Time to Innovate

FileMaker Inc., has positioned FileMaker as a Workplace Innovation Platform

What is a Platform?

FileMaker has long been viewed by developers as a platform rather than a product. In terms of databases, it is a client-server platform that revolves around the FileMaker Server. 

FileMaker Server provides fast, secure and reliable hosting for files, scheduled backups and processes, and web services. It is the host that can be accessed by various clients – FileMaker Pro on macOS and Windows, FileMaker Go on iOS devices, modern web browsers, and through an API interface. 

As well as being a client for accessing hosted files, FileMaker Pro also provides a development interface. Development is full stack – consisting of data structure, business rules, and user interface. The database engine is proprietary rather than being any flavour of SQL. 

Why the Workplace?

FileMaker started life with non-programmers developing solutions for personal use and in very small workgroups. Now FileMaker Inc., sees its main market in the workplace. It is still possible to buy single FileMaker Pro licenses for a premium price but most licensing sold is now annual subscriptions starting at five (5) users. 

Specifically positioning FileMaker in the workplace is a strategic move. This is in contrast to most Apple products that are marketed at both individuals first and businesses second. 

That said, FileMaker has a strong position in the workplace to be a very flexible and agile product used to solve all sorts of business problems. 

What is Innovation?

This is probably the biggest part of the equation. There is a lot of hype about workplaces being more innovative. But what does that mean? Can you just be more innovative? What does an innovative person look like? What do they do differently? How does their innovation help in the workplace?

Innovation can be seen in designing new ways of doing things. In business, this can save time and money, and create an advantage over competitors. So innovation can be creating more effective processes, products and services.

Being innovative can mean adapting to changes in the work environment to do things better. It should be part of a business strategy, with a culture of innovation encouraging innovative thinking and problem solving.

Measure

To know if innovation is making a difference, something needs to be measured before, during and after. Time and money can easily be measured. You could measure the time to complete tasks or the number of tasks completed in a given time. You could measure the cost to provide services.

But some measures are more subjective. Satisfaction is one example. By innovating, you could increase the satisfaction of both employees and customers. This could lead to higher staff retention (reducing recruitment and training costs), or increased customer referrals (for more customers). So the subjective satisfaction can then be measured with objective numbers. 

Can uLearnIT help you?

If you are looking to innovate and improve the effectiveness of your workplace, let’s have a discussion about where you are now and where you can improve your processes.

Any solution we develop needs to be able to be measured in its effectiveness and the ability to provide real value. Call now on +61 481 252 214 or email us at info@ulearnit.com.au. We look forward to helping you innovate.

FileMaker Training – Singapore 2019

We have just scheduled FileMaker training courses in Singapore in March 2019. Our FileMaker courses are hands-on with small class sizes. They put you on the fast track in FileMaker development. If you, or someone you work with or know, would like to become a better FileMaker developer, have a look at the course schedule now.

All courses listed below are currently open and are subject to minimum enrolments before they can be confirmed.

When you enrol, you will pay a holding deposit. This is non-refundable except if the course does not run. In that case, you will be notified and the holding deposit will be refunded in full.  The decision to run the courses will be made by 12 February. If the course is confirmed, you will be asked to enrol using a coupon code which will provide an additional $100 discount.

Get Started with FileMaker Pro

This introductory course is scheduled for 11-12 March 2019 (Tuesday-Wednesday).

Get Started with FileMaker Pro is an introduction to FileMaker Pro and creating custom database solutions. It covers everything from creating a new solution, setting up data structure, customising the appearance, securing and deploying your file and more.

Check the full course outline and book here.

Building Effective FileMaker Solutions

This intermediate course is scheduled for 13-14 March 2019 (Thursday-Friday).

Building Effective FileMaker Solutions is an intermediate course in FileMaker development. We briefly review FileMaker components and then dive into how they really work. The course covers development methods and habits, and a deep look at systems analysis and data structure for better outcomes. Over the two days, we cover many examples of calculations, scripting, security and user interface design. 

Check the full course outline and book here.

FileMaker Scripting in Depth

We are also offering an advanced course in FileMaker scripting, scheduled for 18-19 March 2019 (Monday-Tuesday).

