In the last month, I had to make a series of changes for every client of ours, hundreds of them.
For each client, we created on his FMS a one time backup schedule with the “clone databases” option turned on, and we downloaded a mix of clones and databases to work on locally. We took away the “clone” word with automator and put together the whole architecture into a single folder, 7 full data database files and the rest being clones. We did the changes we had to do on the full databases, then compressed them and uploaded to the clients. The cloning of irrelevant databases (about 60 of them) made sure that no “where is the xxx file” dialogs popped up.
We were following steps in a self built ToDo database, one record per step, providing screen captures for relationships, xml code for scripts and copypastable code for conditional formatting, field definitions and custom functions. The xml code went through MBS’s free Filemaker Clipboard Helper utility, a rare gem. (MBS also provided added value with its relationship search field, script step numbering as reference in script editor and highlighting of specific search terms).
We added a shortcut for the missing Manage > custom functions via System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > App Shortcuts > Filemaker, alt-cmd-M.
These changes include:
define (and populate via replace) new fields;
define new relationships;
change existing relationships, mostly adding clauses;
create or change existing custom functions;
change conditional formattings;
change portal filters;
add calculated tooltip;
add objects (with or without hide condition) to layouts at a specific place;
check window position, size and menubar prior of closing
the changes were made using filemaker 16 advanced, which offered great help thanks to the “Layout objects” palette.
The changes went from 1 hour for old clients, with less things to be changed (and less features to end with) to current clients, with as much as 2 hours of work in order to go through about 100 changes. The whole process went faster with time and clients being done, reaching a point when it was enough to read the mod’s title and we knew what had to be done, reaching a top speed of 80 minutes (instead of 120) per client.
(N.B. An unexperienced coworker, used as test and faced with the whole task, took 6 hours to go through the list and missed 3 important steps.)
What we noticed and slowed us down unacceptably, for the nth time in decades of using filemaker (and the reason why I’m sharing this):
• MBS Filemaker Clipboard Helper is not available on windows; far from being Christian's fault, it's a missing feature of Filemaker, as the rest of the features offered by a one-man with kids plugin development company.
• Conditional formatting editing is a PITA, not allowing to duplicate existing conditions, not allowing to specify colors by formula and defaulting to “Value is” instead of “Formula is”; Moreover clicking on text color or fill color takes too much before getting the color palette come out. (Subjectively perceived as too much on a top of the line 27" i7 iMac with 32 GB RAM, SSD etc etc)
• Copy an object from a layout and paste it on another one: final coordinates never match. How hard is it in 2018 to store the source xy coords and replicate them on paste, instead of the stupid 9 px offset or the even more stupid “place it with the center being where user clicked”, as it were photoshop’s clone brush instead of a layout editing tool; you don't have to change the existing behaviourof cmd-V, just add cmd-shift-V as a paste in place new item.
• When pasting a group in FMP 16, in layout objects palette the group and its elements are selected, therefore you can’t immediately specify coordinates numerically, you have to click to deselect, then click again to select (this time only the group is selected) and finally you can correct the group’s xy coordinates in left/top position (will take another century to change name to x and y, I guess - in the meantime gimme five René)
• Duplicating relationships is the most time-consuming process. We have 5 and 6 predicate relationships.
But even if we hadn’t, all we need is :
- a more robust indication of the fact that a specific relationship is selected. You don’t need to play the “I’m getting thicker, but just a little bit, it depends on how long my arms are” game. Just use a color, be it red, green, blue, anything. How come you never figured it out ?
- and by the way, bring to front the symbol in the middle, hidden behind other relationships it has no utility;
- when a relationship is selected, make visible 2 buttons: duplicate L - Rcopy and duplicate Lcopy - R. These will keep L or R fixed and create a copy TOC, while also exactly duplicating the whole relationship with all its predicates.
with this list implemented we would have cut in two the time we needed.
Multiply it with all the millions of developers which face the same problems and you will create eons of enjoyable lifetime for people, instead of the current time waste.
And of course we did accept - which is not a given - the fact that we did have to interact with each and every installation, in the total absence of an alternative, like building an updater and double-clicking it on a client machine or - even better - server.
One small step for other software, a giant leap for Filemaker. Sorry for misquoting, Neil.
And a wonderful quote from my former professor, to be considered: