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

FileMaker DevCon 2009 Recap: What Was Different?

by Michael Gaslowitz

Another year, another FileMaker Developer conference. For this year’s recap I decided to add a little more analysis on the conference itself, so these next three posts about the 2009 FileMaker Developer Conference will ask the following three questions:

  1. How was this year’s conference different from previous conferences?
  2. What did I get out of the sessions?
  3. How can next year’s conference be better?

As the title of this post may suggest, this post is about the major differences I saw at this year’s conference, and what effect, if any, they had on the overall experience.

Location, definitely not Kansas

This year the FileMaker Developer Conference was held in downtown San Francisco, a city with amazing food, culture, and public transportation. Usually the conference is held at a vacation-style resort, with 90+ temperatures and a lazy river, so the concrete jungle and temperatures that required layers was definitely different.

Weather and hotel amenities aside, some would argue that the urban setting enticed people to go off campus, and spend less time socializing with other attendees. That might be true for some, but I liked having the option of soaking up a little culture with my FileMaker, and I do not think I talked about FileMaker any more or less because of it.

Some would argue that San Francisco was an expensive place to hold a conference in this economic climate, but I did not feel like I spent any more or less than I did last year. In fact, as explained below, if you consider when the conference took place, it had the potential to be even more affordable than previous years.


The conference ran from Thursday, with pre-conference sessions in the morning and an early evening Keynote, through the closing sessions on Sunday afternoon.

I personally think this is much better than starting the pre-conference sessions on Sunday, holding the Keynote Monday morning, and ending the conference Wednesday afternoon. If we ignore the pre-conference sessions, which will always require you to get to the conference a day earlier, this year’s conference could have been attended in only two business days at the end of the week, compared to three business days at the beginning.

In a profession that could easily argue time is money, how can you argue with this schedule? I hope FileMaker has a Thursday through Sunday conference again next year.

FileMaker ran the show

And finally, for the first time I am aware of, FileMaker, not Advisor, ran the conference. From registration to the closing sessions it was FileMaker running the show. Why did FileMaker choose to do it themselves instead of outsourcing some of it Advisor? No idea, and I am not really concerned, because at the end of the day FileMaker did a good job. And from FileMaker’s perspective, who could argue with 1,100+ attendees?

September 7, 2009  •  DevCon, FileMaker  •  Comments Off on FileMaker DevCon 2009 Recap: What Was Different?

Video: Conditional Borders

by Michael Gaslowitz

This post demonstrates a conditional formatting trick to change the border color of a FileMaker object. Spoiler alert: there is no border.

conditional borders

ipod version iPod Download (1.2 MB)


May 30, 2009  •  Conditional Formatting, FileMaker, Podcast  •  1 Comment

More script-triggering plugins

by Michael Gaslowitz

Are you bummed the zippScript plugin is no longer available, and that the script-triggering functionality in FileMaker 10, while awesome, does not work on all layout objects? Try using these plugins instead:

All of these plugins are free, and compatible with FileMaker 10.

March 22, 2009  •  Plugin  •  1 Comment

To all current and future subscribers…

by Michael Gaslowitz

If you currently subscribe to A FileMaker Blog, and are reading this post in a feed reader, I successfully configured Feedburner to generate the feed- without breaking anything.

If you have no idea what any of this is about, take a minute to learn about feed readers, and subscribe today.

March 14, 2009  •  News, RSS  •  Comments Off on To all current and future subscribers…

AFB Wordle

by Michael Gaslowitz

Wordle: A FileMaker Blog

Image courtesy of Wordle.

February 6, 2009  •  FileMaker  •  Comments Off on AFB Wordle

AppleScript your FileMaker Pro Advanced Menus

by Michael Gaslowitz

The Data Viewer and the Script Debugger are staples in every FileMaker developer’s toolkit, yet there is no built-in keyboard shortcut or script step for either one of them. With four lines of AppleScript, these menus are now within reach:

tell application "FileMaker Pro Advanced"
     do menu menu item "Data Viewer" of menu "Tools"
end tell
tell application "FileMaker Pro Advanced"
     do menu menu item "Script Debugger" of menu "Tools"
end tell

To install, we could copy/paste these scripts into a Custom Menu that uses the Perform AppleScript script step (and of course a keyboard shortcut), but that would require us to do that for every database file we create. A better option would be to use a system-wide keyboard shortcut application like Quicksilver, FastScripts, or the built-in Keyboard System Preference.

If you run into problems, make sure your computer is configured properly.

Download the AppleScripts

January 31, 2009  •  AppleScript, FileMaker, Toolkit  •  2 Comments

Shameless Self-Promotion

by Michael Gaslowitz

360Works is now selling a Portfolio License that covers all of their products for the low, low cost of $1,995.

The Portfolio License entitles everyone to Enterprise versions of all of 360Works’ products, (SuperContainer fans, this means you), and allows for unlimited use within a single organization regardless of the number of users or locations. Deployment on FileMaker Server and through Web Publishing is included.

Current owners of 360Works products can apply the cost of previous purchases towards the cost (not to exceed 80%) of the Portfolio License.

December 18, 2008  •  FileMaker, News, Plugin, Toolkit  •  Comments Off on Shameless Self-Promotion

Now a FileMaker 8 & 9 Certified Developer

by Michael Gaslowitz

Go get certified today.

December 13, 2008  •  FileMaker, News  •  Comments Off on Now a FileMaker 8 & 9 Certified Developer

Video: Reorder Fields and Scripts

by Michael Gaslowitz

This post demonstrates how to reorder multiple fields and scripts using the following keyboard shortcuts: Command (on a Mac)/Control (on a PC), with the up and down arrows.

reorder fields and scripts

ipod version iPod Download (2.0 MB)


November 9, 2008  •  FileMaker, Podcast, Toolkit  •  Comments Off on Video: Reorder Fields and Scripts

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