12 Replies Latest reply on Dec 28, 2011 7:05 AM by jbante

    Filemaker Tricks of the Trade


      Hello Everyone;


      AS i am learning about Filemaker, it is pretty hard to 'FIND' solutions that were previously found or edited, or solved,etc.


      I have sinced learned about BruceR's Virtual list technique and merge variables, portal scroll stability, highlighting record tricks, etc,etc


      Is there any way to put all this information in a repository? If so, then repetition would be a thing of the past < IMHO.





        • 1. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

          Check out the Technical Resource Library (Technical Resource Center tab >Technical Resource Library tab) for a starting point.



          • 2. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

            There have been several attempts to create such repositories with varying degrees of success. Most deal with a specific subset of FileMaker development problems or a specific type of solution, like custom functions. For example:






            The Technical Resource Library on this site mentioned by Michele.


            Only Brian Dunning's site has achieved the critical mass of submissions necessary to be a common first place to search for pre-existing solutions. I'd be interested to hear a discussion of what forces conspire to keep these repositories from hitting their tipping points.

            • 3. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

              THe look & feel of Fmscripts.com & fmptterns.com is not too welcoming IMHO.

              & briandunning.com has become the place to go for cF's.

              I understand why filemakerstandards.org was now developed, however the FMP community seem to be loads of "Self-Employed" & "Self-taught" individuals who seem to like the freedom to do it "THEIR WAY!"


              so be it i guess, seems i need to do the same.

              : )

              • 4. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade
                Stephen Huston

                Hi Ian,


                Keep in mind that there is almost always more than one way to make something happen in FileMaker. I try to make a habi of figuring out at least 2 ways to do something before I program it. That gives me  options for choosing the better or more appropriate method for my needs. There is no right way to do anything in FileMaker. It depends on what you need and what else your solution is built to do.


                In short, keep an open mind about techniques. Add them all to your toolbox so you have choices when you are deciding how to do anything.


                Stephen Huston

                • 5. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

                  Having the freedom to build a FileMaker solution "your way" doesn't preclude external influences. Many self-taught individuals will do things "their way" because there doesn't appear to be any other way due to the weakness of existing repositories. As reasons for individualism go, that's one that many people would least like to have. (Personally, this is my favorite kind of problem to have; not only do I think it's fun, but the fact that I think it's fun helps keep me employed. This doesn't mean I want anyone else to have the same problem.)


                  One of the motivations for publishing a technique to one of these repositories is marketing — showing off what you can do. This can make developers disinclined to publish techniques they think is obvious or common knowledge, which leads to a vacuum of resources for novices to learn from. Taking the time to describe and build a working demonstration of a technique is a marketing expense, an expense which some organizations are unwilling to allocate adequate resources to. Once that description and demo are prepared, many companies would rather publish that material on their own company blog rather than submit it to a common repository. In a certain Zen way, this makes Google the common repository; but it isn't a very consistent one. Some of the custom functions I mentioned do include submissions by members of the more prestigious FileMaker consultancies, but a custom function isn't the same magnitude of solution as an inventory control system, for example.


                  Some developers think of their techniques as trade secrets. These folks hold the opinion that their techniques create more value for them when no one else knows them. Scarcity inflates the price of services.


                  There are also some aspects of FileMaker itself that make a common code repository difficult. Many important aspects of FileMaker solutions can't be transferred by a simple copy/paste or including a header file. More importantly, FileMaker is geared towards creating custom solutions for people with unique requirements. Unique problems don't have pre-existing solutions, or else they wouldn't be unique.

                  • 6. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

                    Obviously you have an opinion about this and i respect that. I am not a "professional" developer.


                    I own / operate a bakery as you know. This is just an interest for me for my business. It is understandable that as i have my "trade secrets" that will never be published outside on my doors, i appreciate and respect the other developers by at least sharing what they have learned in different areas in order to give others like me an "IDEA" of how to think about solving my problem.


                    Thanks again for all your help with getting to where i am at now. I can't believe the progress one can make if you just keep on keeping on .





