I agree that filemaker's help needs a major review/update/overhaul. I've said so before and others have as well.
However, I easily found the following in filemaker's help when I looked up "Send Mail":"Message indicates the text of the email message. You can type the message as text, use a field value, create a message from a calculation, or insert text from a file."When you click the arrow button to the right of the message, you bring up a filemaker's specify calculation dialog where you can "combine text strings and fields together"."Dear " & yourtable::YourFirstNameField & ",¶¶" & Yourtable::YourMessageFieldis one simple example of an expression that combines text and data fields to compose a plain text message."There is no discussion about the syntax"There are definately no examples of this given under Send Mail. You can look up "Calculation" in help to find an entry labeled Specify Calculation Dialog Box which documents all the features of this dialog which is used in Send Mail and almost every other place in filemaker where you would enter a calculated expression. Not a perfect system, but hopefully those pointers will get you started in the right direction.
It didn't actually tell you when looking up Send Mail/Message in the Help files whether you could combine text strings with fields did it?
I find the whole way that Filemaker layout the help also very messy and not easily digestible to the eye.
To each their own opinion.
My opinion: Yes it did, but Filemaker could do a lot better to give an example not just indicate you can enter a calculation. Most filemaker developers know what can be done with calculations but that doesn't mean it's obvious to new users.
trouty and PhilModJunk:
Thank you for your comments. I have forwarded this thread to the manager of our product documentation.
As a technical writer and a programmer, I agree with you that the FileMaker Pro documentation is less than ideal. That being said, it is very useful to non programmers.
It seems to me that you are attempting to use one of FileMaker Pro's feature without first understanding one of its basics: formulas (also known as calculations). Formulas permeate FileMaker Pro. They can be found in field definitions, in conditional formatting statements, in many script statements (notably the If statement) and in permissions definitions, to name a few. Using FileMaker Pro without knowing how to write formulas really robs a user of most of the power of FileMaker Pro.
You can find help on writing formulas in FileMaker Pro's help, under "Designing and creating databases > Creating a database > Working with formulas and functions". This is a logical place to find this help, because formulas are never used when using FileMaker Pro to enter or find data or to share data with others.
The "Send Mail" script step help states you can specify a calculation for most of its options. It does not state how one makes a calculation because this is considered basic knowledge. It is my opinion, however, that the word "calculation" could have been hyperlinked to the formulas help page.
I hope you do not view FileMaker Pro too badly based on one bad experience. Being a programmer and having seen many other data centric application environments, I sincerely believe there is no other application out there that makes developing powerful tools any easier than FileMaker Pro. That being said, the more powerful the feature, the more complex it is to use. There will eventually be a point when no matter how easy one makes a feature, it will require knowledge and training.
Re your comments about calculations, I do have a basic knowledge of using them, such as multiplying fields together to get totals, or working out averages, etc. What would really help novices are some basic examples which show the structure and syntax.
I've now managed to use combinations of text strings and fields thanks to a previous response in this forum.
Have to admit, there are a lot of really good features I'm now enjoying.
Even if this is an old thread, I wanted to comment that there seems to be a big number of former Lotus Approach users around here, I am one of them.
I moved to FIlemaker basically because of the simmilarities, many formulas I could just copy and paste. I had the same problem as truty finding the equivalent to Approach Combine(a,b,c) which in FM is a&b&c.
I tested AlphaV, Servoy and Access also, the final round was Servoy-FM.
Approach was a terrific product, even in the 90's it would connect to MySQL the first time I tried and after less that 10 minutes of figuring out how.
It had a native formula of numbers to text (still absent in FM).
I wonder where it would be now if IBM / Lotus hadn't abandoned it in 1998!