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The Support Group Blog

Thirteen is a Lucky Number

FileMaker, Inc. announced the newest version of their flagship database environment, the FileMaker Pro 13 family. It marks the latest in a progressive line of evolution for the product. As a long-time FileMaker developer I, along with my colleagues at The Support Group, am excited about the new features that will help us build even better solutions. In this post we’ll take a look at a few lower-level enhancements and peek at the possibilities of the UIX refinements.

Many of the most visible additions are UIX related (more on those a little lower in this post). However, one of the less visible, and therefore less known additions is a new function: Get ( ModifiedFields). This new function retrieves a return-delimited list of fields that have been modified in the current record while the record is still open. That’s right - before the record is committed. This opens up a number of possibilities to ease auditing and validations that we either didn’t have before or had to jump through loops to get to. Right now we’re working on a new auditing process using this new functionality.

One of the most-needed new features is the “Perform Script on Server” script step. Often in the past there have been scripts created that do a lot of heavy lifting and take a significant amount of time on the client computer; this is particularly the case in complex cross-tab reporting. Often the reports are run ad hoc, and by definition can’t be scheduled in advance to run on the server. With this new script step, the developer can opt to perform these complex and heavy scripts and sub-scripts directly on the server from the client. Obviously, the usual caveat that steps must be available to the server applies. However, with careful scripting we can now offload on an as-needed basis, the heavy-hitting bits to a robust server and allow it to dispatch these reports much more quickly. The optional tick box to wait for the server to finish is a nice touch.

Putting aside all the internal scripting and calculation changes (not to mention the new WebDirect or enhanced security features), the UIX updates will be the most widely viewed “wow” refinements that users will see. For many years FileMaker Pro (and many developers) lagged behind in the user interface arena. Starting with FMP12 and continuing with FMP13, FileMaker has been addressing that issue. In FMP13,  programmers now have the ability to easily create stunning UI features that were almost impossible before; the new pop-over feature will allow the enterprising FileMaker UIX designer to modernize the feel of the solution while providing additional controls, data points, or web objects that don’t intrude on the design. FileMaker’s new ability to control object visibility (something we only had with workarounds previously) will also positively affect the overall user experience. Combine these changes with the new Themes (and the ability to share them) and the new slider object, and the transfigured solution will knock the socks off many users.

Overall this newest version of FileMaker will greatly enhance the lives of users and developers alike. I feel lucky to still be around to use this version and look forward to seeing what my friends here at The Support Group are going to create next!

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