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Duplicating a Portal

Clients are always asking me why the contents of portals do not duplicate along with a record. It makes sense. Portal data looks like it's part of the parent record so it should duplicate just like the local fields, right? After explaining how relationships work, the client still wants the related data to duplicate. The great thing is, the script isn't that difficult to write. There's just a few gotchas, opportunities for efficiency and, of course, the patented Philosophy of FileMaker considerations.
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John Mark Osborne

John Mark Osborne

 

Triggers I Can't Live Without

Script triggers often solve problems that otherwise couldn't be overcome. While script triggers are incredibly useful, don't abuse this feature or you may encounter script conflicts. Alternatives to script triggers are auto-enter calculations, manually run scripts and many other FileMaker features. Become familiar with every tool on your belt so you can choose the right feature for the job at hand. Hesitate to use triggers but when they solve the problem better than any other approach, use their power to design a top notch solution!
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Point in Time

Just about every database contains at least one date, time and timestamp field. Just think about the housekeeping fields for starters. Every table should contain a date and time when a record was created and modified to track record maintenance. I also add manually entered and scripted date fields to almost every table to track when events occur. It ends up being a lot of date fields! While most of your fields will be text, date fields are more commonly calculated and therefore more important to understand. When I teach a beginner course on FileMaker calculations, I always cover the function groups for text, date, time and logical because they are the most important. Being able to manipulate date and time data, but especially dates, will help you become a successful FileMaker developer so study this article carefully.
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Conditional Subsummaries

A tremendous amount of reporting power has been packed into FileMaker Pro with an incredibly easy-to-use and flexible interface. The power and simplicity behind adding and deleting parts to organize your pages almost makes it too easy to create a sophisticated printed report. However, when a subsummary group crosses a page break, the subsummary part content doesn't repeat itself, requiring you to flip back and forth between the pages. During my five year tenure at Claris technical support, this was one of the top ten requested features. Twenty years later and there's still no way to attach a calculation formula to a part much like you can with Access Privileges to create conditional records. At least add a check box to repeat the subsummary part contents at a page break. Until some future upgrade, parts obey one set of rules embedded in the FileMaker code base. For now, your best bet is to employ workarounds for conditionally calculating subsummary content.
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Calendar Conundrum

Everyone wants a calendar in their FileMaker solution these days. There's tons of web viewer solutions out there for purchase that will integrate well with your FileMaker solution. There's even plug-ins to integrate with iCal or Google Calendar. What I'm going to give you today is a taste of how to build a calendar with just standard FileMaker tools. That means no web viewer or complex acronym web code (HTML, CSS, PHP, JSON, JAVA, etc). Just good ole FileMaker calculations, scripting and relationships in this article.
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Themes Rule

Before you create any layouts, you need to decide on a theme. Choosing a theme is one of the most important decisions you will make for a project. Themes define the user experience more than any other feature in FileMaker. Buttons, backgrounds, Fields, Tab Controls, Portals, Popover Buttons, Slide Controls and just about every object in FileMaker has been thoughtfully designed by interface extraordinaire Heather Winkle. I’m not talking about the tools themselves but how the objects they create appear to users. Having a good looking and consistent interface starts with a good theme
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Weight Lifting

This technique has no real use in the real world. Say what? Yes, you read that correctly! Think of the technique I'm about to cover as weight lifting for your FileMaker mind. It's about solving a complex problem, learning new scripts steps and functions, and generally getting smarter so the next time you tackle a problem you'll be more prepared. I believe in conditioning so much, I often write scripts from scratch I could easily copy and paste. But I digress. All I can say is if you want to build up your FileMaker muscles and learn some new tricks then keep reading.
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John Mark Osborne

John Mark Osborne

 

Form Letters in Browse

Empowering users of your solution to create their own form letters is life-changing. No longer do they have to contact the developer, explain their needs and go through a back-and-forth testing stage. The developer just designs a single interface that allows the user to create, save, edit and delete their own form letters. It's really not that hard to program either. You just need some global fields, a calculation and a couple of scripts for the foundation of this technique. This approach seems like less income for the developer but that's shortsighted. I always say happy clients equal more business!
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Context and Relationships

