The FileMaker Forums have been bedeviled by very slow response times for months now. Very frustrating and no clear cut explanations have been offered as to why, but private conversations indicate to me that the folks at FileMaker are painfully aware of the problem and are pushing for solutions. Whether this means that we will see a move to a different company than RIghtNow--the company responsible for both the hardware and software used to host this forum, I don't know.
Filemaker 10 is a pretty good version still and if you later upgrade to FileMaker 12, you can use FMP 12 to convert them with a pretty good result. FileMaker 12 represents a substantial redesign of the underlying systems that it uses and introduced a regrettable number of bugs so using 10 avoids that issue.
If you search the knowledgeBase (see link at top of this screen), you can find articles for each recent version that document what features are new to that version so you can see what features of 11 and 12 you don't have in 10.
You can always download the 30 day trial copy of FMP 12 if you want to take a look at what it can do vs FileMaker 10.
I guess I first have to see if I'm just adding more work and confusion to the task of organizing my data by using FileMaker at all. I've often been in a quandary about whether to do that or just keep using Excel, which is why my FMP 10 has gone unused all this time!
It does seem it might be useful though, since I have customer, and customer have contact information, and customer also have services. So if for no other reason that linking the customers in on spreadsheet to the customers in another and creating different views of the data, it might be useful.
Phil - It might just be me, but the tabs along the top of this page (Announcements <---> My Stuff ) no longer work in Firefox, though they do in IE.
Doug: lots of people run databases, very successfully, in much older than 10 (ourselves included). If you are just starting out with transferring your data into FM then I will guess than none of the problems you come across while using 10 would be solved if you'd used 12, and none of the additional features of 12 will you think of looking for.
Sort out your understanding of database design and the concepts of scripting, and you will be able to build a very comprehensive solution in 10. Once you've done that you can then assess if the new features of 12 are of any use to you. And as Phil says if you do decide to go to 12 all of the work you did in 10 will carry across.
Sorbuster, it's not just you. I have not tried other browsers here yet, just FireFox, and the tabs are dead. I just assumed it was a feature that didn't work in these forums.
About v10, I'm not really looking to do anything fancy. I just feel a bit overwhelmed by the data and thought perhaps having a bit of a relational view (customer ids as a key to customer info, product keys as a link to product info and then linking tables between those keys, and perhaps having different layouts) would just be "easier on the eye" and more flexible than hopping between worksheets in Excel all the time.
I've used FM before (going back to FM 4) and used to do some scripting to manage customers. And I've used FM 9 for going through various tutorials, and also did the same a bit with 10.
I'm just a bit hazy about whether I'd be spending my time creating a nice relational database that is useful for me or whether I'd just be wasting my time.
I guess I'm at the border between "being able to get it done in spreadsheets" and "maybe it would be easier to manage in a database" and teetering on the edge.
Here's one concrete question to help sort out my confusion. I need to also keep customer records in QuickBooks Online to do invoicing. So the invoicing will be done there and I can look at old invoices, check receivables, etc. But every month I will need to go through the customers and decide what to bill each one. I know it would be easy to use FileMaker to look up what each customer used or bought each month. But would it be easy to update each customer's record with this monthly, continuously growing information? It would be like adding a record to each customer each month.
I can't imagine any data such as yours that would not be better stored and presented and analysed in Filemaker. The 'obstacle to entry' of learning a new application and then actually writing it is the only handicap. In your case you have already designed files in FM 4, so you are off to a good start. A significant difference between 4 and 10 is the use of the relationship diagram to link table occurances. It is a fantastic feature, but can be awkward to get your head around at first. I STRONGLY recommend you watch the sixfriedrice tutorial - it is essential, in my view.
I'm not clear whether you are looking to create the invoices in QuickBooks and then replicate them in FM, or vice versa. If you mean the first, and can export the data from QuickBooks, then you will almost certainly be able to import the newly-created invoices into FM directly and automatically.
If you search Google for Quickbooks Online and Filemaker you'll see plenty of hits, including a $200 plugin that integrates them. If you can export from QBOE then you may not need to go there.
Sorbsbuster, thanks for your reply. You're giving me the "oomph" I need to go ahead and try it.
I've also worked through most of the tutorials for 9 and 10, including developer tutorials, so I think I have a good handle on the relationship diagram and I agree it is a fantastic feature.
I really don't want to replicate invoices between QuickBooks Online and FM. I want to invoice from QuickBooks Online because I have a merchant account there, and it's linked to my company's bank account so I can track receivables, etc. The invoices there are sort of grody though (e.g. there isn't even a place to enter a customer account number! And if you enter a contact name it bills the person instead of the company!)
What I was imagining doing in FM was keeping track of all the information I can't in QuickBooks Online - all the extra fields showing what services the customer is using, who is handling their account, extra contacts, etc. And that I can see I can create fields for and populate.
What I am hazy on is creating a history that grows with time, so I can check each month and see if I remembered to invoice them, and what I invoiced them for, etc. Yes, that is a bit of duplication between QB Online and FM, but not really duplicating invoices.
I guess what I'm thinking of could be accomplished with, say, a table of "customer activity" and for each record add a customer's id and what the activity was (I invoiced them, what they used, etc.).
Then I could link the customer table with the customer activity table via the relationship diagram. And inside each customer's record, in some layout, I could use a search to display just the activity for that customer in some sort of container. And have some way of adding to the customer activity table from the customer form.
Do I have the basic idea right?
I think you have the basics spot-on, with a few details or terms slightly skew-wiff.
Customer Table, one record per customer, holds all customer-specific info: Check.
Activity Table: don't know your business, so I don't know if the idea of an 'Activity' covers ever possible type of customer 'event', or whether you need one table for each 'Activity'. If each record you imagine having in this table would largely be the same, it is probably better to use one table, and maybe have a drop-down that determines whether the customer Bought, Rented, Returned, or whatever.
I can't remember when portals came in, or tabs, but both could be used to great effect. On your Customer Form you culd have tabs for different Activities, or different periods. Each could have a portal showing all such Activity Records, in reverse date order.
Clicking on one of the portal rows can take you straight to that Activity Record to view in detail.
Clicking an 'Add' button on each of the tabs could add a new Activity Record of that tab's type.
I think your 'Container' is one of these portals.
Portals, right. That was what I was thinking of. A "gateway to linked table." Containers are for media or web pages and things like that.