If you're a user of a spreadsheet or any other program that displays information in tabular format, you're probably familiar with a quick sort technique. You can usually click a column header and the data within the column will automatically sort in some way. You can sort of (pun intended) do this within a table view layout in FileMaker as well, but it's not as simple as a click. You have to right-click on the header and navigate a Byzantine labyrinth of menu options before you get to what you hope is the expected result. Wouldn't it be nice if you could provide the typical user experience to yourself and your users within your custom FileMaker app? Well, you can...by naming a few fields/objects on your layout, creating a global variable or two and some buttons that run a script. But we're putting the cart before the horse; let's start at the beginning.
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As consumers, our active involvement in product development is basically limited. Some of us might participate in a focus group or share customer feedback to help product managers learn more about product pain points and/or ways to improve usability. But generally, product decisions are based on projected financial and utilitarian outcomes. For example, when we're in the market for a car, we don't work directly with Tesla to design a bespoke car. We usually select from a set of preconfigured models and maybe a list of add-on options to get as close as possible to our ideal driving experience but it's doubtful that we'd reimagine the vehicle as a whole.
Even though products aren't custom made for consumers, we still maintain the power of choice. Products either meet our needs or they don't, so we can keep them or not. Nonetheless, if we have very unique or specific needs, we might have to consider a custom solution. Custom design changes the dynamic of the traditional consumer-producer relationship as the customer plays a very active role in the development process. Sometimes roles become a little confusing or uncomfortable as the responsibilities shift unpredictably throughout the process. Naturally, we're going to unpack roles and responsibilities from a custom software development perspective because we have a lot of experience there. But, the idea can apply to any custom project.
We've shown you how to add custom headers to a CSV file. Custom headers are useful, particularly for end users, because they provide intelligible header names when downloaded FileMaker files are opened in other applications. We developers don't always use intuitive field names when we're in the heat of custom app development. It's usually a bunch of geeky gibberish only the coder can understand. FileMaker 18 actually simplifies our custom header export process a bit, thanks to a few of the new script steps that this version offers.
Before we begin, it might be helpful to review our FileMaker 18 file-based script steps blog post, particularly the section that discusses how to read, write and manage external files. This will give you a good foundation before taking a look at this more advanced topic.
Image features are pretty common within FileMaker apps. We've had the ability to store images and other types of files in container fields for quite a while. Usually, we leverage that capability to build image modules for our clients. Having developed several of these myself, I can tell you that users generally want to be able to do at least three things:
- Save the images in FileMaker
- View a thumbnail of the image
- Customize the size of the image
Of course, there are different ways to accomplish these requirements efficiently.
I admit, designing a calendar in FileMaker is an involved process. Nonetheless, it's a common requirement, so I’ll walk you through the process step by step. I'm going to piggyback on our previously published post, but for this calendar, we're going to specify Monday as the start of the week as opposed to Sunday.
Of course, there are several different ways that we can structure a calendar. One option would be to create 42 separate relationships and portals to represent events for each calendar day. Why 42? There are seven days in a week and we need six rows to cover the number of potential weeks in a month, 7 * 6 = 42. Also, you’d have to create 42 fields to store the calendar days that would then be used to set up the relationships between the calendar and event tables. This approach can make managing edits or updates cumbersome for developers because of the volume of records.
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.
There was something in the air during the FileMaker Developer Conference this August in Orlando, Florida. It wasn't just the thick tropical humidity and joyful shrieks of kids drifting from one of the local theme parks. It was a sense of imminent change. Another clue that something big was afoot was the absence of FileMaker, Inc. logos on any of the signage or even the DevCon lanyards that hung from the necks of all the enthusiastic conference attendees. However, all the subtle clues did little to prepare us for what was announced the evening we arrived in the dark and crowded ballroom. Indeed, nothing short of a white-haired, mad scientist and a souped-up, flame-throwing DeLorean would have given it all away. When Brad Freitag, FileMaker’s…um, Claris’s newly minted CEO announced that the company was changing its name back to what it was called twenty or so years ago and that the FileMaker Platform was gaining a brand new sibling, we were all a bit overwhelmed.
At DevCon last year, FileMaker, Inc. (FMI) announced their initiative to identify and promote a realistic category for the FileMaker Platform. They created the category Workplace Innovation Platform because current market categorizations such as low-code, no-code, PaaSS, etc. don’t accurately describe the FileMaker Platform.
The FileMaker Platform is more than just a backend development tool. It’s actually a full-stack development platform and therefore offers features and functions that address the end-users’ needs as well as the developer’s needs. Plus, it provides services for data storage and mobility.
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.
FileMaker, Inc. has given us a new XML tool to help us developers now and hopefully even more in the future! This new functionality may be confusing at first as we've had the Database Design Report (DDR) for a long time and we can save/publish that as XML too.