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FileMaker Magazine

When FileMaker, Inc. released the new theming system for FileMaker Pro a while back, they made one of the best decisions possible for a development platform. They chose to go with an industry standard instead of rolling their own solution.

The standard they chose to use was CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). While their implementation was specific to the platform, and the whole "cascading" part didn't really apply, the choice was a good one.

Today, the upside is the fact that it's the same language of the web. The same which is used to provide ultimate control over how everything looks on a given web page. Essentially, full power and control to the designer or developer. The downside, in FileMaker's case, is they can only expose certain aspects of the CSS as their internal development resources allow. They have to keep moving the product forward in other areas as well as the user interface.

So, knowing that CSS is behind the scenes, there are certain things we can do to modify the look and feel beyond what FileMaker's Inspector palette exposes. This video is about a certain insider trick which can make your use of a company logo infinitely easier when it comes time to make a simple change down the road. Check it out!

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FileMaker Magazine

Making it easy for users to search for content is what your job is all about. If you're relying on FileMaker's default Query By Form method of searching, then many users may not know how to use the full functionality of FileMaker's search.

This is where you, as the developer, get to control how users interact with the data. By taking advantage of both FileMaker's QuickFind and the normal Query By Form, you can implement really nice features like an easy-to-use search bar.

In this video, we walk through the process of adding just such a search bar into the Custom Function database. If you're interested in learn about how you can take full control over the searching process then this video will provide you with a lot of insight!

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FileMaker Magazine

There are all kinds of methods in which you can provide visual feedback to users. You can use FileMaker's containers fields, calculation fields, and even normal text fields.

There is, however, a great way to provide the visual feedback you desire by using FileMaker's Button Bar object. You gain a lot of flexibility with this method because it's so easy to copy and paste once you've put it into your solution. By using multiple segments in the button bar, and some creative use of hiding and conditional formatting, you can achieve all kinds of cool visual indications of whatever you might want to showcase.

In this video, I walk through the process of adding some up/down arrows and show you how to take advantage of FileMaker's unique tool set in order to accomplish this useful technique.

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FileMaker Magazine

If you've been learning and using FileMaker for any amount of time, then you'll likely know that FileMaker also has access to JavaScript. It does this through the Web Viewer object which can easily be added to any layout.

For some FileMaker developer's they may answer the question of "Why don't you know/learn Javascript?" with a response of it either being too hard or not being able to take the time to learn it. It' only when FileMaker can't do what what needs to be done when some developers start to look outside of FileMaker's core set of available tools.

The cool thing about JavaScript is that like many tools, it can do a variety of things better than FileMaker alone. I've never come across a single tool which can do it all the best way possible.

If you've never implemented any JavaScript within your FileMaker solution, then this video may be the best way to start that journey. The implementation of a JavaScript based color picker is so easy you'll be craving more and more JavaScript by the end of the video. Whether you need a color picker or the ability to draw content on top of an image file, JavaScript will offer a lot more extensibility than just sticking it out with FileMaker alone!

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FileMaker Magazine

FileMaker 16 introduced a new and very powerful feature. Its called Card Windows and they allow you to access a totally different context than what is currently being viewed.

If you're unfamiliar with what context is in FileMaker, then to put it plainly, it's the layout being viewed, its own associated table plus all related tables connected to that layout's table occurrence. It's what the current layout can "see" in terms of accessible data. Yep, that's a bit confusing if you're not super familiar with FileMaker. But, if you are, then congratulations, you should be able to see how powerful this new feature is.

The way FileMaker, Inc. has implemented Card Windows is a nice start. The Card Window is truly another window being drawn on the screen with the exception of being able to drag it around. It's a modal window which is typically presented within the parent of where it was created. In order to continue working in the user interface it must be dismissed. It's not quite like dynamic or context independent layout parts, but it's getting closer to the ultimate feature.

