I would use a container field for this and FileMaker 12 also offers a number of new options for containers not available in version 11.
This method works in FileMaker 11 and 12:
If you use Insert FIle to to insert a file with the "store a reference" option. You can store a reference to a file that is located on your file server in a shared directory. Users can double click the container field to open the file using their computer's specified "default application" for that file type. In you case, this should cause MS Word or a compatible application to open the word document for editing. When the user saves their changes, these changes are saved back to the original shared directory so the changes will be seen by the next person to double click the container field.
A script can use go to Field [select/perform] to open the file also.
The key techincal requirement in order for this to work from a database that is hosted over a network is that the file path inserted into the container field has to be a valid filepath for every user. This causes complications for users when you have both mac and windows platforms in use.
Great I tried this in FM 12 and it worked. Unfortunately we can't view the document unless we double click on it and go to Word, right?
What other options does Pro12 have that pro11 doesn't?
There's a new external storage option that can be used where the inserted files are automatically stored in a secure location on the server. That can make for better security an avoid cross platform issues when you need to access the files through a container field in your database.
Insert PDF is a newly added insert option.
Object Linking and Embedding and it's associated Insert Object menu choice is not supported in FileMaker 12. (This is a windows only feature.)
Container fields, if not placed in a portal, can be "optimized for interactive content". This can make it possible to flip through the pages of a PDF right in a large scale portal on your layout or to control the playback of audio and sound files. Don't know if it offers any interactivity for word files, however.
If any of these new features are put in place, that container field no longer opens the file in the default application by double clicking. Such files can be opened, but it requires using export field contents to export and open a copy of the file. Any changes made are not automatically saved back into the copy stored/referenced in the container field. (But if you need to, a "save changes" button on your filemaker layout could reinsert the exported copy to save those changes.)
If you have the budget for it, you might investigate the third party product called SuperContainer.
Wonder if you can get a web viewer to display the contents of a Word document? That works with PDF's but haven't tried it with word documents...
THanks I'll check out the webviewer option see if its available
so the solution worked on the computer that I inserted the file on, and it's being hosted on the server, and it was saved as a reference.
However, when trying to access the file from another computer in the office we couldn't do it. All computers are Macs running between snow leopard and Lion.
Where is the file located?
THe file needs to be inserted from a shared location on a volume that is mounted on each client computer such that the file path in the container field is a valid filepath to the file.