14 Replies Latest reply on Apr 18, 2012 12:52 PM by mark_scott

    FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve


      Hello all,


      First post here. Kept getting ominous-sounding emails from FM TechNet reminding me that "You haven't created any content yet." So, here goes…


      Having had a chance to play around with pre-release version and now, finally free to discuss the new features, I thought I'd share a few observations about the new layout design environment. The CliffsNotes version is that the new CSS design capabilities are generally powerful, not to mention fun to play with, but come with a learning curve and some unexpected gotchas.


      First, grids and guides. The new static, shared, and dynamic guides are extremely welcome and should be instantly familiar if you've ever used, say, Illustrator. Grids, otoh, now behave rather unexpectedly. If, for example, you set a grid spacing to simulate the old 6px interval (say, major interval of 72 pt with 12 subdivisions, or just 6 and 1) and begin dragging an object while watching the new coordinates tooltip, you'll notice that the object may snap in unexpected increments, such as 3 px, or 2 and 4 px alternating. I believe what's happening is that the drawing engine is alternately snapping the top and bottom object edges (or left and right) to the grid, such that, unless the object's dimensions are an exact multiple of the grid interval, this is what you'll see. If grids are your traditional comfort zone, this will certainly take some getting used to. My preliminary recommendation is to turn off grids and embrace guides in their various flavors. (And it goes without saying that you should not turn on both snap-to-grid and dynamic guides at the same time, lest you immediately find yourself in "snap-to" hell.)


      Next, themes. Again, these are powerful and welcome, but with caveats. If you're persnickety about your layout aesthetics and think you just might ignore the new themes altogether, in order to roll your own personal "look and feel," think again. Themes are not optional — every layout starts with an underlying theme and that theme controls many aspects of a layout's appearance that are not directly under your control. (But do see Richard Carlton's thread in this forum re the possibility of editing the underlying css files and adding customs themes — something about which there will probably be a lot more discussion in the coming weeks and months.) For example, effects such as engraving and embossing are no longer under your control in the inspector, but these effects are not actually gone. They are embedded into themes, with each theme being optimized for the proper amount of such effects. Other attributes that are embedded and not exposed for direct editing include the look of tabs in tab controls, the look of the drop-down and calendar widget buttons in combo boxes, the color of the "in-focus" glow that appears around active fields in Browse mode, and the pin-stripe background pattern of certain themes. Thus, while you can edit many attributes of layout objects, such as the new (and extremely welcome!) gradients and dynamic corner rounding, many attributes simply come with whatever theme underlies your current layout.


      Another example of layout attributes out of your control is important enough to warrant its own paragraph, that being text padding within field controls. Each theme has a default font, which, of course, is under your control. Each theme also has automatic padding within edit boxes and other controls, which is not under your control and is optimized for the theme's default font. The result is that if you decide that you like, say, the "Onyx" theme (which I do) but want to change the font from Helvetica to Verdana (which I did), the padding remains optimized for the former, resulting in the text sitting lower in the field control. The field will initially automatically expand 3 pixels (um, points) to accommodate this, but if you change its height back to the original dimensions, the text now sits unattractively low in the control. Short of editing the underlying css, it's probably best to stick with the font for which your chosen theme is optimized.


      Lastly, what happens when you copy objects between layouts with different themes applied? In some cases (field controls, for example), the object retains the look of its originating layout's theme. (This could be a handy way for getting, say, field controls with a different font spacing or different amount of engraving onto a layout.) In other cases (tab controls, for example), the object adopts the look of the destination layout's theme. In either case, if the object had customizations applied before copying, all bets are off, trial and error being necessary (at least in my limited testing).


      Mind you, none of this is to say that the beautiful, new themes and their underlying css technology aren't big steps forward, just to warn that there will be a learning curve until we, individually and collectively, have wrapped our heads around the new ways.



        • 1. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve
          Stephen Huston

          The first thing I noticed in layout mode in 12-pre-release was that buttons built in 11 and earlier were treated more like text objects that fm12-native buttons.


          For instance, if I selected a row of buttons and changed the text's font, size, or color, every button selected reverted to its minimum size as if were a text block aligned top-left, even though the buttons were all set to align center-middle. I had to resize at least one by hand, reasize them to the longest size of the new one, and then realign them. A real PITA and not at all expected behavior.


          Other than that one, which has me hesitant to start reformatting layouts with large numbers of buttons, I really like the layout changes. But selecting a grid of buttons from a "menu-type" screen to apply the new button states really feels like I'd be better off rebuilding that layout from scratch rather than fight with all the misaligning that follows as I edit pre-12 button objects.


          So we now a lot more layout power, and, as Mark says, a learning curve which has a bump or two at the start. I'm ready to charge up that hill, but hope I don't trip too often.


          Stephen Huston

          • 2. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve

            Interesting observation, Stephen, re buttons.  I wouldn't have expected that one.  I haven't yet tried converting legacy layouts.


            I like the new layout changes, too.  I think that, picky though I am about aesthetics, I am going to be able to get just the look I want in the end.  Best of all, it will almost completely be native graphics now, with obvious positive implications for performance in networked settings!


            I'm also, guardedly, eager to try playing ( . . . CAREFUL . . . NOW ! . . .) with editing the css files to add my own theme(s).  The risk there, if not done with care, is not just tripping while charging up the hill, but falling into a crevasse. 



            • 3. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve
              Stephen Huston

              I suspect that if we copy an existing CSS from the FM app-package, rename it, and edit it, and then the layout goes all to pott when we apply it we can still fix it. Just select a different FM-built Theme to resolve it.


              Oh, and try it on a test copy of the layout first! Yeah, that will help. Then trash the messy CSS file from the app-package after comparing it to a copy of the original CSS to see where we went sp hopelessly wrong. Bound to be one of the bumps in the learning curve.


