12 Replies Latest reply on Jan 5, 2012 12:14 AM by milanm

    New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...


      Hello all:


      A couple of weeks ago (I have been on Christmas vacation since then) my boss came in and said, "Surprise! You just inherited the huge FM6 DocumentMaker project! Make yourself smart on Filemaker and then port the FM6 project to FM11!"


      So I am attempting to "make myself smart" on FM6 and FM11. I purchased an FM6 book to help me out there, but I looked on Amazon and found only one FM11 book and from what I could tell, it did not address developer issues. I have five basic "starter" questions that need answering:


      1.) What kind of problems will I encounter upgrading an FM6 project to FM11?


      2.) Is there a FAQ associated with this site so that I can read it (I looked but could not find one)?


      3.) Is there a good FM11 developers book that I can get my hands on? If not, will the FM10 books I have seen on Amazon fit the bill?


      4.) The current FM6 project built on the Mac could produce runtime versions of a portion of the project for both Mac and Win platforms that we would then send out to our customers for their input. Can FM11 do the same? Can the Developer version of one platform (Win or Mac) produce runtime versions for both platforms(Win and Mac)?


      5.) My preference is to develop on a Windows box (please, no comments from you Mac developers...grin) and the original project is built on the Mac. If I move the project to Windows, will I suffer from any particularly obnoxious difficulties?


      If there are resources that I can read instead of bothering all of you busy guys and gals, I would be more than pleased to find the answers myself, but at the moment I feel kinda like the deer standing in the middle fo the road staring into the two bright lights heading my way and wondering if I should be frightened...that is I don't know where to turn to start looking. Any help in pointing me in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.




        • 1. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...



          I highly recommend the FileMaker 10 Bible by Ray Cologon. Still completely relevant, and contains both basic education stuff and really good examples of how to do things in the real world.


          Get it! Read it cover to cover. I doubt you could spend a more productive 10 to 15 hours.


          Peace, love & brown rice,

          Morgan Jones


          FileMaker + Web:  Design, Develop & Deploy

          Certifications: FileMaker 9, 10 & 11

          One Part Harmony 

          Austin, Texas • USA


          • 2. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

            Hi John,


            First - it would be really helpful if you described your experience with other types of database development, if any.  The advice I would give to a SQL person learning FM is a LOT different than the advice I would give to someone who had never done any database development at all.  So, you'll get much better recommendations if you fill us in.


            some short answers to your specific questions:


            1.  Really impossible to tell what kind of gotchas are awaiting you.  I have done some conversions that were completely without problems and others that really called for a rewrite of the database.  It all depends on the structure of the original system.  Hopefully, the original development used some database standards like key fields and is well-documented.  If this is a large, complex system, a redesign may be the better option.  FileMaker 6 is 10 year old software…  so a lot has changed. 


            Sometimes I convert a backup and test it, just to see what kinds of problems pop up and whether the file will be usable.  At the very least, you will have to make changes to the privilege sets - FM6 used a completely different security setup.  Before you even test convert - make sure that you have the same full access account in EVERY file - and that there are no default accounts when the file opens, and no accounts with "no password"


            2.  I am not aware of an FAQ for development questions - but it would be a good idea to look at white papers - there are some good ones on conversion issues, watch videos and webinars, and I recommend the FM Professional Training Series., available in the FileMaker Store.


            3.  See number 2. 


            4.  Yes, you can produce runtimes using FMPA (FileMaker Pro Advanced).  You must create the runtime on the platform it will run on - so create the runtime on MacOSX for a MacOSX runtime, on Win7 for Win7, etc.  Your license key is valid on both platforms, not for concurrent use, but you may use it to create a runtime.  You will have to install the appropriate version of the software.


            5.  No snarky comments is really hard for us Mac geeks.  But - the only annoying issues I have found switching back and forth are FONTS - Windows & Mac fonts are NOT interchangeable, and you can end up with a very amateurish looking layout interface if you do not carefully check fonts on both platforms - and there are a TON of threads on this topic on this forum, so I will not repeat them here.  The other issue is window management - very different on the two platforms - but if you work on a PC and then switch to Mac, rather than the other way around, you will likely not have too many problems with either of these.


