I really just stumbled into FileMaker. I picked it up at the school where I taught and became the manager of it (while teaching). I read every book out there, and I watched every video on the platform. In time it became easier. I found because it was such a challenge, I enjoyed trying to solve it. 15 years of teaching was fun but not challenging anymore. FileMaker became my exciting hobby.
During those first years, I picked up a lot of bad habits through the informal training I did that I still am trying to rid myself of today. Its easy to begin developing, its not easy to develop well. That's the key: finding the best practices that make you a more efficient developer and that produces better solutions. An unstored calc field is the classic example–It is easy to create, but can cause issues in performance later on.
But stick with it. In time, you'll 'think FileMaker'. You'll come up to a problem and know the tools, functions, syntax in FileMaker to get it done. You'll probably dream of the solution and wake up with it at hand. I'm not sure how one gets good at something without being immersed in the platform, so be ready for that too. You'll think of it all the time☺
Good luck. This community is great for giving you advice on a specific solution and generally the best practices you need. I recommend you find some people on here and follow them and read everything they post. You'll get a sense for how they do things and begin to incorporate their way into your development.
FileMaker was my first exposure to databases. Before FileMaker I did batch scripting and programming on my calculator at high school. It was a very very long time ago, but I had an internship where I learned FileMaker. I actually really enjoyed it, though my first task was to essential break apart the database they had an analyze its structure.
I built many tools and such over the years since then with FileMaker, but I had gone primarily web development and have just recently come back to FM. I find that it is a lot easier now than what it was back when I first learned in the 4 to 5 migration days.
There are so many more tools inside of FileMaker and much better resources as well. I still have several of my old FileMaker "Bibles".
I don't know that I would really change my path. It has taken me a long time to get here, but I've learned so much valuable information through the path that I wouldn't trade. That isn't even getting into the friends I have made because of it.
Everyone's path is different, but given time and determination pretty much any path will get you there. As to the language itself, it is really simple and if you have any other programming experience it makes it that much more simple. A quick google search or search of the forums will give you access to a great many examples of what to do.
My story is a bit different... but thought I'd post anyway
I went to Uni and one of the lecturers said that RAD's (rapid application development environments) are the future and explained why. When I came out of Uni I did some low level work and had an opportunity to work in-house with Filemaker and so I thought I'd give a RAD a shot. And.... it was RAD!
If you are unsure of something then take time out to set up a "test" file and see what works best. Also don't be afraid to ask here!!! The community here is awesome and you will usually get the ins and outs as to what is better.
You'll soon learn best practices that will stick with you.
I started with DATA in AppleSoft (Apple II Programmer's Reference: Applesoft Commands) and used it for my Mom's business (invoicing/bill of materials). Then AppleWorks/ClarisWorks/AppleWorks (A Brief History of ClarisWorks) (AppleWorks - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) had a database (similar to early FMP, actually!) Lisa and Mac had FileMaker on a floppy. My mom loved it & I was hooked on the GUI/database integration. I still have a floppy disk!
My first "commercial" use of FileMaker was version 2.1 and I learned a lot from the developer, James Toland. The FM community was always generous with sharing examples and helping each other in the "early days" and still is.
Then I also started with NetScape1.1 and web development. When FileMaker first "went web" (with AppleScript - pre Web Companion plug-in) and every variation of web publishing with FMP thereafter, I was there.
I also started using other web applications (current in PHP & ColdFusion) which led to the SQL (MS SQL & MySQL) in addition to using FMP for web publishing. And ODBC integration with SQL<->FM came along with that (pre-ESS).
XML was a natural progression from HTML (web) and when FMP started using XML (for so many things), I was delighted.
But there are many very good FMP developers that do not have programming backgrounds. Many are musically and/or artistically talented. FMP is creative and logical at the same time. Use your own strengths, study other examples and choose your own path.
Clarisworks, now that brings back some memories.
As did your
batch scripting and programming on my calculator
My first touch with Databases was MS Access.
I couldn't understand why anyone would ever use a Dbase when they had XL and it stopped there.
Then I changed jobs and had rooms of filing cabinets and endless time wasted looking for things.