Context is everything! Haven’t you ever had something you said taken out of context and then tried, desperately, to figure out how to get yourself out of the hole you just, inadvertently, dug for yourself? The same goes with relationships. In life, as in FileMaker, they can be tricky and, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can get yourself in a whole mess of trouble. This article is really for newbies to FileMaker; anybody who has been working with FileMaker for a while will, or should, know this stuff so it’s very basic but, hopefully, it will have some value.
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Parsing for Features

Data parsing isn't just for manipulating data into a preferred format. You can also create features that weren't otherwise possible with standard FileMaker tools. That's one of the things I love about FileMaker. Instead of giving you a one-dimensional menu item to support a specific need, like Microsoft, FMI gives you multidimensional tools. By combining two or more tools, you can can create a new capability in a FileMaker solution. One of the most overlooked tools are the text and value functions. I aim to demonstrate several examples in this article that highlight how parsing can make wine out of water.
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Parsing A Web Form

Have you ever gone back to modify a script six months later and wondered what the heck you did? Even with all the commenting and documentation, it still takes you a while to relearn the script. And, what if you want to move the script to another solution. You have to modify it to match the layout, field and table names in the new database. Dynamic scripting is about creating smart solutions. If you program a script with intelligence, it can adapt to layout, field, table and file modifications. It takes a lot of practice but can ultimately save you a lot of time and make you a better programmer.
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Data Parsing

Imagine receiving a file from a client, or your boss, with improperly delimited data. It's actually quite common. Just because someone can build a database, doesn't mean they can properly structure it. A common scenario is for the first and last name fields to be in the same column but you never know what you are going to encounter so it's best to be well versed with the text functions in FileMaker. In fact, data parsing can actually assist in creating features that weren't otherwise possible! That's why I consider data parsing one of the most important skill sets for database developers.
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Anatomy of a Calculation

FileMaker calculation formulas allow you to add, subtract, multiply and compare values with operators. If you are familiar with spreadsheets like Excel or Numbers, it will help you to understand FileMaker calculations. However, FileMaker Pro calculations go much further and enable you to manipulate text, work with dates, ascertain the status of FileMaker Pro, make decisions and much more. Rather than covering any specific calculation formulas in detail, the aim of this article is to focus on providing a good foundational knowledge for the complex calculations you will encounter as an aspiring FileMaker developer.
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Seven for Seventeen

There's a lot of FileMaker 17 content on YouTube. It's hard to tell which material is the best so you can optimize your learning. You could spend hours trying to find the right video to answer all your questions about FileMaker 17. I've gone through a lot of the videos on YouTube and here are my favorites. Hopefully this will save you a ton of time. Let me know in the comments area below if I've forgotten an incredible video.
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Seventeen is Prime

Last year was sweet sixteen. This year is prime seventeen. That's the best title I could come up with after Googling the number seventeen. Not much out there for this number. While seventeen is a prime number, prime can also describe the new FileMaker 17, adding features that will change the way you develop your FileMaker solutions. Seriously! Also, I'm going to focus on desktop enhancements but I'm sure there are many bloggers out there who will talk at length about FileMaker Go and FileMaker Server enhancements, of which there are many.
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Interface Ease

Good interface design should be instantly recognizable and immediately useable. Creating an appealing layout is easy with themes. Designing a functional layout is another story. There are many techniques out there for developing intuitive interfaces but I prescribe to the grid. Grid interfaces provide a clean, organized and calming effect on users. Your interface design can make or break the success of your project, so design carefully by starting with a well designed form and list layout based on the grid system. Not only will the grid system be covered but a plethora of other interface tips, tricks and guidelines for creating successful interfaces without a ton of effort.
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File Freedom

In my two decade career, I've only seen corrupt files while working in technical support. I was in technical support for five long years but even then it was not a common occurrence. Rarely have I encountered a corrupt file while working with a client or in my own personal FileMaker solutions. With good file management practices, your FileMaker file can live a long and happy life, free of corruption. I'm not saying corruption doesn't happen, it's just rare. Still you need to be prepared if the FileMaker God's choose your file for repair. This article will explain how corruption occurs, how to avoid it and how to fix it if needed.
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FLF

