Get what training materials and tutorials on FileMaker that you can. The project you describe is not a trivial one. Have you worked with any kind of relational database before?
If you can talk the powers that be into it. Upgrade to FileMaker 10 or later. Script Triggers have been introduced and these make setting up an interface for scanning barcodes much simpler to implement. Get Filemaker advanced for your development work if there is any way you can scrape up the extra $$. The script debugger and data viewer can save you hours and hours of time when something doesn't work as expected.
You have two main parts to your project. Setting up a system for scanning barcodes and setting up tables, relationships, etc to manage your inventory.
For starters, look up your tech info on the scanner or contact the manufacturer and make sure that it can operate in "keyboard emulation mode". Almost all scanners do. In this mode, the scanned barcode inputs text directly into the computer as though it were rapidly typed into the computer. Youc can launch FileMaker, put the cursor in a text field and scan a barcode to see if the code from the barcode appears in this field in plain text. If so, you're in business.
Next, find out how to program the scanner to append additional text to the beginning and end of the scanned text. With 8.5, you don't have script triggers so you can only take advantage of an added character appended to the end of the scanned text. Make this the Char (10) charcter (enter key). In 8.5, you'd use the same infinitely looping script I originally used with FileMaker 5:
Go To Field [YOurTable::globalTextFIeld]
Pause/resume script [indefinitely]
#put code to process text scanned into the globalTextField here
To exit this script's infinite loop, select the "halt" option on every button on the layout that would take the user to another part of the database or include the Halt Script step as the last step in the script performed by the button.
This is just the general outline. One version of this script would be used to scan a recieved shipment of items into inventory. Another would process items out when sold, generating a sales invoice in the process. Other versions might be used for other inventory updates.
If you acquire a copy of Filemaker 11, you can use the OnLayoutKeystroke trigger and text appended to the beginning of the scanned text to further automate this process by putting the cursor in the correct field. This eliminates the need to click a button to start the above script. An OnObjectExit trigger on the global text field can then process the scanned data.
You may also want to examine this simple invoice demo file: http://fmforums.com/forum/showpost.php?post/309136/
This can show you in simple terms what tables and relationships you might use to process the sale of goods. The LineItems table in this demo can be modified to serve as an "inventory Ledger" tracking all inventory changes. You might search this forum, using those two key words to find a number of threads where this is discussed in greater detail.
wow, thanks! I'll definitely be using this as a starting point. I recently got my hands on a copy of "FileMaker Pro 8 : The Missing Manual", and I've been using that to learn the program; but there are in fact many things, and I didn't really know which to focus on and which I didn't absolutely need.
I'll talk to the owner of the company - he seems pretty steadfast in that he wants FileMaker over any other program, maybe he can be convinced that it would warrant an upgrade.
I haven't found too many resources for the scanner -- it was handed to me alongside FileMaker, with the stylus missing and manual missing. Earlier today I was able to find the manual online, but it's well over 300 pages (do I really need something that complicated?)