FileMaker Scripting in Depth is an advanced course in FileMaker development. We will cover all aspects of script editing, management and use. The course covers scripting methods using various classes of script steps. Over the two days, we cover many examples of scripting that will be useful in your FileMaker development. 

The full course outline is available here and you can book here.

Training Courses – Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne

We currently have confirmed courses running in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. This means that you can plan your time with confidence knowing that the course will run.

Our training courses give you the fast track in FileMaker development. If you, or someone you work with or know, would like to become a better FileMaker developer, have a look at the course schedule now.

Get Started with FileMaker Pro

This introductory course is scheduled and confirmed in:

  • Melbourne 1-2 November 2018
  • Brisbane 8-9 November 2018

It is also open on the schedule for Sydney 28-29 November 2018.

Check the full course outline here and book here.

Building Effective FileMaker Solutions

This intermediate course is scheduled and confirmed in:

  • Brisbane 18-19 October 2018
  • Sydney 29-30 October 2018

It is also open on the schedule for Melbourne 11-12 December 2018.

Check the full course outline here and book here.

NEW: FileMaker Scripting in Depth

We are also offering a new advanced course in FileMaker scripting. The full course outline is available here. And the schedule is open for:

  • Sydney 3-4 December 2018
  • Melbourne 13-14 December 2018

FileMaker Solution: logging usage – Part 2

At uLearnIT, we love solving your problems. Here is Part 2 of the latest problem solved for a client using our mentoring services. If you missed Part 1, it is here.

Request

In an existing FileMaker solution, we would like to know if certain scripts and layouts are being used. Over the years, the solution has been added to and updated in a haphazard manner and we would like to clean it up. How can we find out which scripts and layouts are in use?

Solution

From Part 1, the key to this solution is to automatically log the use of scripts and layouts by triggering a script. The script will record the name of the layout or script used and then create a log record. The log record will be created in a special table for the purpose.

Script use

The script to log script use will be called at the start of each script – using the Perform Script script step. It will pass the currently running script name as a script parameter that will be entered into a log record. To set up the script step in any script:

  1. Open the Script Workspace and open a script.
  2. Add the script step Perform Script to the start of the script.
  3. Specify the Log script use script.
  4. Set the Optional script parameter to Get ( ScriptName )
Perform Script with script selected and script parameter defined

The script used to Log Script Use is as follows:

New Window [ Style: Card; Using layout: “uselog” (uselog); Height: 100; Width: 100; Top: 0; Left: -1000; Dim parent window: No ]
New Record/Request
Set Field 
[ uselog::name; Get ( ScriptParameter ) ]
Set Field [ uselog::item; "script" ]
Close Window [ Current Window ]

In the script above, the operation is performed in a card window off the user screen. This ensures that it does not interfere with the user’s normal actions or that of any running script. Since the parent screen does not dim, the user should not notice the script run. 

The script creates a new card window and goes to a layout to create a new log record. It uses Set Field script steps to set the name field with the script parameter (in this case the script name), and the item field with the text string script.

Add the Perform Script step (simply copy and paste between scripts) to every script for which you want to log use. Over time as the solution is used, the log records build an account of script use. This can then be analysed to see which script are most commonly used and which scripts are rarely or not used.

Addendum

A suggestion tweeted by @tonywhitelive was to also record Script Parameter, File Name and Layout Name when logging scripts. 

The file name would be useful when logging scripts running outside of the file where the log record exists. The script parameter and the layout name will provide some useful data about how and where the script was triggered.

So we will need to add three more fields to the log record – parameter, file, layout. And then adjust the script logging script to unpack and apply the various values.

When calling the new script, the parameter will use the List function to capture multiple pieces of data as a list of values:

List ( Get(ScriptName); Get(FileName); Get(LayoutName); Get(ScriptParameter) )

These values can then easily be unpacked when received using the GetValue function.

Parameter values unloaded into variables and then used to populate log fields

So there you have it – even more functional script use logging. Thanks Tony!

Do you need uLearnIT to solve a problem?

We can do the same for you. Just let us know what you are struggling with and we will provide a cost effective solution. We have saved our customers hours of Googling answers and frustration trying things that never worked for them.

We can do the same for you.

Contact us now before you waste any more time!