When you take the results you can get from a layout object's bounds ( its location and relative size ), using FileMaker's GetLayoutObjectAttribute function, you can put a few pieces together to make for a great windowing feature which allows you to draw a window wherever you want. This is enhanced by using the info supplied by a target layout object. It's a great feature for any solution where progressive disclosure is a desirable feature. Have too many elements and info on the screen? Use an Inline Card Window!

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FileMaker Magazine

Whether you're a hobbyist developer or a full-time professional, it's important to make sure your development environment is both stable and reliable. Unless you're in the process of learning a new environment, not that many developers are keen to spending a bunch of time re-configuring their development environment.

The worst feeling in the world, while developing, is one of instability. Having that looming fear that your application or file may crash at any time is not a happy place. It's like you're constantly looking over your shoulder waiting for the next FileMaker crash. For FileMaker development, the solution to this problem is to always develop using FileMaker Server.

When FileMaker Server is within your development environment it provides crash protection, automated backups and other learning benefits which you simply won't get if you only upload your FileMaker file to a host and simply work that way. If you're still developing locally with just a copy of FileMaker Pro Advanced then this video should be especially appealing.

Also, if you're a developer on-the-go and you can't be tied to a local network, and may not have WAN access, then running a local FileMaker Server is a great solution. One possible issue is that FileMaker Server has be structured for a production environment and not for a development. You can, however, with a few setup changes, make your local development machine use FileMaker Server in order to facilitate the ideal development environment.

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FileMaker Magazine

When it comes time to “professionalize” your FileMaker solution, this typically includes integrating a splash screen. Even if your solution is only used internally, that extra bit of branding solidifies that mental spot of recall when a user needs to communicate which database they’re using.

So what better way to say “You are here” than presenting a nice, attractive splash screen? In this video, I walk through the step-by-step process of adding a cool-looking splash screen to our ongoing project of the Custom Function database.

In the process of doing so, I explain a variety of other reasons as to why I choose the method showcased in the video. It’s more than just the pretty picture which shows on startup. It deals with startup speed and other helpful features such as increased security potential. If you’re going to put your best foot forward, then follow the method shown in this video!

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FileMaker Magazine

Within FileMaker development, there are a variety of must-know features and methods for doing certain things. You’ll be hard pressed to find these critical bits of info within the provided help.

However, these are nuances which come with the environment and really only make sense once you start to integrate them into your user interfaces. One of these “hidden” features is known as Multi-key relationships.

Using multi-key relationships, you can present data within the user interface which is derived from a variety of tables. There’s really no limit on how much data you can show from however many tables you desire. The limitation is truly only your imagination about how the data should be presented.

While the implementation is super easy, the understanding behind how things work is what will move your FileMaker solutions to the next level.

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FileMaker Magazine

As you see and write more and more code within any development environment, you start to view code which simply looks clean and efficient as opposed to long and inefficient. In this video, we’re taking a look at some so called FileMaker “One Liners”. These are simple snippets of code which typically only take one line in order to do something pretty cool.

While the code doesn’t always take exactly one line, because FileMaker uses more than just actual code, it’s the super simple implementation which makes them so cool.

Take a look at this video to see five different examples of FileMaker One Liners and see how this know-how will help you with your own FileMaker development!

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FileMaker Magazine

Our FileMaker Custom Function database is moving along quickly as we add more user-based features. The feature being added in this part of the series is a Tags/Tagging feature where it takes the concept of a “favorite” much further.

Rather than using a single field for tagging a record as a favorite, we’ll be using a join table and allowing the user to add as many different tags as desired. The implementation applies to “all users” of the database system, but could easily be modified to become a user centric tagging feature - such that each user could maintain their own set of tags and tagged records.

Understanding how to implement the full suite of options for interacting with tags is the key to making this feature so valuable for the user. This video will walk you through the pieces and parts of how to implement this useful functionality.

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FileMaker Magazine

FileMaker 16 added a variety of new features designed to support its new ability to interact with web services using JSON. One of those supporting features was the addition of more cryptographic functionality.