            The only other thing to watch out for is plugins.  I doubt that is currently an issue since the file you are using is so old, but there are definitely a few plugins that are Mac or PC only, so if you end up using any of those, you'll need to be sure they are cross-platform.


            Other developers who work more on the PC than me may have some things to add here - but you can develop on either platform and then run the database on the other, with only minor tweaking..





            Karen Weaver



            Desert Dog Technology, Inc.

            Sandia Park NM

            1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • 3. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

              10 to 15 hours! I suppose that you didn't find anything difficult to slow you down

              • 4. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...



                I should have elaborated. I think reading the FileMaker 10 Bible cover to cover would be a good way to start to learn FileMaker for anyone who is already technically savvy, but just doesn’t have FileMaker experience. Immerse yourself in the product! I see way too many first-time FileMaker developers work really hard to solve some problem using only the limited set of tools they know about so far, when with a bit more time spent reading and studying, it might have become clear that better approaches are available. (We all know there are many ways to accomplish any given task in FileMaker.)


                Granted, just reading the book isn’t going to make a person a FileMaker developer, but it might give one a very good overview of what’s possible and what tools and capabilities FileMaker provides. And when the reader needs to attack a specific issue, he or she would have a good idea what tool fits the problem at hand and where to look for more info.


                Oh, and I’ll admit that I’m an optimist. But I suspect that why I take on some of the projects I do  … because I always imagine them to be easier than they turn out to be …  


                Peace, love & brown rice,

                Morgan Jones


                FileMaker + Web:  Design, Develop & Deploy

                Certifications: FileMaker 9, 10 & 11

                One Part Harmony 

                Austin, Texas • USA


                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • 5. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...



                  1.)  What kind of problems will I encounter upgrading an FM6 project to FM11?


                  a) passwords in FMP6 will become the account name and password in FMP11 - eg.  "zinc01!!" is now account name "zinc01!!" with password "zinc01!!".

                  b) case matters.  "zinc01!!" ≠ "ziNC01!!"

                  c) in a multi file solution you will find interfile navigation fails unless the called external script has a Refresh/Select window step in it.

                  d) if there are a lot of SetField steps in the FMP6 file you will want to add Commit steps after them.

                  e) scripted Windows script steps will need to be fixed (Mac ones come over ok)

                  f) if the FMP6 solution is complex (multi-file) or complex (single file but many scripts) a tool like MetaDataMagic cvan save you a lot of time

                  g) File References ( related databases) can cause startup issues when there are a lot of them - FMP6 remembers everything, and will try all file locations until it finds one that works.  This can take time.  MDM has a file reference fixer that is very helpful indeed.  And FMP11 will allow you access to edit them...

                  h) ...and so on


                  I have done about a dozen brute force conversions for clients who didn't have enough ponies for a rebuild.  They work.



                  4.)  The current FM6 project built on the Mac could produce runtime versions of a portion of the project for both Mac and Win platforms that we would then send out to our customers for their input.  Can FM11 do the same?  Can the Developer version of one platform (Win or Mac) produce runtime versions for both platforms(Win and Mac)?


                  a) FMPAdvanced will create runtimes.  They need to be created in the "native" environment however.




                  “There are two major products that come out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX.  We don’t believe this to be a coincidence.” --- Jeremy S. Anderson

                  • 6. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

                    1.)  What kind of problems will I encounter upgrading an FM6 project to FM11?



                    I have done a lot of transfers from earlier version to newer versions. A simple indicator is the length and complexity of the scripts. Print the scripts to PDF and examine them. If they are short, you can probably upgrade easily. If they are long, you can expect trouble.


                    Look for broken, multiple or extraneous external FMP data sources. MetaData Magic is a tool that can help you handle this problem.


                    Expect broken script behaviour ( go to layout, select window, etc ).


                    Expect excess baggage of all sorts. A lot of development has occurred and many things can be done simply now that could not be done simply then. You may find that there are scripts, fields, layouts, even entire files that were integral to the FM6 application that are completely unnecessary in FM11.


