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What makes a FileMaker solution 'elegant?'


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Or pieces of a solution...

Sometimes I read in this forum about a way of doing something in FileMaker and I think 'wow, that's really cool; I'd like to do that in my database' and I print it out or otherwise file it away for future use. Then, further down the message the writer will add something like 'well, it works, but it's not elegant' or another person will respond with a similar response -- 'but it's not elegant.'

So, what makes a solution or a procedure or a layout tip, etc elegant? Is it that it uses FileMaker's internal functions rather than plug-ins? Or because it's done with (or without) a script? Or that it stays on one layout, or uses more than one layout without the end-user being aware of this? These are vastly over-simplified example questions, I realize, but I'd like to hear others' opinions as to what is or is not ELEGANT.


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The simplest, fastest calculation which gets the correct answer is deemed the most "elegant." Sometimes, though, when speed is of less importance, clarity and structure of the calculation trump other elements--so "beauty" can play a role in the determination of "elegance."

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I think the opposite of elegant is Kludge.

From Dictionary.com:

a. "A system, especially a computer system, that is constituted of poorly matched elements or of elements originally intended for other applications."

b. "An ill-assorted collection of poorly matching parts, forming a distressing whole."

One of the very first times I ever used the internet I visited the site of a Mpls CAD reseller (as I was in that business at the time) and was introduced to something that was the opposite of elegant.

On their web site they had about 8 or so navigation buttons running down the left edge of the screen. Animated graphics were obviously all-the-rage then because each button was an image of their logo. One was spinning, one was whirling, one was twisting, one was rolling, one was flashing, one was oscillating... you get the picture. It was awful. Your egg-salad sandwich would begin its return engagement by just visiting that URL.

To me elegance is simple clean lines and code. Well matched color combinations. A consistent user experience. Well thought out labels and instructions. Intuituve operation.

Unfortuneately, FileMaker doesn't always promote elegance. For example, most (if not all) of the popup calendars that I have seen in FileMaker are not elegant. Clever yes, but not elegant. This is not the fault of the developers but rather a shortcoming of the FileMaker program.

Good discussion for Valentines day because an awful lot of what is elegant, is in the eye-of-the-beholder.

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I found I was pretty good at coming up with clever solutions, but it took quite a bit of time lurking around these forums for me to start understanding what it is to make an elegant solution.

I think that the most elegant ideas are essentially invisible to the user, while enabling them to do their tasks more efficiently. They should be easy to use and work quickly and reliably.

Of the (numerous) concepts I've picked up here, I think that opener files are one of the best examples of an elegant approach. If you haven't checked those out yet, I recommend you do:


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some qualities of elegance for a process (in no order) B)




easy to follow and debug

generalised (can be applied to a wide range of situations)

qualities of elegance for an interface (in no order):


efficient data entry


prevents user error

meets user's needs

meets business requirements

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Elegance in programming is quite an epic topic; you can get into a real Sharks vs. Jets situation, especially when talking to Windows and Macintosh users about the idea. Nevertheless, to follow on after what everyone else has said, elegance in programming is precisely what it is in everyday life. As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary (erm, mine is from like 1968 or something), it is:

elegant, (of movements, style, author, manners) graceful; tasteful; refined

I won't bother with the rest. But those are the keys. If your solution looks good, has a color scheme which doesn't detract from its functionality (and is, in fact, part of its functionality) and is easy to use (and difficult to misuse) and ABOVE ALL makes the user's experience flow better, and makes their work simpler to do (especially on a step-by-step level), then it's elegant.

What goes on under the hood is another thing entirely. Then you're into elegance in programming, and I am not one to talk about that, as I rarely have the time to practice elegant programming, but rather have to rely on brute force and simple solutions. But I try to never let the end-user see it.

Look at Apple's Human Interface Guidelines for some practical tips on the topic; even if you have it in for them as a company, you've got to admire the elegance (that word again) of what they produce. Think about the iPod, and how simple it is to use, and how much power is hidden in that basic interface.


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Well, I thought I'd responded to this yesterday but I must have been dreaming.

I appreciate the insightful comments that have been posted to this thread. Before I asked the question, my own definition would have been simply

* tasteful/easy on the eyes

* doesn't require frequent addition of new fields/relationships to maintain its integrity (well thought out in advance)

* low learning curve ('what to do first/next' is obvious to user)

I like the idea of keeping the nuts and bolts invisible to the end-user but I'm struggling because my skills aren't really that good yet. However, if I can keep the users from doing any harm, I'll be happy. And that'll be an 'elegant' solution. <G><G>


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