An employee responsible for Dbase builds in FMP gave me a five minute explanation of what a table was, what a record was, what a layout was and what a field was....and it all clicked together in that magical "duh" moment.
Then I took over her responsibilities and started cleaning up her database build bad habits.
We are now down to ~20 filing cabinets, and I've measured monthly savings in operations to the tune of five full employees year of work each year (we kept the employees and retrained them)
One particular monthly reconciliation task went from 35 man-days on average to 15 minutes.
Then I went to DevCon one year ... the year that 12 was launching...and it had remote container storage for documents.
The entire ISO9000 system and GHS Compliance system is now FMP based and over 100 3" 3-ring binders disappeared.
I'm not sure whether I qualify as "a developer"...I guess so since I develop...but it is all for the company I work for, and is outside of my job role.
If I had one thing to do over again...I'm not sure I would. The biggest asset to my development has been the deep understanding of the business process that the dbase is trying to support...and that is what I got while I wasn't working as a developer...it made the development more effective, more straightforward, and gave me the ability to NOT build stupid features because I could recognize how ineffective they would be.
I have a very long curved path to FileMaker. Around the time FileMaker 1 or 2 (Claris? ) was out. (Not sure what it was called ) I created my first flat file database in an ancient language, Pascal. At the time I worked for a Engineering School and was working on a number of software projects that acquired data from Materials engineering experiments and controlled those experiments. The were done in a number of other ancient languages that included, Assembler, Fortran and C. It was a lot of fun. One of the experiments got to fly on the space shuttle. ( Not kidding ).
Life and career changed and I ended up in IT management. Work was no longer fun, but it paid well.. The company suffered a number of client losses with contract renewals. They made a smart move ( also not kidding ) and laid off a highly paid IT management person and kept line staff. Frankly I was happy to be laid off and the company was able to turn things around and is doing well now.
Not wanting to go back into IT management, I stumbled on to a project for a local charter school. A faculty member had started FileMaker database in version 8. They wanted to take this and turn it into something they could track the students with. I gave them a proposal to do the project. This was in May and they wanted it for September. They actually gave the job to someone else who was going to do it in Access. Not sure how this was going to work, since data would be enter by all faculty (20 + people ) and Access doesn't really share databases that well. Third week in August my phone rings and the question was, am I still interested in doing the project. I said yes.
I have to say at the time I was very new to FileMaker and had a lot to learn. I completed version 1 of the database in about 4 weeks of 18 hour days. When I was done, I decided that it was a lot more like doing the instrumentation programming I used to do and lot more fun then IT management. I just need to learn a lot before really hanging out my shingle.
FileMaker Boot camp was about to run their next class. I signed up and really learned a lot. Covered all sorts of key topics, like data normalization, anchor buoy, standards, data recovery. Actually attended boot camp twice. Also went to Pause on error a few times and finally got certified in version 9.
Once I got certified, I was able to really start to make a living from FileMaker. I enjoy working with FileMaker, it is creative, fun and my clients find the databases very helpful.
While at the time, I was very proud of that first database for the school I have to say, it doesn't really meet my current standards for development. I'm always trying to learn new techniques. Sitting in FileMaker seminars, going to Devcon and meeting other developers at user groups are all very helpful.
At my previous job (8ish years ago), I was hired originally as a tech support specialist. After finding out I knew some web development (Wordpress/PHP, etc..), I was introduced to filemaker to take over a failed project that my predecessor (who I believe left to go work for soliant at the time) didn't complete. The in-house web developer also left due to a sports injury soon after, so I received that workload as well. I ended up using that project to teach myself filemaker over the course of the next year, and started to get more and more projects, both data mining and smaller solutions, tossed my way. Eventually the business grew to a point where I was doing the majority of work in FileMaker, with some side projects continuing web development.
After 5 or so years with that company I decided on a career change, and found a new home at MainSpring (then Anvil Dataworks) after running into them at the San Diego Zoo during Devcon.
My web development background did lend well to learning filemaker fairly quickly, and my design background won me praise for my UI design skills as well.
If I could go back and do things differently I would:
- Get mentoring assistance earlier on. I did get a few hours with an awesome mentor after about six months when I finally hit a wall, having that after a month or so would have probably jump started me a bit faster.