                    Here's a quick how to:


                    1. Make a copy of the entire set of files.

                    2. Select them all and drag them onto FM11 to open and convert them simultaneously.

                    3. open each of the converted files in FM11. For each file, Isolate a single record. Export it as FMP file to a new folder. Keep exactly the same name as the original file. This step drops all the calculations, etc. It also drops container fields. Don't worry about that for now.

                    4. In FM11 open a new file. Import all tables from the recently exported tables.

                    5. Where necessary, recreate container fields. Many container fields may be unnecessary. You can cut and paste between files.

                    6. Some of the files in FM6 would be main modules, others would be utility tables. Decide which of the files have so many scripts, layouts, etc, that you cannot shift them into the new file. Move the converted versions of those files into the same folder as this new one.

                    7. In the Relationship Graph in the new file, delete the tables of the main modules that you are keeping. This is just to prevent confusion.

                    8. In the Relationship Graph of each of the main modules, add the new file as an external data source and for each table occurrence of an external table, re-point them to the correct table in the new file.

                    9. You can now tidy up by deleting all unneeded references in external FMP data sources.

                    10. Ideally, at this point, you have four or five files, including on big data store.

                    11. On a strictly, needs only basis, copy layouts from the old files and paste them into the new omnibus file. Think carefully about this. A utility table may be associated with a particular module. In which case, put the layout into the module file. Buttons with scripts attached will break. You can follow the guidelines at www.fmdiff.com to prevent this but in these circumstances it may be simpler to write new scripts. Scripts can now take parameters and use variables so it is possible to write re-usable code.

                    12. Decide which of the summary and calculation fields must be recreated. A lot of them are unnecessary in v11 because things can be done in the layout using conditional formatting, or can be done using Custom Functions, or can be handled by variables. Many global fields are unnecessary now because variables can be used instead.

                    13. To recreate some calc fields you will need to create relationships. Rebuild relationships between tables as required. An FM6 solution may have used compound keys. An FM11 solution can use multiple keys so the compound keys may not be needed.

                    14. By this stage you should have a fairly complete data structure. Any scripts in the main modules that refer to scripts in files that did not come forward will now be broken. If you're lucky, these will be few. The app may even be functional, sort of.




                    • 7. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

                      Hi John,


                      You've already received much useful advice. How well you can make use of it will depend upon several factors:


                      a.     The extent of your experience with databases in general,


                      b.     The magnitude and complexity of the solution you are planning to convert, and


                      c.     Urgency of the conversion project.


                      Should any of these factors become overwhelming, then it is my recommendation that you seek some assistance from an experienced FM Developer who can work alongside you. A few hours with a experienced consultant can provide you with a realistic evaluation of the project's complexity, and guidance on the best approaches to conversion or rewrite. If the FM6 files are poorly documented, or difficult to comprehend, then the consultancy could easily spare you from weeks of frustration and abortive effort -- especially if you have other duties for your employer that might so easily interrupt the continuity of your conversion efforts.


                      I'd recommend attending your nearest User or Developer Group to help you find a consultant with appropriate experience for your project.


                      I hope this helps,



                      Hamilton, NZ

                      • 8. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

                        Hi John,


                        If you must migrate (instead of rewrite in new version, which is what I would recommend) then I suggest that you read Converting Pre-FileMaker 7 databases http://www.filemaker.com/downloads/documentation/fm8_converting_databases.pdf


                        I also suggest that you first become very familiar with the script step Commit Records/Requests because you will be adding it to a lot of scripts. 


                        Added:  Also Migration Foundations and Methodologies here http://www.filemaker.com/downloads/pdf/techbrief_fm8_migrtn_found.pdf

                        • 9. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

                          Hello Ms. Weaver:


                          Okay, snarky comments are allowed if provided in good taste--and if I get to respond, gently, in kind.