FileMaker Solution: logging usage – Part 1

At uLearnIT, we love solving your problems. Here is the latest one solved for a client using our mentoring services.

Request

In an existing FileMaker solution, we would like to know if certain scripts and layouts are being used. Over the years, the solution has been added to and updated in a haphazard manner and we would like to clean it up. How can we find out which scripts and layouts are in use?

Solution

It is unreliable and unwieldy for users to manually log their usage. Often, they do not know which scripts and which layouts they use. If they report the use of buttons, then they also have to report which screen and then the developer has to decipher the use.

The key to this solution is to automatically log the use of scripts and layouts. This can be done by triggering a script. The script will need to record the name of the layout or script used and then create a log record. The log record will be created in a special table for the purpose. The log record will have fields for:

  • item (type) – layout or script
  • name – of the layout or script
  • account – name of the account currently in use
  • creation – timestamp when created

The item will be set by the script; name will come from the script parameter; account and creation will be auto-entered.

Layout use

The script to log layout use will be triggered OnLayoutEnter – after a layout is loaded. It will pass the layout name as a script parameter that will be entered into a log record. To set this trigger for any layout:

  1. Navigate to the layout and enter Layout mode.
  2. Select Layouts > Layout Setup… and then Script Triggers.
  3. Select the OnLayoutEnter event and select the required script.
  4. Set the Optional script parameter to Get ( LayoutName )
Layout Setup – Script Trigger configuration

The script used to Log Layout Use is as follows:

New Window [ Style: Card; Using layout: “uselog” (uselog); Height: 100; Width: 100; Top: 0; Left: -1000; Dim parent window: No ]
New Record/Request
Set Field 
[ uselog::name; Get ( ScriptParameter ) ]
Set Field [ uselog::item; "layout" ]
Close Window [ Current Window ]

In the script above, the operation is performed in a card window off the user screen. This ensures that it does not interfere with the user’s normal actions or that of any running script. Since the parent screen does not dim, the user should not notice the script run. 

The script creates a new card window and goes to a layout to create a new log record. It uses Set Field script steps to set the name field with the script parameter (in this case the layout name), and the item field with the text string layout.

Repeat the layout script trigger for every layout for which you want to log use. Over time as the solution is used, the log records build an account of layout use. This can then be analysed to see which layouts are most commonly used and which layouts are rarely or not used. 

Use log for layout items

See Part 2 for scripts…

In Part 2 of this post, we will look at how to log the use of scripts in a solution. It is a simple extension of the above method for layouts.

Do you need uLearnIT to solve a problem?

We can do the same for you. Just let us know what you are struggling with and we will provide a cost effective solution. We have saved our customers hours of Googling answers and frustration trying things that never worked for them.

We can do the same for you.

Contact us now before you waste any more time!

FileMaker Solution: entering partial dates

At uLearnIT, we love solving your problems. Here is the latest one solved for a client using our mentoring services.

Request

In our Equipment table there is a field for DOM (date of manufacture). It is defined as a text field since the data is just a month and a year such as 03/10 or 11/15. We would prefer the service techs to enter the data as written. We don’t want them rejecting the process because it’s uncomfortable.

But then we need to perform simple calculations on the DOM. For example,  if the DOM is more than 5 years past, a “Level 4” service is due.

Solution

Part 1: Data Entry

It would be great to allow users to enter a month and year as the DOM in a number of ways. So let’s allow them to enter say March 2015 as any of 315, 0315, 3/15 or 03/15. And then reset the data on field exit to the standard 03/15. 

This is done with a field option which is an auto-entered calculation. Importantly, the option Do not replace existing value of field (if any) was unchecked – so that the calculation is evaluated when leaving the field.

Case ( 
Length ( Self ) = 3;
"0" & Left (Self; 1) & "/" & Right (Self; 2);
PatternCount (Self ; "/") and Length (Self) = 5;
Self;
PatternCount (Self ; "/") and Length (Self) = 4;
"0" & Self;
Length ( Self ) = 4;
Left (Self; 2) & "/" & Right (Self; 2);
"Error"
)

In this Case statement, there are four tests:

  1. if the length of the data is 3 characters, then add a leading zero and insert a slash character – so 315 becomes 03/15
  2. if there is a slash and the length is five characters, then leave as is – so 03/15 would be left as is (returns Self)
  3. if there is a slash and the length is four characters, then add a leading zero – so 3/15 becomes 03/15
  4. if the length is four characters, then insert a slash in the middle – so 0315 becomes 03/15

And if all those tests fail, it returns the result “Error”. That may happen if you enter 35 or 032015. 

