Migrating to FM7

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

Migrating to FM7 with FMrobot


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.

FileMaker Facts

FileMaker Timeline

I just looked up FileMaker in the Wikipedia for the first time and found, among other good things, a chronology of all FileMaker releases. It’s a good tidbit. I did a bottomline edit to just show the major releases here:


Glenn Koenig has written a fascinating behind the scenes story about the early years of FileMaker based on a phone interview with one of the original four founders of Nashoba Systems, Spec Bowers, called The Origin of FileMaker Pro.

FileMaker Resources

2 Free FileMaker 7 Videos

FM7_Video1.gifOver at the excellent FileMaker Magazine site run by one of my all time favorite FileMaker gurus, Matt Petrowsky, they’ve posted two great introductory videos about FileMaker 7.

An Introduction to FileMaker Pro 7

An Introduction to FileMaker Pro 7 – Part 2

If you are wanting to see what all the excitement is about in a live demo, you must see these two cool 40 and 50 minute videos. Matt provides running commentary while you watch him working with FileMaker Pro 7. Double-click if you need to pause and then double-click again to unpause. Matt does a great job – he’s taught standing room only sessions at the FileMaker Developer conference for years and is the author of Scriptology.

FileMaker Fever

Introducing FileMaker Fever

I’ve been blogging on Tech Ronin for about a year now, really love blogging and enjoy participating in the blogging community. I’ve been a full-time FileMaker consultant since 1986 and introduced a FileMaker-based product called Studio Manager about eight years ago. I live and breathe FileMaker as my primary source of career expression and income.

So, when an awesome, exciting and very different new version of FileMaker – FileMaker Pro 7 – was released on March 9th, I started thinking about devoting a whole blog to the subject since I knew there would be much content to put here.

All sorts of new developments and ideas and techniques are and will continue to come out of this big new technology and I wanted to be there for it – first hand – telling the story to people who love FileMaker like I do. I’ll be introducing what I’ve found so far in the next weeks and then keep you up to date as more unfolds.

Things I’ve written recently about FileMaker 7:
FileMaker 7 Arrived Today
FileMaker Pro 7 Released
FileMaker 7 Rocks the House