Previously, the only native feature available was an MD5 hash. At the time of it being added, it was already out of fashion as a security based feature, but it could be used to compare two things against each other.

By adding new encryption and decryption capabilities, we are now able to encrypt and decrypt data directly within the database itself. This means we can, if desired (and your security policies allow it), store things like credit cards and other sensitive information. While the functions themselves are pretty straight-forward, it’s always nice to know the ins-and-outs of how to implement a feature properly.

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FileMaker Magazine

Moving forward with the Custom Function database project, we now have the opportunity to copy and paste our groups of custom functions. The trick to accomplishing this requires a modification to the singular copy/paste being used for a single custom function.

The database now needs to provide a list of functions, in the xml snippet format, to be copied to the clipboard. This is easily accomplished through the relationships and by modifying the original script.

If you’ve never had the problem where you needed to copy well structured data through a few relationships, then watching this video will give you some insight in the the various possible ways and the one way which may be the most simple when needing to copy that structured data to the clipboard.

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FileMaker Magazine

Over the years, FileMaker has added, enhanced and modified various areas of the development platform. One of the areas which has seen a big transition is the way favorites are managed. If you're a long-time developer of FileMaker solutions, then one of the more recent changes in FileMaker 16 may be a bit disconcerting.

The change was to how favorites are managed. In fact, they simply took out the menu option and sorta left you hanging. The "Manage favorites..." menu is no longer present within FileMaker 16. If you were used to heading to that menu item in order to reorder, add or remove favorites, then your access to the dialog was recently cut off.

It was replaced a while back, but isn't all that obvious if you've not used the new Launch Center's cute little "star" (favorite) icons. This now pretty much the only way to manage favorite files and hosts. Fortunately, once you get used to the new way of doing things, you can easily take back control over your favorite hosts and files.

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FileMaker Magazine

Most everyone likes to know what's going on when something is happening. Being kept in the dark is something which causes possible anxiety and certainly a fair amount of impatience. So, it's always nice to provider your user with a little bit of status when there's some type of progress happening.

Fortunately, this is a very easy thing to solve when a lot of the work is already done for you. All you need to do is wire things up within a FileMaker web viewer.

Using the information within this video you can easily present your users with an indeterminate progress indicator. At least letting them know that something is happening rather than nothing.

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FileMaker Magazine

FileMaker Pro, beyond your normal join table, offers a unique method of storing collections, or groups, of items. You can do this with what is called a multi-key field. This isn’t to be confused with a compound-key, which is a primary key composed of multiple different values.

Using a multi-key field we can store a collection of custom functions within our Custom Function database. This makes it possible to start the process of collecting groups of functions together and then adding a feature so we can copy them as a group.

Of course, the trick to adding any complex functionality is to make it easy for the user while staying maintainable for us as the developers. This will be done within a standard FileMaker Popover layout object.

This video walks through the process and parts of adding a grouping or collections based feature. While we’re adding it within the context of custom functions, this is a feature you’ll find using over and over again no matter what the database is about.

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FileMaker Magazine

As with visiting any new country where they speak a different language, if you can’t speak it, then it’s pretty hard to communicate. The same thing applies to intercommunication between technical systems. If you don’t take the time to learn the format being used, then you obviously won’t get very far.

In this video, we take a look at processing JSON from GitHub’s API. It’s one of the last places we’re looking for FileMaker Custom functions. GitHub is a web site which hosts hundreds of thousands of code repositories. These code repositories represent many hundreds of thousands of coding hours. To not take advantage of any pre-existing resources seems a bit silly.

The trick to working with any cloud based resource is to simply learn what questions to ask and how to process the answers you get back. Of course, there’s always that critical piece of know-how which is all about processing the data in the first place. If you’ve never written a recursive FileMaker script, then you’ll certainly see some in action when dissecting the script in this version of our Custom Function database!

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FileMaker Magazine

Who likes spending time doing things in FileMaker Pro when you can do things faster? How about no one. That’s why this video will help you save some time when you discover the various ways you can interact with layout objects and your data.