Exceptions could be handled in other ways but it was not needed here.

Part 2: Calculate a proper date

Now that we have some standard data to work with, we can easily convert that into a proper date with a calculation. The decision was made to standardise on the first of the month.

So we set up a calculation field (DOM as date) using the expression:

Let ([
raw = DOM; // the field entered as MM/YY
themonth = GetAsNumber (Left (raw ; 2));
theyear = GetAsNumber (Right (raw ; 2));
theyear = theyear + 2000 - If(theyear >50; 100);
// convert to four digit
thedate = Date (themonth ; 1 ; theyear)
// date of first of month ]; thedate )

The process in the Let statement is:

  1. The field (DOM) is set into a variable called raw.
  2. Then raw is processed to get the month and the year – first and last two characters respectively. 
  3. Then the month and year are used to get the date of the first day of the month.
  4. The year is converted into four digits.
  5. The Let function returns the proper date (calculation result type is date)

QED

So that is the simple solution that lets techs enter the date quickly and easily, and then use it to move forward into other calculations to work out service requirements and more.

Do you need uLearnIT to solve a problem?

We can do the same for you. Just let us know what you are struggling with and we will provide a cost effective solution. We have saved our customers hours of Googling answers and frustration trying things that never worked for them.

We can do the same for you.

Contact us now before you waste any more time!

FileMaker 17 – UUID number

FileMaker Pro 17 has a new function for generating universally unique identifiers – Get(UUIDNumber). Why would you use it? Read on.

UUID

A universally unique identifier (UUID) is designed to be limited to one instance of that specific string in the entire world past, present and future. That means that if a million monkeys generated one UUID a second for the next million years, no two UUIDs would be the same.

While the probability of no duplicates is not zero, the likelihood of duplicates is so close to zero that it might never happen in any one system. So you can create UUIDs to uniquely identify objects such as records in a table, and know that each UUID will be different to every other existing and future record in that table (and every other table).

Types of UUID

There are standards applied to the generation and structure of UUIDs. At their heart, they are a 128-bit number but may be represented as 32 hexadecimal (base 16) digits in 16 pairs. An example is:

16776D83-EBE1-4AD8-B131-51AFB7E33E1D

There are many variants of UUID in use. The Get(UUID) function in FileMaker Pro has been available since version 12. It generates a version 4 UUID using a random number seed.

Uses of UUID

It is common practice to generate a UUID for primary key data in a table. This will mean that all records can be uniquely identified as is needed in a relational database structure. You can read more about how to do this in the previous post The A-Z of FileMaker: G is for Get.

A UUID could also be used as a unique access identifier. You could create a calculation field using a UUID function. Then select Do not store calculation results in the Storage Options. Every time a record is accessed, a new ID is generated.

So why the new UUID in FileMaker Pro 17?

FileMaker Pro 17 introduces a new UUID – Get(UUIDNumber) – which returns a unique, 24-byte (192-bit) number. An example is:

4834366009124897899475462287919682524896572646284376517480

This has been added specifically for the generation of primary key data. Since it is a pure number, it has been shown to improve relational performance. When using Get(UUID), the primary key field must be a text field;  with Get(UUIDnumber), the primary key field is a number field.

Interesting Fact

Number fields have smaller indexes than text fields

FileMaker Pro 17 creates a number of default fields in a new table. One of these is called PrimaryKey and is configured as a text field with an auto-entered Get(UUID) value. You may want to change this to a number field and use the new Get(UUIDnumber) function.

Compatibility Warning

If you are going to use the new Get(UUIDnumber) function, ensure that only FileMaker 17 clients access the database. You can do this in File > File Options… and set the Minimum version allowed to open this file to 17.0.

If you open a file that uses the new function in a version previous to 17, the function will appear as Get ( <Function Missing> ). And it will return a ? result when triggered.