              Now, if I can just remember... test on copy of the layout, copy of the layout... belt and suspenders....


              Stephen Huston

              • 5. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve
                Stephen Huston

                ...definitely not ready for bungee jumping on this one...

                • 6. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve

                  Hi Stephen,

                  as I mentioned here ( https://fmdev.filemaker.com/message/76627#76627 ) you don't have to modify the app-package on Mac ;-)



                  • 7. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve
                    Stephen Huston

                    I just found your post on the other thread this morning, and I am really pleased we can keep Themes external from the app-package.


                    Thanks for that!

                    • 8. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve

                      Thank you for starting this thread about themes I figure this is a good place to chime in, to me the new themes and indeed ALL the changes to layout mode add NO value to the end user at all and themes are so half baked as to be totally worthless.


                      The UI I have created for my customers works quite well thank you and they really like them what need is there to change all these over to a new theme?  Once I change over all my layouts to a theme what business benefit is there to my clients – ZERO - it does nothing for them at all. Anything that might be of some benefit to some users with themes you can't do such as:

                      Defining your own theme

                      Globally applying themes

                      Conditionally applying themes

                      It's astonishing to me that the new features in the design layer such as themes, gradient fills, rounded corners etc. are being touted as "break through design features" yes they were break through 15 years ago but not so much in 2012. 


                      I'm trying to figure out exactly what benefit my users will get for the pain and expense of upgrading to 12 and so far I can't find a single reason to recommend it (except for remote containers in some cases). This is especially true when you throw in all the performance problems and potential conversion issues and I find that really sad.


                      I love FileMaker I really do I've made my living from it for almost 20 years and had high hopes for this release but this release really makes me question the road FileMaker is going down and if it's still I road I want to follow.

                      • 9. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve

                        My clients who have seen their solutions converted (admittedly only a few) like the increase in speed so far -- I kid you not. Container fields (beautiful), faster remote access, incremental/faster backups, more features and compatibility with iOS, and charts will be enticing for a few of them.


                        And yes, some do want an upgraded look, although I'm sure that, like you, the clients who have spent years using FMP will want to keep the same layouts.


                        Be sure to compress your converted files, and if you can test as a client to FMS. This weekend I have been working off-site with FMSA hosted by a Mac Mini with a standard/paltry cable internet connection. I'm in another state using WiFi on an even lower-grade connection and I'm impressed. Working faster than v11 in almost every way with the possible exception of scrolling through lists, which I have seen to a small degree.


                        Even if you ignore Themes, I think there are enough reasons to eventually convert.

                        • 10. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve

                          I agree with all the critical remarks Lemmtech stated...


                          I like to add to the general discussion:


                          Filemaker in general


                          The speed of development (2 years after the last release) is by far too slow. Many of these features should have been there 10 and more years ago. Any many many features are still missing which are standard in all state-of-the-art frameworks.

                          On my wish list since long:


                          • Why it is STILL not possible to change the visibility of objects or change all other attributes through scripts and/or based on conditional formatting? What the hack is so difficult about it? (I was waiting for years for script triggers to come which should have been there in the first version.)


                          • SQL queries are great, but can not be used in standalone applications. So, their scope is very limited. Why not make Filemaker another SQL database "for the rest of us" ?


                          • I would really love to have a scripting language such as LiveCode (based on original HyperText of HyperCard long time bck). If FMP could suport such scripting language --- Wow wow wow. I really really hate these predefined script steps since the beginning (i started FM in the 80s). Then you could simply copy code fragments, develop around your own functions... and anyway that would speed up development by a factor of 10... I am sure. FM team could learn a lot from LifeCode! There you feel there are still enthusiasts working with love for what they do.


                          My wish for a change in strategy:


                          • Serious DB development is never something for "the rest of us", as being the author of a serious book is never something for pupils of the first class. It is the wrong paradigm. But to develop tools easier to use for real developers and stay at the height of time... that is a strategy.

                          • Any alternative to Filemaker? If not then why not push them to deliver at least one major upgrade per year and be much more transparent and react to bugs instantaneously with regular monthly updates? I want to feel that something is going on and there are people who know what they want.
                          • 11. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve

                            Getting back to the thread's orignial topic of learning the new layout environment . . . one especially useful technique that was mentioned in another thread but is worth repeating here, is that you can share guides across all layouts for consistent spacing. After dragging a guide out from a ruler, right-click on the guide and select "Share Guide with All Layouts."



                            • 12. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve

                              Yes, that is true that it is an improvement to have such guides accross layouts... Such guines were  part of the first Pagemaker program way back in the 90th based on master templates, it took some time for the Filemaker team to adopt and I like it.)

                              • 13. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve



                                I agree with most of your requests, and I would add the ability to set a field to enterable or disabled during runtime as well.


                                Not sure about getting another language involved, but I would love if the Script editor could be switched to a "text" mode, it would make some development tasks much faster.  I would also like to see a text editor for things like imports and exports.  Having to move all those fields around one at a time can really be tedious.


                                I believe we are just on the ground floor of UI changes in the Filemaker Product line in version 12.  Be sure to send FMI you wish lists.  Hopefully some of these issues which are long past due will make it into the product in the near future.  In the mean time, the SPEED of the UI HAS to be improved.  For any type of complicated layout, the speed in FM12 is sucking lemons.




                                • 14. Re: FM 12 Powerful, New Layout Entrée . . . Comes With a Side of Learning Curve

                                  The learning curve has just been smoothed out a bit, courtesy of Matt Petrowsky of FileMakerMagazine.com.  Check out his two new videos on FileMaker's new theme engine. Thanks, Matt.