User-Friendly Excel Exports, part 6

Recently I was asked to implement user-friendly Excel exports on a WAN-based solution, utilizing some of the techniques explored earlier in this series (part 1, part 1.1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5 — all from five years ago). There was just one problem: while performance was great locally, and okay on a LAN, it was decidedly less-than-satisfactory across a WAN.

Well today we’re going to look at three demos showcasing a brilliant, outside-the-box technique I picked up from Beverly Voth, which is not only significantly faster on a WAN (4x or 5x faster), but also remedies some other shortcomings associated with my earlier approaches.

Demo files:

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PDF with Embedded Links

Author’s note: I’d like to offer a big thank you to Christian Schmitz of Monkeybread Software, not only for creating and continually improving a fantastic plug-in, but also for promptly and patiently answering my many questions.

A few weeks ago we looked at creating a table of contents for a PDF containing nine individual reports. The article ended by asking a somewhat rhetorical question…

Now that we have a table of contents for our master report, wouldn’t it be nice if we could hyperlink each TOC entry to its corresponding report within the PDF?


FileMaker doesn’t provide a built-in way to accomplish this, but it can be done using a combination of the MonkeyBread plug-in + DynaPDF Lite, and this will be explored in my next article.

…and today we’re going to dig into the nuts and bolts of what it takes to make this happen.

As usual, we have a demo file (Embedded PDF Links), but since it will only work for developers having licensed copies of the above-mentioned products, here is a PDF showing the end result: Report with Hyperlinked TOC.pdf

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Virtual List Table Of Contents

A few years back I did an article on producing a PDF catalog + table of contents, with the TOC based on a vendor table and the catalog entries based on a products table. Today we’re going to use a different approach to generate a table of contents, building on techniques explored in last year’s Virtual List Reporting series… specifically we’re going to generate one big PDF combining nine reports, prefaced by a table of contents.


Demo files: and


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FM/SQL Portal Filter + Dynamic Sort

Editor’s note: Today I’m pleased to present a guest article and accompanying demo file written by Joel Englander on using ExecuteSQL + a global multi-line key as an alternative to FileMaker’s built-in portal filtering mechanism, with dynamic portal sorting included as an added bonus.

Demo file: (75 Mb compressed, 230 Mb uncompressed)

browseaksortcitycomp Continue reading

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


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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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…


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…


…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



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:


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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