Searching FileMaker – calculation and summary fields

In our last post of this series, we looked at how time and timestamp searches work with the FileMaker search engine. In this post, we will consider searches in calculation and summary fields.

Calculation fields

A calculation field is defined with an expression and a result type. The expression is similar to a formula in a cell in Excel. A FileMaker expression can contain:

  • field references (from the current or related tables)
  • functions (pre-defined in FileMaker Pro)
  • operators (mathematical, text and logical)
  • constants (numbers or strings)

The expression is constructed in a calculation dialog with access to fields, operators and functions. FileMaker Pro provides a typeahead feature making it easier and faster to include fields and functions – just start typing and FileMaker will suggest options.

calculation typeahead

When creating a calculation, it is important to specify the data type of the expected result. this is set in the lower left of the dialog:

calculation result

The result type will affect search results on the field. Searches will treat the data as the defined type. For example, if you create a calculation field for a full name (first name & ” ” & last name) and the result is number, searches on the full name field will not return expected records.

Also in this area is the setting for Storage Options…. This allows for the calculation result to be stored or unstored:

calculation storage

Annoyance

This is one of the times that FileMaker presents a double-negative option in a dialog. Unchecking the Indexing option means “Do not not store the result” – it will be stored. The option should really read “Store the calculation result” – check for stored, uncheck for unstored.

If a calculation result is stored, the field can be indexed and this can improve search performance on the field. However, that may be at the expense of a larger file for both the data and the field index.

It may not be possible to store the calculation result. This is so if the expression references a related field, a summary field, another unstored calculation field, or a field with global storage.

Searching calculation fields

Calculation fields can be searched just like most other fields. As stated above, searches treat the calculation field as the defined type of data. A search on a calculation field defined as a date result will search as for dates (see the previous article on date searches).

If the calculation result is unstored (either by choice or necessity), searches including that field may be slower because there is no field index available and all results must be calculated first to be searched. However, except where there are very large sets of records or the calculation is complex, the FileMaker engine is quite efficient and fast to return a result.

As with standard container fields, a calculation field with a container result is not searchable.

Summary fields

A summary field provides an aggregate summary of a set of records for a specified field. For example, it may display the average test score for a set of test result records.

summary field average

Searching summary fields

Since the result in a summary field is for a specific set of records, it doesn’t make sense to search a summary field. There is no access to a summary field in Find mode.

NEXT UP

In the next post in this series, we will look at QuickFind and field indexing.

FileMaker 17 – grouped objects

Objects on a FileMaker layout can be grouped to make it easier to move them around and to maintain relative positions of components.

Group and Ungroup

To group a set of objects, select multiple objects and choose Arrange > Group (Cmd/Ctrl-R). The group can be selected with a single click.

To ungroup, select the group and choose Arrange > Ungroup (Cmd/Ctrl-Shift-R).

grouped objects

Objects Tab

In FileMaker Pro 17, the Objects tab (formerly the Layout Objects floating panel in FileMaker Pro 16) displays the group with a disclosure triangle to show items in the group.

objects tab group

As with all objects, the group can be given a name (rather than the default “Group”). Do this by right-clicking the name and choosing Specify Object Name.

Items in a group may be dragged up and down (changing their z-order or stacking order). But objects cannot be dragged in or out of a group.

Working with objects in a group

Then

In FileMaker Pro 16, it is possible to select an object inside a group on the Layout Objects panel, and then:

  • apply formatting via the Appearance tab of the Inspector,
  • apply a style from the Styles tab, or
  • change settings on the Data tab (field, behaviour, data formatting)

Multiple objects within the group can be selected in the Layout Objects panel using Cmd/Ctrl-click.

This was a big step forward in FileMaker 16 with the new Layout Objects panel. In previous versions, there was no access to objects in a group – the group had to be ungrouped, edited and then re-grouped.

Now

In FileMaker Pro 17, individual object access has been made easier. While you can still select an object through the Objects tab, you can also directly select an object in a group. Simply click to select the group, and then click the object. There is a dashed line to indicate the group. Multiple objects in the group can be selected.

selected object in group

Also in FileMaker Pro 17, when an object in a group is selected, it can be both resized and repositioned. If it is moved outside of the existing dashed line bounds, the group is enlarged. Effectively, options on the Position tab of the Inspector have been provided for selected group objects.

