The Support Group Blog

The Support Group Milestones

When you get more than three FileMaker developers in the same room, it’s inevitable that at some point in the conversation they will start reminiscing about “the good ol’ days” of FileMaker and trying to one-up each other with how long they’ve been using FileMaker (since 2.1 in my case).

As we anticipate the release of FileMaker 18, I've gotten a little nostalgic about the FileMaker application and naturally, about some of the major milestones of The Support Group.

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Why Attend the FileMaker Developer Conference

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.

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Export Custom Headers from FileMaker to Excel

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.

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Track Inventory and Manage Schedules Using the FileMaker Platform

Keyes North Atlantic (KNA) provides design and installation service and maintenance for electrical, heating, cooling, alarm and automation systems. They've been serving clients in Greater Boston and the surrounding areas since 1952. From gas-powered generators and high-efficiency heating solutions to thermal solar and variable refrigerant flow systems, they do it all including designing and engineering the projects. They offer a wide range of services while demonstrating the highest level of professionalism and excellence with every customer and project. They're able to maintain workflow efficiency and exceed customer expectations with the help of a workplace innovation platform – FileMaker.

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Search and Replace Regular Expressions in Google App Maker

Although Google App Maker is a great example of a “low-code” development platform, it isn’t exactly a “no-code” platform. To really leverage the potential power of Google App Maker, you need to roll up your sleeves and write some code. Luckily the code of choice for Google App Maker is JavaScript, one of the most widely used and well-documented languages out there. JavaScript is the language that web browsers use to execute most website workflows, so it only makes sense that Google App Maker would use it too. Even though JavaScript is one of the more approachable languages available, it's still a deep and varied subject that will require a book to explore completely. Having said that, there are some aspects of JavaScript that you will most likely find useful in Google App Maker, specifically when it's combined with another tool called regular expressions (regex).

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Naming Styles in the FileMaker Platform

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.

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Education Enrollment Custom App for The West Side Montessori School

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.

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How To Share Files in Google App Maker

Google App Maker is a great app development tool to help you streamline and improve the way you work. And, it's also useful for storing the important data that help you get your work done. It's an invaluable tool that allows you to log in from anywhere to view and edit your data. But sometimes you need a hard copy or at least a copy you can view offline. Who hasn’t printed an e-ticket for an event or a boarding pass for a business trip because it's just easier to pull out a piece of paper than to find, launch and then log into an app on your phone, which you hope has enough power? So with that reality firmly clenched in our fists, we created a way to share hard and soft files in Google App Maker.

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How the Stages of Grief Relate to the Software Development Process

We develop custom business software solutions. Our job is to turn a customer’s business needs into functional, organized and attractive software solutions that improve their business operations. At the end of the day, our job is to make our clients look good inside their organizations.

At the heart of every software product is change. Once projects start to take form, our clients begin to see different possibilities and their minds fill with creative enhancements that will make their software even more valuable. We like when clients get excited about new possibilities, but it can also be difficult in terms of managing expectations.

It occurred to me that the process developers go through when faced with very difficult development challenges is much like the well-known stages of grief that psychologists describe. So here we go on the mental journey of almost every technical person faced with almost insurmountable client challenges.

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FileMaker Platform Integrations: Integration Inspires Innovation

One of the reasons FileMaker is a superior Workplace Innovation Platform is because of its integration capabilities. When our clients/prospective clients ask us if FileMaker can connect with other applications, my immediate answer is yes! But I think the better question to ask is: "how easily can the FileMaker Platform connect with other applications?" FileMaker offers many ways to integrate with other technologies. I myself have found very few limitations in terms of connecting a FileMaker application with other applications. As FileMaker, Inc. (FMI) releases new versions of the product, the integration capabilities expand. We've been able to connect FileMaker applications with other applications via ODBC/JDBC, live external data sources, PHP/XML APIs and flexible import/export options for many years. And now we have other integration functions like Data API (REST), cURL options in Insert from URL, native JSON functions as well as many JSON specific custom functions and a Tableau connector.

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