So, here’s 5 different tips which will save you some time while working in FileMaker Pro.

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FileMaker Magazine

Some buttons in your user interface are likely more than obvious in terms of what they do. But what about those times when they're not and it's just nice to let the user know what just happened? Using a combination of Slider panels and mutli-segment Button Bars you can provide any type of feedback you might like to show.

This video presents a method for showing the user some feedback about the results of clicking a button or any other user interface action taken.

Note to subscribers: If you're looking for the file, then you'll find it within the Part 11 download. The link is provided below.

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FileMaker Magazine

With FileMaker’s PatternCount(), Left(), Right() and Middle() functions you can certainly extract a lot of data. The functions, however, are severely limited when it comes to matching variable patterns of data.

That’s where, in the world of programming, Regular Expressions, or RegEx for short, is SUPER handy! It’s used in pretty much EVERY computing language and I don’t personally know a professional developer who can develop without it. It’s been available since the 1950’s and it’s a worthwhile tool to know for sure.

Recently, I personally reduced a complex FileMaker file from three tables and close to twenty dedicated scripts, all for parsing some data, down to one table and two scripts. Trust me, it was a crazy process where a full document of text was imported, line by line, into a FileMaker table, just so a loop could be used to walk across the data multiple times. Talk about extra network traffic just to process some data!

It was MUCH easier to simply use a RegEx pattern and directly extract the data desired and be done with it. Of course, the developer who preceded me obviously didn’t know RegEx and it’s why I’m providing this video for you. Learn it, use it and get the job done quicker when it’s the right tool for the job.

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FileMaker Magazine

Integrating third party APIs can be a bit daunting when you’ve never worked with them before. Fortunately, the most difficult part of the process is simply taking the time to research the API and implement the features you’d like to have.

When you’re working within FileMaker, you’re often capturing content which may need to be pushed into another online location - such as Dropbox. If your FileMaker solution needs this, then adding FileMaker Dropbox integration is the way to go.

With FileMaker 16, you can now use the native cURL functionality in order to directly upload a file into a designated Dropbox account. Once you’ve made the connection with Dropbox, you can pretty much do anything you’d like to your dropbox account.

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FileMaker Magazine

This video will teach you all about using the new FileMaker 16 Card Window and show you how to take advantage of the fact that you can have a totally different position for the card window outside of the parent which where it belongs.

With a bit of creative FileMaker scripting you can create some really nice features for your FileMaker database.

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FileMaker Magazine

While it would be wonderful if FileMaker Pro had built-in functionality for all of the features we can possibly think up, it’s not too practical. Besides, what would be left for us to develop?

So, what about saving user state? Do you think you would enjoy leaving your desk for a few moments and coming back to a completely rearranged environment? I doubt it, and that’s almost exactly what FileMaker does when working within a hosted file.

The most common approach to solving this problem is to simply provide a “directory like” structure. Like walking into a mall and heading to the directory map in order to find out where you can possibly go. Call it what you like, a dashboard, main navigation, whatever. You’re simply reseting the user each time they leave and come back into the software.

Well, if you’d like to take another approach, then all you need to do is save the user’s last know state. What you save and how you return the user to their last known state is in your full control. It’s not that hard to do and this video will give you all the details you need to know.

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FileMaker Magazine

On May 9th 2017 FileMaker Inc. released FileMaker version 16. This version included a big number of major features designed to support FileMaker's ability to communicate with the rest of the Internet. As a globally connected software application, FileMaker has clearly stated that it's a highly viable platform for rapid application deployment.

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FileMaker Magazine

The Inspector palette is your primary tool for designing your layouts. Of course, being familiar with all its various options and settings is what makes it possible for the creation of great looking layouts.

This video focuses on going through the second and third tabs of the Inspector and looking at the impacts of all the various settings which control styles and themes.

While the settings themselves may seem all to obvious in terms of what they do, it’s the combination of using those settings which makes the difference.

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