                    • 7. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

                      I do have an opinion, but I'm not sure it's obvious based on what I wrote. My opinion is that a critical-mass repository of FileMaker techniques would be a good thing. If one is going to materialize, I thought it might be helpful to analyze why so few of the existing resources have achieved substantial success. I'm sure I missed some. For example, most of the existing resources address only a very narrow slice of FileMaker development, sometimes even a slice that only developers who already know what they're doing may understand the value of it. What else did I miss? What other forces are conspiring against us?

                      • 8. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

                        Other forces such as Individualism (

                        a. Belief in the primary importance of the individual and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence.

                        b. Acts or an act based on this belief. )



                        IN essence, in order to have a critical-mass repository of Filemaker techniques requires a multitute of lets say, volunteers if you will, who dont have the time, but make the time in order to post ideas, techniques, sample files that demonstrate a particular technique,etc,etc

                        For example, Concise Design has a downloads section with tons of sample files; they are not documented, but can be by someone who has the time. At least this is one idea.


                        Some people can write code, and others can just write, yet others can only watch videos and learn that way. Again, Just like developing in FMP, there are so many ways This can be done, but it takes time, effort , energy, blah,blah; YOU get the point. OK

                        thats enough rambling.


                        NOw back to your crumb-carousel to figure out what thos small conditionals are doing.!!! LOL

                        • 9. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

                          Hi Ian,


                          I notice you mentioned Concise Design and its 'tons of sample files'.




                          This address is primarily a business card. Is there somewhere else that Bruce stores his brilliant example files?


                          Bob Stuart

                          Lord Of The Files

                          Think Data Pty Ltd





                          +61 7 5442 5624

                          +61 413 350 993

                          • 10. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

                            Hi Bob,


                            Just append downloads to the URL and see the list of files. Most impressive!


                            Thank you Bruce for sharing so much of your inspired development.


                            Cheers & Merry Christmas!



                            • 11. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

                              Many of the tricks of the trade have to do with unique actions with FileMaker's User Interface and scripting language.  So I would call it better understanding how the UI and scripting works and understanding their limitations instead of calling them tricks. 


                              Do not confuse this with best professional practices and database standards in the database industry.  Many people use FileMaker because it is a business solutions tool that more easily combines the UI and the database into a single tool.  So many people start using FileMaker without previous experience with database concepts.  I do not consider this bad and still encourage inexperienced people to use FileMaker.  But I can assure you that using common database standards will improve the speed and quality of your database.  There are many concepts to know such as:  good understandings of relational data (vs flat data or unstructured data), record locking, the theories behind ACID, Anchor Buoy, SQL, and even best practices for field/table naming.  While I appreciate FileMaker, I came from a SQL background and appreciate that I learned some of those basic theories first since they help me a lot in thinking through FileMaker database design.  It is like web design.  You don't need to know HTML coding anymore... but it sure helps when wanting to tweak or optimize a web page. 


                              FileMaker TechNet is best at providing guidance on the type of "tricks" you describe because they are unique to FileMaker.  General database standards are taught by higher education and professional courses around the world, but you will get some assistance on them here in TechNet. 


                              Feel free to make use of TechNet as well as some of the other support pages.  Feel free to post lots of questions!  I personally like Brian Dunnings web page and also make use of ISO FileMaker Magazine (Matt Petrowsky).  But there are many other sources. 


                              One last suggestion, join an FMPUG group.  Most meet monthly and are great ways to learn new things in FileMaker.  Go to FMPUG.org for more info and see if one of the groups is near to you. 

                              • 12. Re: Filemaker Tricks of the Trade

                                To paraphrase my college Math advisor:


                                • Do it once, and it's just a piece of code.
                                • Do it twice, and it's a trick.
                                • Do it three times, and it's a technique.
                                • Do it four times, and it's a convention.
                                • Do it five times, and it's a best practice.
                                • Do it six times, and it's a profession.


                                The distinction between "tricks" and "best practices" is a matter of degree. In a certain light, data normalization and record locking are just "tricks of the trade," too, and not the only existing solutions to the problems they solve. (Though they are particularly obvious solutions when your tools were designed with those solutions in mind.)