I've mentioned FLF (Find-List-Form) in several other articles on this web site but I think it's so important that I wanted to devote an entire article to the subject. So many developers have moved so far away from the roots of FileMaker that they almost don't even know what they are. Then they teach other budding FileMaker developers wacky workarounds for something that is so easy to accomplish with basic FileMaker tools, and these impressionable minds think it's always the right approach. Yes, sometimes we need a good workaround but most of the time we just need good FileMaker fundamentals.
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Stuff Ya Oughta Know

Some things in FileMaker require an entire article to explain thoroughly. Others are just a paragraph of description but are no less important to your FileMaker professional career. Some people call them tips but I like to think of them as nuggets of truth. The stuff in this article was hand picked by myself based on the criteria of how important they were to me when designing a successful solution in FileMaker. I've probably forgotten to mention so many cool tips I use on a daily basis but this is what came to me when writing this article. Feel free to throw out your own personal ideas in the comments below. I'd love to hear about your nuggets of truth!
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Alternatives to Serial Numbers

In this final article from a series of four articles, I want to cover alternatives to restoring records using serial numbers and relationships. The first method I will cover uses the Snapshot Link feature and is fairly straightforward. Just a few issues with interface to overcome. The second is a script to save and restore find criteria. Restoring find criteria is no walk in the park. Strap on your galoshes cause we'll be wading through muddy waters. There are also various advantages and disadvantages of each technique that you'll want to pay close attention to so you can choose the right approach for the right situation.
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Collecting Unique Values

Since Darren Terry published his infamous article on saving found sets for future retrieval in 1996, a lot has changed in FileMaker. The additions from the last thirteen versions of FileMaker offer many alternatives for amassing unique identifiers. The differences in collection methods mostly come down to speed but there are a few other considerations that shouldn't be overlooked. However, restoring records remains the same, relying on the humble Go to Related Record (GTRR), and will not be discussed in this article. I also won't be able to point specifically to the originators of the additional methods for collecting unique values as they have been lost in the vastness of time. For all I know, I was the first to come up with some of these techniques.
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Saving a Found Set

Found sets are what make a database a database. Without found sets, a database wouldn't be much more than a relational spreadsheet. Found sets determine which records print, sort, export and preview. Practically all features in FileMaker are structured by the found set. Sometimes you have to break the found set, current record or sort order, unbeknownst to the user. Maybe the user is running a script that does something very complex that requires destroying one of these elements. The user doesn't care how difficult it is to program a feature. The user just wants a smooth experience. If you have to change the found set, current record or sort order, you had better restore it. The only person who should modify the records showing is the user himself. In this followup article, I will demonstrate how to permanently save found sets.
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Preserving Found Sets

Imagining a database without found sets is like picturing a bird without feathers. It just doesn't make sense. Found sets are the essence of a database. If there were no found sets, you would need to sort your entire list of records and scroll to find a record. To say the least, this would be an inefficient process... especially if you have more than a thousand records. Found sets are what make a database a database. Not only do finds allow you to locate a specific record but they also enable you to perform actions on a subset of records like importing, exporting, printing, sorting and looping, to name just a few. With such a far-reaching effect on the processes in FileMaker, found sets often need to be preserved and/or reloaded. "Save" is a good word to describe what I'm going to talk about in this article but there are all kinds of saves. Some saves are temporary and other are more permanent. Being able to work with different save techniques is crucial to applying the best method to the task at hand.
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Multi-User Contradistinction

How you design a FileMaker solution often depends on how it will be accessed. Is it a single-user solution running off the local hard drive? Is it a multi-user database with all users accessing from the LAN? Maybe there is a occasional remote access from someone at home? What if the company is distributed across the United States and needs a completely cloud based solution? Maybe some users won't always have an internet connection? It could be that some users don’t even have FileMaker? These are some important questions to ask yourself or your client before beginning the design phase of a solution.
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Reconciling Record Locking

One of the most important concepts to grasp hold of tightly, when moving from the design of single-user to multi-user FileMaker solutions, is record locking. It's a fairly simple concept to understand. It just prevents two people from editing the same record at the same time. The complex part of record locking is programming your scripts to manage record locking. In this article, I'll start by defining record locking, demonstrate what causes record locking, show you how to test for record locking without hosting your solution and finally how to trap for record locking. I'll also throw in a few examples for good measure so you can measure your newly found skills in the context of a real life scenario.
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