Migrating to FM7 with FMrobot

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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.

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