These new features in FileMaker 17 makes it much easier and quicker to work with objects in a group. No more Ungroup – Edit – Group.

And a subtle change…

When selecting objects in the Objects tab in FileMaker Pro 17, there is a light grey highlight as you hover over the object, and then a dark grey highlight when you click to select it.

objects tab hover select

If you select an object directly on the layout, it is selected in the Objects tab with a light grey gradient fill.

objects tab direct select

Why is this important? It probably isn’t  🙂 Back to work now.

 

FileMaker 17 – products and licensing

With the release of the FileMaker 17 Platform, FileMaker Inc., has taken the opportunity to simplify the licensing model and the products on offer.

Products

The FileMaker Platform consists of the following products:

  • FileMaker Server
  • FileMaker Pro Advanced
  • FileMaker Go
  • FileMaker WebDirect
  • FileMaker Data API

Each licensing model provides all products. There are differences between the models in how many servers are included, the client connections available, and the data transfer limits via the API.

Licensing models

There are three licensing models:

  • User license (UL)
  • Concurrent license (CL)
  • Site license (SL)

For convenience, we will refer to these by the two letter acronyms above.

Each model can be purchased on an annual or perpetual basis. Annual licensing is most common and convenient – just pay the renewal each year or uninstall. Perpetual licensing requires renewal each year – if you do not renew, you can use your current version in perpetuity but no upgrades are available.

What products are included?

  • UL includes all clients for all users and three (3) server installs.
  • CL includes all clients for all connections and one (1) server install.
  • SL includes all clients for all seats and one server install per seat.

Starting points and usage

Both UL and CL start from five (5) licenses. And you can add any number of licenses, one at a time. There are price breaks (less per license) when the total licenses reaches 10, 25, 50 or 100. SL starts from 25 seats.

  • UL: a user is defined as a unique person who will access FileMaker Solutions using any FileMaker client
  • CL: a concurrent connection allows access to FileMaker Solutions using any FileMaker client
  • SL: a seat is any staff member of the licensing organisation, whether they use FileMaker Solutions or not.

For all licensing, FileMaker Pro Advanced can only be provided to users within the licensing organisation.

For CL and SL (but not UL), anonymous users (e.g. customers) can access hosted FileMaker Solutions using FileMaker Go and FileMaker WebDirect.

For annual UL and CL, one server can be installed on FileMaker Cloud (AWS). For annual SL, any number of servers can be used on FileMaker Cloud.

For outbound API calls, all models provide 24GB of data transfer per year per user/concurrency/seat (inbound API calls are not limited). This data is conveniently pooled for the license. So for the minimum 5 user UL or CL, there is 120GB (24x5GB) available per year. Additional data can be purchased.

One FileMaker Pro client

FileMaker Pro is the desktop client that runs on macOS and Windows. In FileMaker 16, there were three FileMaker Pro clients:

  • FileMaker Pro
  • FileMaker Pro Advanced
  • FileMaker Pro for User Connections

In the FileMaker 17 lineup, there is now just one:

  • FileMaker Pro Advanced

Accessing advanced features

The advanced features include tools such as the Script Debugger and Data Viewer, and access to manage Custom Functions and Custom Menus.

When FileMaker Pro Advanced is installed, no advanced features are available. These features are simply turned on by checking the checkbox for Use advanced tools within the Preferences (General > Application) and then restarting the application.

FMPA17 Prefs

Purchasing

As shown above, FileMaker Pro Advanced is included in every licensing model. It can also be purchased as individual licenses through the FileMaker Store. Upgrades are available from versions 14 (limited time), 15 or 16 of FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Pro Advanced.

User connections

If FileMaker Pro Advanced is installed using an individual, UL or SL key, accessing a hosted FileMaker Solution will not use a concurrent connection. If it is installed using a CL key, it will require and use a concurrent connection on the server.

Simple?

Believe it or not, this licensing is simpler than it used to be. There are some other licensing options that are only available through FBA developers or directly through the FileMaker sales team. And there are some complications if you start mixing UL and CL.

If you have any questions, uLearnIT is happy to discuss your situation or you can call your local FileMaker sales team.