O'Reilly logo

FileMaker Pro 9: The Missing Manual by Susan Prosser, Geoff Coffey

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

What's New in FileMaker Pro 9

FileMaker Pro is a single software package that serves two fundamentally different types of people: users and designers. Users are the folks who need a database to help them organize and manage the data they work with in order to do their jobs. Developers create the databases that users use. No matter which category you're in (and lots of people fall into both categories, sometimes popping back and forth dozens of times a day), you'll find that FileMaker doesn't play favorites. The features you need for both roles are equally accessible.

Day-to-day users appreciate features like the following, because they address many common tasks:

  • When you create a new file, you get more options in the new Quick Start screen. You can create a new database from one of FileMaker's many templates, create a new file from scratch, or open an existing file, whether it's on your computer's hard drive or it's shared using FileMaker Server. The Learn More link serves as a clearing house for FileMaker help. Choose from links to the File-Maker Learning Center, a What's New guide, the User Guide, or FileMaker's Knowledge Base.

  • The enhanced Web viewer you use to track FedEx and UPS packages (new since FileMaker 8.5) now gives you a progress bar as the page loads, so you don't have to wonder if your Internet connection is working. And when you pay for purchases, say on Amazon.com or eBay, the Web viewer shows a Lock icon to indicate that your connection is secure.

  • If you need a quick refresher on, say, instant Web publishing, you don't have to scramble around your hard drive looking for FileMaker's documentation. The new Product Documentation command knows where to find help files and opens them without a fuss.

  • Multiple-level Undo and Redo of Typing commands let you step backwards through your typing tasks. These features can come in handy when you're correcting data-entry mistakes, for example, which often requires many edits of data in the same field.

  • With field-level control for Visual Spell Checking, you can turn off the display of squiggly lines under words FileMaker's spelling dictionary doesn't recognize. So if your database records patients' medical histories, FileMaker won't clutter up the name of every medication.

  • Now you can send data to your boss who doesn't use FileMaker without even a trip to the File menu. The toolbar has new tools for "Save as Excel" and "Save as PDF."

  • When you're installing FileMaker 9 for all the employees in your company, you don't want to spend time painstakingly entering staff names and other info so you can register each copy. But staff can use the Register Now command after you've finished.

  • You can make ID tags for each piece of computer equipment in your office, complete with acquisition date, upgrades, and repair status by creating a new layout for Avery Label 6578. Updated Avery Labels include the latest copier styles and sizes, so you don't have to fuss with picky dimensions when you're in a hurry.

  • No longer must you haunt user forums or make regular visits to FileMaker's Web site to make sure you've got the latest and greatest software. Software Update Notification checks weekly to make sure your copy of FileMaker Pro is up to date.

Database developers will appreciate these new features that help create databases (or improve those you already have):

  • If you need to add a new calculation that totals up your monthly sales but aren't sure how, click the Learn More link in the Specify Calculation dialog box. This action launches FileMaker's Help file entry that explains the dialog box and all its secrets.

  • When a new employee needs access to your shared databases, the Send Link command, found in the File menu, will generate an email with a clickable link to your files. No more writing lengthy instructions or standing over the new guy while he fumbles around a new network trying to find the files he needs to be productive on day one.

  • Conditional Formatting lets you do neat tricks like display invoice totals in red if they're overdue, in blue if they're pending payment, or in gray if they've been paid.

  • If you generate custom PDF catalogs for your customers and would like to add a few more items to an existing PDF, use Append to PDF Script Step. With this new command, you don't have to create a second document, or worse, start the whole catalog over from scratch.

  • If your users have a wide range of monitor sizes, you'll love the new Auto Resize Layout Objects. You can anchor fields, tab controls, and other layout elements, and then they'll shrink or grow, depending on the screen size and resolution of each user.

  • If you used to type extra spaces in the name of your tabs to force them to be the same width, you'll appreciate the improved Tab Controls. You can set a consistent tab width, and even make one tab the default, so that users always see it active when they navigate to the layout.

  • ScriptMaker now lets more than one developer work on scripts at the same time. Script folders and separators let you organize scripts, and a search field filters long lists of scripts, making it easy to spot the one you need.

  • If you've created a whizz-bang set of files for managing your home-based business, it's now a lot easier to sell well-behaved files to other users, because you can use one of FileMaker's new Calculation Functions to check which version of File-Maker Server your customer is running. That way, you can skip parts of your scripts that won't work on certain server versions.

  • If you're keeping your college's course schedule in a FileMaker database, but registration data is stored in a SQL database, use the External SQL Sources (ESS) connection to share data between the two systems. See Chapter 17 for details.

If you use FileMaker Pro Advanced for its developers' tools (and if you aren't using it, you should), your professional life just got a whole lot easier. Here's a partial list of its new features:

  • Finding out what went wrong with a script you're troubleshooting is easy with the enhanced Script Debugger. The script's last error code is displayed, so you don't have to capture it in a variable. Plus, the code is a handy link to the error code list. Just click to see, for example, that error 110 means the related tables referred to by your script are missing.

  • The Data Viewer now displays a pop-up window with more room to read lengthy values that don't fit in the main window's columnar format. Even better, it automatically displays the value of all variables as your script runs them. No more time spent creating all the values you want to watch, or time wasted because you forgot to create an important one.

  • To use FileMaker's new features effectively, you'll need to see them in the Database Design Report (DDR) when you analyze your system. Sure enough, FileMaker lists your external SQL tables and supplemental fields, grouped scripts, tab control properties, conditional formatting, and auto-resized layout objects in your DDRs.

If you share databases over the network, you'll be glad to know about FileMaker Server's new features. Here are the highlights:

  • Server maintenance now takes place in a browser, so Mac and Windows fans alike see the same Admin Console with all the same features. If you use a Mac at work but a Windows machine at home, or if you have to administer the server from whatever machine you happen to be in front of when something crops up at work, you have only one screen to get used to.

  • You'll know more about who's using your files, when they logged in, and even what account they've used to open those files with the improved Client Administration panel.

  • You can now run scripts from the server, so you can set up a nightly maintenance routine that sweeps through your database, looking for all the records that were marked for deletion during the day. You can test each record with your script, and then delete or repair records while you and the rest of the staff are home resting.

  • A new PHP Site Assistant lets you harness the power of PHP (a powerful, open-source coding language), without writing a single line of PHP code. The assistant helps you create a Web site using the tables and fields you've already created in your FileMaker database.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required