- Join the community faster. I didn't really even consider devcon until after 3 years of development, but I haven't missed it since.
- Start off immediately with the training series. You can do the basic series in a few days, and the advanced series in a few weeks, but it will at least help you to "think filemaker" so you can ask educated questions. I struggled a bit translating things from the HTML frontend PHP backend I was used to into filemaker speak.
- Attend usergroups. Ours was defunct already when I had started, but after rebooting the group in 2011 It's been a great and rewarding regular experience.
- Get Certified. This is one of the only measures that a filemaker developer can have when seeking employment and showing credentials. Even if the tests have been vaguely similar version to version, certification should be pursued as soon as possible. I missed versions 7-10 because I didn't even think about it, so overlooking my resume you can't assume that I have more experience than what my 11-14 certification shows.
In 1989 I was working as an ice forecaster on a drilling platform in the Beaufort Sea. The geologists were using a Mac II with Filemaker running a visual core-logging program - in the winter I would have a lot of free time so I started fiddling. The combination of the Mac OS and the Filemaker GUI made sense to me (I had done some punch card stuff back in the 70's - not a fond memory). The drilling stopped in 1990 and I slid into a role as a tech support guy for a small law firm - they had some copies of Filemaker II and asked if I could build some sort of timekeeping system. One thing led to another. After a few years I was able to claim to be a "Filemaker Developer". Still do.
"Never test for an error condition you don't know how to handle." — Steinbach's Guideline for Systems Programmers.
Thanks everyone for some really interesting stories. I think I'm on the right track, both with my direction and the kind of folks I hope to be hanging out with soon!
Regarding the "Boot camp", is that the one offered by DB Services or is there more than one option?
Google "FileMaker Master Class", that's the other one I know of off the top of my head.
In 1993 I was hired for data entry, for a small mail order company in Orlando. I was the second full-time employee (after the owner).
The owner had just moved to FileMaker Pro 2.1. We were just using it to enter names and addresses. As time went on, and we began standardizing our processes, I kept finding ways to leverage FileMaker to track invoices, shipments, quality control and more.
Around 1995, I rebuilt the solution to incorporate all the pieces... then FM3 came out and it was (gasp!) relational.
I outgrew the company around 1996, and started peddling my admin skills, primarily as a temporary admin/exec assistant. I also managed to pick up a couple of small gigs doing FileMaker development and consulting for a Mac reseller.
Around 1999, I graduated from "admin" to "business analyst", which then took me to Research Triangle Park, NC, and then to Silicon Valley. I got to work with large IT teams, programs like Siebel, PeopleSoft and SAP, and also work with a wider variety of departments. Unfortunately, each of those gigs only lasted about a year, since the dot com bubble was in mid-burst. Given the environment, I volunteered for a layoff from my gig in the Valley, and headed back to Florida determined to get back to smaller businesses, and back to FileMaker,.
I found that many of the "big ideas" I'd encountered in the larger corporate environments, and enterprise software, could be scaled down and work quite well in FileMaker. I began devoting lots of time to R&D, and building up a client base. Pretty much never looked back.
I still consider myself more of a business analyst/consultant than a programmer, but with FileMaker that's not as clear a line as it might be in other programming environments, or in larger organizations. I can offer ideas for process improvements and such, but then very quickly turn that into a tangible database solution that keeps data safe, but also drives best practices and helps monitor the results.
I was a manufacturer of ballpoint pens and transitioned in 1983 to manage an incentive travel program. I bought a Sony SMC-70 (CP/M) microcomputer with a MicroPro product called DataStar and ReportStar to manage attendance lists and various other math-based reporting tasks. One of the outputs was a mailing piece that customers misunderstood to be an invoice, so I went looking for something that would convert numbers to graphs. My computer dealer sold me Lotus Jazz for the Macintosh 512, and it worked great. A year later, he persuaded me to abandon Jazz in favor of FileMaker. I resisted because Jazz was a "works" program with 5 built in functions and FileMaker was only the database. But he was right, and I trusted his advice .. and that was 30 years ago.