                          I am a veteran of a number of database projects, and though I do not claim mastery of the subject, I have a good journeyman's understanding of the concepts behind good database programming.  I have background in MySQL (moderateley strong), SQLite (just one project), and XBase programming (but the latter was a long time ago).  I have also used MySQL in tandem with PHP, Applescript (forced upon me by my evil bosses (grin)), C++ and Perl.  I can write a pretty complex select statement, though I lack other than basic skills in the other five (?) basic statements.  Usually when I needed a table built I would go to the DBA and say, "here are the fields I need and this is the data they should hold...please make me a table."  I have minor experience in the PHP class that allows the programmer to write data directly to FM tables.  I also understand database building rules up to the third normal form.


                          As a programmer, I have been programming as a hobby since 1985 and professionally since 1990.  My first big project was building an inventory program for the National Space Society in dBase.  Please let me know if you have any other questions.



                          • 10. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

                            So glad I asked!!  So - I recommend you focus on the migration white papers, and just learning the software features - how things work in FM.  I still think the FM Professional Training Series is probably the most valuable for that purpose - there is a very good intro to the software and how it works, followed by a systematic guide to development from basic tables to complex scripting and server management.  If you master the training series, you will have the information you need to evaluate and modify or rebuild or whatever you need to do with the old system.  You can skip the parts about basic database design but they are not a big part of the series anyway.


                            And definitely - post specific questions in the forum.  Before you attempt migration, you really need to understand how the current database works.   There is no training series for FileMaker 6, but you will find that if you know how things work in 11, you'll be able to figure out what is going on in the system you have.  You will likely find that many things that were accomplished with a lot of effort in FM6 are much easier to accomplish in FM11, with improved performance as well. 


                            Best of luck!!


                            warm regards,




                            Desert Dog Technology, Inc.

                            • 11. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

                              1.)  What kind of problems will I encounter upgrading an FM6 project to FM11?

                              I agree with the suggestions given by everybody else here. But even though you write that it is a huge FileMaker 6 (.fp5) project it may or may not be a very simple task to convert it.


                              If your old solution is not using plugins and is not using FileMaker 6 to the limit (and over the limit) sometimes converting can be pretty straight forward. This is important to mention, because the white papers and the good advice you get from me and other people will have to assume the worst.


                              Advice - use two-three hours for a little pilot project

                              1. Go through the solution and make sure that each file shares at least one account with full rights (in .fp5 this is the password). It must be written exactly the same with capital/non capital letters etc. Capitalisation of passwords doesnt matter in .fp5 but is crucial in .fp7.
                              2. Put all files in one folder.
                              3. Drag this folder to the FileMaker Pro 11 or FileMaker Pro Advanced 11 icon. Convert it.


                              Now go through the solution.

                              If you did not use a lot of plugins for important parts of the solution, you might find that everything or nearly everything works nearly as good as it did before. But for sure not better.


                              You may occationally find that FileMaker leaves an open window behind which should have been closed. This is because .fp5 could only have one open window to a file at one time. This is easy to solve, just adding a close window step to the script at the relevant place.


                              With some solutions it is not this easy, but please go through this pilot-test-project first. If it is not broken, do not fix it


                              Now let's say you succeed and the solution is working fine. Then I may have done a disservice to you!

                              • If you are only going to use the same solution, without major changes, enhancements and expansions, with FileMaker 11, then you are probably home safe.
                              • If you are going to continue to develop and expand the solution, then you are probably better off building a new solution.


                              As you see, allthough getting your solution to run without problems on FileMaker 11 could be a very easy task, it may not be the way forward for you.


                              If you are interested in disccussing this, please tell a bit more about the solution and about the future of it.


                              And may I recommend FileMakers own FileMaker Training Series

                              • 12. Re: New FM Developer seeking newbie tips...

                                Hi, nice to see we have such a helpfull community. I agree with most of the things, i would just add 2 usefull links that i found helpfull as a learning resource (if nobody did it already): http://www.databasepros.com/, http://www.geistinteractive.com/. If forum scrambles the links thinking thay are spam, look for Geist Interactive (more advanced stuff) and Database pros with Marc Osborne, they have some really great videos for beginners. This is if you are bored to read these great books that are recomended here, i dont know how is it possible to go over a 700 pages book with examples, test questions and practical work in  10-15 hours, reading 50-70 pages per hour i think this is Physiologicaly impossible, maybe it is just me though.