Exploring Problem Spaces

Given its primary role as a database product, it’s easy sometimes to forget what a great teaching tool FileMaker Pro can be. One of my favorite educational uses for it is building models to explore problem spaces, for example…

  • viewing all possible outcomes for a problem with boundary conditions
  • conducting trials to confirm the likelihood of a predicted outcome
  • using “brute force” to find the solution to a complex problem

..and today we’re going to look at an example of each of these.

Dice Roll

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Demo Files: Dice Roll, v1 and Dice Roll, v2

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Modal Popovers + Magic Date Value Lists

Today we’re going to explore a couple ideas that were glossed over in last month’s article on the CustomList custom function…

  • implementing a “modal” popover
  • using a “magic” value list to display a properly sorted list of dates

…and you can download a copy of today’s demo file, Date Filtration, if you are so inclined.

Modal Popover

One of the most useful FileMaker features introduced in the last few years is the popover (if you aren’t familiar with them, Howard Schlossberg’s presentation provides an excellent introduction). In the standard implementation, you click once to display the popover, and then click anywhere outside the popover to dismiss it.

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CustomList

Earlier this year, in Virtual List Reporting, I used a custom function written by Agnès Barouh called CustomList to generate a couple basic lists, and then remarked…

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Well today I’m going to attempt to make good on that assertion. In case you aren’t already familiar with CustomList, it allows you to iteratively generate and/or parse lists using the full power of the FileMaker calculation engine. CustomList can process up to 500,000 rows — it is non-recursive and very fast — and today we’re going to use it to solve a variety of problems, both real world and theoretical. [Actually, the row limit can be adjusted, and it varies by platform — for full details see the CF definition.]

Today’s article features four demos…

…as well as a number of examples that don’t require a demo to illustrate their point. Continue reading

Transfer a Found Set to a UI File

If you work with the separation model, or any other multi-file configuration where a layout in file A is based on a table in file B, you may have encountered the following situation: while FileMaker makes it easy to transfer a found set from file A to file B…

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…there is no obvious mechanism to go the other direction. Stated in other words, you can easily transfer a found set from an interface (a.k.a. UI) file to a data file, but not vice-versa. Nor for that matter, is there an obvious way to transfer a found set from one UI file to another UI file. Continue reading

Life After Anchor/Buoy

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INTRODUCTION

Earlier this month I was contacted by a DevCon presenter asking permission to include some slides from my eleven-year old anchor/buoy materials as part of his presentation. I said I’d be honored, but then added, “You might mention that I haven’t used A/B on a new project in about eight years.” He asked what system I was using instead, and a number of other colleagues have wondered as well, which brings us to the topic of today’s article.

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Virtual List Reporting, part 2

Welcome back for the second and concluding installment in our exploration of Virtual List Reporting (a.k.a. VLR). Demo file: VLR-part-2.zip

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To avoid repetition, this article will assume the reader is familiar with concepts and techniques introduced in part 1 (some of what follows may appear to be gibberish if the reader is not)… but to briefly recap, here are some benefits of VLR:

  • Flexible framework accommodates complex reporting challenges
  • Fast performance (we use the Multifind technique in this demo)
  • No need to tamper with schema in your data tables or on the relationships graph
  • Unlike traditional FM reports, you can easily combine data from unrelated tables (we saw this in report 6 in part 1)
  • Under certain circumstances, VLRs can be much faster to develop than traditional FM reports (as per discussion of report 3 in part 1)
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Portal Threading in FM 15

Today’s release of FileMaker Pro 15 brings a welcome performance boost in the form of in-line portal progress indicators, a.k.a threaded portals. Ian Jempson (@ianjempson) was kind enough to provide me with a test file that he built, and today’s demo file is based on Ian’s work, and shared with his permission. The purpose of the file is, a) to demonstrate portal threading in FM 15, and b) to explore the behavior of variables instantiated via portal filter calcs and/or object visibility.

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Demo file: fm15-portal-threading.zip (7.5 Mb)

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Virtual List Reporting, part 1

Self-plagiarism alert: to avoid repeatedly referring the reader back to earlier virtual list articles, portions of text from those earlier articles are incorporated here.

Welcome to the first installment of a two-part series on producing reports using the virtual list technique, or more properly, collection of techniques. Demo file: VLR-part-1.zip

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Invented and popularized by Bruce Robertson, virtual lists are incredibly flexible, and have made a number of appearances here in the past, including… Continue reading

Set Variable by Name

Recently, in the midst of various reporting and charting projects, I’ve found myself wishing for an easy way to “dynamically instantiate” one or more variables… in other words, set them by name, with the name determined programmatically, as opposed to being hard coded.

This issue has come up from time to time on this blog over the last five years or so, most notably in Dynamic Variable Instantiation, where I observed that…

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…and then proposed an unwieldy mass of gobbledygook as a workaround, e.g.,

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Actually, the preceding isn’t too bad for occasional use, especially if the value you’re passing to the variable is as simple as the GetSummary string shown above. Continue reading

Fast Summaries Revisited

If you do complex data analysis, then from time to time you probably need to group, summarize, and parse data into variables and/or fields. There are various ways to accomplish this, including the Fast Summary technique, which regular readers of this blog may be familiar with, as it has made a number of appearances here over the years.

Well today we’re going to look at a couple alternatives to Fast Summaries, with the help of some demo files, which you can use to do your own benchmarking.

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Or, if you’d rather not do your own benchmarking, scroll down to see results from my tests. Bottom line: each of these three techniques can be fastest, depending on circumstances.

(Also, if you’ve been putting off exploring Perform Script On Server, a.k.a. PSOS, host the demo files on FileMaker Server 13 or later. The reporting routine optionally uses PSOS, so you can dive in painlessly and see what you’ve been missing.) Continue reading