The Nebraska Forest Service (NFS) first approached us to help them reduce redundancies and centralize their data so that they can focus on protecting their natural forest resources and educating their community. In addition to providing resources and training for volunteer fire departments, hosting workshops for the public and offering grants to communities, schools and other organizations that help manage and protect the trees and forests of Nebraska, NFS also tracks the number of wildfires that occur across the state. Many state and federal agencies require wildfires to be reported. And, recording the wildfires as well as the response efforts of the local volunteer fire departments helps NFS coordinate and provide a variety of federal and state grants to those volunteer fire departments.
The Support Group Blog
Generally, we all get excited about the major features in each new release of FileMaker. But, let's not overlook some of the minor, more obscure enhancements in FileMaker 18. As they say, the devil is in the details and so even little changes can make a huge difference. I, for one, am pleased that we're able to distinguish the product version and specify a custom app to open when the product launches.
If you had a specific situation where you needed to perform loops within a calculation, you were resigned to recursions. But now FileMaker 18 allows for While calculation functions so you can avoid those cumbersome recursive functions. No custom function necessary, no having a function call itself, no worrying about being sucked into a wormhole – maybe that last one is just me.
Every year, usually during the summer, FileMaker hosts a massive global conference for their developers. Like most customer/user conferences, the goal is to experience the product in different ways and explore new product features, in a supportive and fun environment. But leave it to technology to create a common developer dilemma – to go or not to go to DevCon. FileMaker, Inc. will eventually share most, if not all, of the session materials – including videos – within the FileMaker Community. So why not save the registration and travel expenses and wait until the materials become public?
Well, The Support Group has participated in DevCon in different capacities since the very first event in 1996. Yes, it's been that long and we can certainly tell you that it's worth it every year! We even share some of our own DevCon experiences during and after the conference. I cannot adequately capture the essence of why we go to DevCon, but I will try to capture a few of the main benefits.
The FileMaker Platform gives you plenty of options for exporting data out of your app. You can export files as text or even a separate FileMaker file but in our experience, the most common export format is Excel. It's pretty easy to export data out of FileMaker into Excel; the tricky part is customizing the headers of the exported data.
Why would you want to customize the headers? You may want to customize headers so that they're easy for the user to understand or to make them consistent with field names in other systems. For example, some of our developers like to group the "name" fields in a contact database by having them all start with the text "name" – nameFirst and nameLast instead of First Name and Last Name. So when we export that data natively from FileMaker, the column header will be nameFirst, not First Name. I won't get into why we do that here; that's a whole other blog post about field naming conventions.
There are different factors that contribute to a successful custom application. Of course, function is important, but even if the app does exactly what users need it to do, users may not necessarily like it if it's difficult to use due to poor legibility, navigability, responsiveness, etc.
FileMaker, the Workplace Innovation Platform, helps to speed up custom app development, right down to the smallest detail, including design styles. The user interface has a huge impact on user experience. A well-designed interface generally equates to a positive experience. Developers must ensure that they use appropriate and consistent fonts, sizes, colors, images, layouts, and so forth within their applications. They can simply accomplish this by creating custom styles for the apps they design.
The West Side Montessori School (WSMS) has been offering a Montessori program for early learners since 1963. The school has grown from fifteen students to over one hundred and they also offer a teacher education program (WSMS-TEP) for adult learners training to become Montessori teachers. Based on the Upper West Side of New York City, they also have locations in New Jersey and Beijing China. In 2015, they renovated part of the children’s gymnasium into an adult learning space for their WSMS-TEP students. Needless to say, growth and development are important to the founders, faculty and students, both young and young at heart. And so we knew a Workplace Innovation Platform, like FileMaker, would facilitate that growth.
I've finally jumped on the bandwagon; I've upgraded to the FileMaker 17 Platform. I know, I’m a developer and I should have done it as soon as it released, right?! I have no good excuses, but better late than never. So here's how I navigated the upgrade process.
I downloaded the installer file and installed it, so far so good. I opened the file for the first time and immediately noticed the new My Apps window. This new window provides easy access to My Apps and Recent files as well as a button to Create a file. The new UI is very modern and intuitive.
It amazes me how easily we adapt and respond to visuals. Not only is functionality important to software development, but design is also pretty important. Because time is a limited commodity, usability and intuition are important factors when encouraging users to adopt a new system. And generally, the visual elements of the system determine how quickly users are able to learn a new application. Design includes many different aspects – color, layout, fonts, sizes, etc. You have to be strategic with your design elements, including those micro-images we call icons. Those seemingly small symbols ultimately make a big impact on user navigability and comprehension.
Who else but Google has created a style guide for all of their applications and shared it on the interwebs for everyone to use. Material Design is basically a design language that Google created to unify digital interfaces and experiences. They offer lots of good UI/UX design ideas in this document and a bunch of free resources. Who doesn’t like free stuff? One of those free things is a whole set of icons, nice ones. You can browse through them here: https://material.io/icons/.
In a former life, I was an administrator at Parsons School of Design where I was responsible for registering 400 students and assigning them to the proper classes. The process was completely manual, but I strongly felt that technology could provide a better way. As a self-taught computer nerd, I introduced FileMaker 3 to Parsons and one year later, I designed and built a digital system that not only automatically assigned classes to all 400 registered students, but also tracked faculty schedules and assigned classrooms. As an added bonus, we stored pictures of all of the students using a very early webcam. I’ve been using the FileMaker platform with a variety of clients around the world ever since.