to seem like a great idea.

Anyone want to build something like this? It’s relatively simple if Mapquest has an open API and I’m sure tons of FileMaker users would be interested.

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!

MetaDataMagic 2 Roadtest, Part 1

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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.

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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

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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. 😉