FileMaker DevCon 2009 Recap: The Sessions

by Michael Gaslowitz

I want to use this post to share with you a few of the sessions I attended at the 2009 FileMaker Developer Conference in San Francisco, CA. The theme this year was developing with FileMaker 10, with an unofficial focus on script triggers and a development technique called Virtual Lists, which the folks in the Great Northwest developed.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

  • Jonathan Stark,, presented a pre-conference session called Intro to PHP. Seeing as how he wrote the book Web Publishing with PHP and FileMaker 9, he was more than qualified to explain constants and arrays to an intro class.

  • The Keynote Session was held under a very threatening NDA. It was awesome. You should have totally been there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

  • Matt Navarre,, presented Extend and Optimize FileMaker Search, because he is Mr. FileMaker Search. Have you seen fmSearchResults? It uses one field and one layout to show the search results of multiple tables. It knows the data type (text, number, date, etc.) you are searching for, offers suggestions, and has an algorithm for ranking results. It is very, very fast.

    fmSearch results also uses the development technique I mentioned earlier, Virtual Lists. Basically, FileMaker data (from multiple tables) is stored in a global variable, and the global variable can then be parsed and referenced from an unstored calculation field or web viewer. Add some conditional and text formatting to make it really shine. Todd Geist has a more thorough explanation in his recap.

  • Bill Heizer, Senior Consulting Engineer at FileMaker, presented Advanced Script Triggers. Need help remembering the difference between pre and post event script triggers? If the action that caused the trigger was Open, Enter, Modify or Load, OpEnLoMo, then you have yourself a post-event script trigger. Commits, Keystrokes, Reverts, Close, Saves, and Exists, CoKeRCSEx are pre-event script triggers.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

  • Albert Harum-Alvarez, lead designer at SmallCo, presented The Idiom of FileMaker: What’s New, What’s Old, What’s New Again!. FileMaker has really matured over the years with the advance of portals, tabs, script parameters and variables, and Albert cautions developers against their overuse. He recommends against using table occurrences for search queries, creating gratuitous variables, and hard-coding business data and field names in scripts.

    But the biggest and simplest piece of advice I took from his session was, “Code as if the next developer on the project has an anger management problem and knows your home address. More advice can be downloaded from Albert’s website here.

  • Geoff Coffey, co owner of Six Fried Rice, presented DRY FileMaker: Techniques to Keep Scripts Error-Free and Manageable. Follow this advice and you will stay ahead of the game:

    1. Do not build things that work, build things that do not fail. Planning for what can go wrong is more important than testing to see if something works.
    2. If you must fail, fail early. You do not want unpredictable code in the hands of a client that thinks it works.
    3. DRY, or Don’t Repeat Yourself. We create databases so users only need to enter a name once. We should apply that principle to how we create the database itself. Learning how to modularize scripts and code is the key.
    4. “We should forget about small efficiencies, say about 97% of the time: premature optimization is the root of all evil.” – Donald Knuth, 1974. Stop doing it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

  • The best advice to come out of the Under the Hood session this year is as follows: When FileMaker loads a record, it loads all data from every field of that record (except container fields), even if a field is not on the layout. If you are storing large chunks of text in your database, but hardly ever using that field on a layout, your database may be running slower than it has to. Just move that field to its own table with a one-to-one relationship, and your database will run faster for layouts that do not use that field.

A big thanks to all who presented this year!

September 19, 2009  •  DevCon, FileMaker  •  Comments Off on FileMaker DevCon 2009 Recap: The Sessions

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