Category Archives: Version: FM 16 or later

Thinking About JSON, part 2

This is a follow up to Thinking About JSON, part 1. Last time we were primarily concerned with learning about JSON paths and structures, and reading JSON. This time around we’re going to look at creating and manipulating JSON.

Demo file:

(If the above screen shot looks familiar you have a good memory, because today’s demo is based on the one that accompanied this article: Summary List Fields in FM 13.)

To briefly recap, JSON is built on two structures…

  • Objects: surrounded by {} and consisting of comma-separated key:value pairs
    Simple example:  { “product” : “FileMaker Pro” , “version” : 17 }
  • Arrays: surrounded by [] and consisting of comma-separated values
    Simple example:  [ 2 , 4 , 6 ]

…and where things get interesting is that the “values” in either of the above structures can themselves be JSON (i.e., an object or an array). This defining feature of JSON, whereby a JSON structure can, and frequently does, contain embedded smaller JSON structures, was explored in detail in part 1, and we will see some examples of this today as well. Continue reading

Virtual List Reporting with JSON Arrays

Acknowledgment: As always a huge thank you to Bruce Robertson, for inventing virtual list, and for many other contributions to the FM community over the years.


As a follow up to my recent “Virtual List on Steroids” presentations at DIG-FM and dotFMP, today I want to take a fresh look at using JSON arrays in conjunction with Virtual List Reporting.

JSON Array

JSON arrays + Virtual List are a natural fit, but, as we shall see, small changes in methodology can make a huge difference in terms of performance, and the approaches we’re going to explore today are the result of a lot of trial and error, and incorporate feedback and suggestions from Dave Graham, Paul Jansen and Perren Smith.

What follows will assume the reader is somewhat familiar with the basic ideas behind Virtual List. If you aren’t familiar, or need a refresher, you can find references to earlier articles here: Virtual List on Steroids, part 2. We’ll get to the demos in just a minute, but first, a review of some of the benefits of using virtual list.

  • Flexible framework accommodates complex reporting challenges
  • Fast performance
  • 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
  • Under certain circumstances, virtual list reports (VLRs) can be much faster to develop than traditional FM reports
  • 100% multi-user safe and friendly


Here’s the main idea in a nutshell:

2018-06-24_182509.png Continue reading

Virtual List on Steroids, part 2

[10 June 2018: includes updated material from my recent dotFMP presentation.]

[30 May 2018: check out my reassessment of the Fast Summary technique here.]


Here are files that were demoed or referred to during my “Virtual List on Steroids” DIG-FM presentation on Thursday, May 10th, 2018 (VLR = “virtual list reporting). Continue reading

Thinking About JSON, part 1

I’ve been working on a couple large JSON projects over the last few months, and with the one year anniversary of FileMaker having built-in JSON capabilities just around the corner, this seems an opportune moment to share some reflections and opinions (some of which may contradict JSON-related opinions I have expressed previously).

Demo file:

The following is intended to be a series of observations, rather than a structured introduction to JSON in FileMaker. If you’re looking for the latter, I recommend these resources in particular.

At any rate, if you’re not yet completely comfortable with JSON perhaps some of the following will be helpful, or failing that, amusing (intentionally or otherwise). Continue reading

Exposed by Tableau

Editor’s note: today we have a guest article written by John Weinshel, who has been quietly contributing to the FileMaker community for 20+ years. John’s thoughtful postings have helped developers at all levels of expertise, and I’m pleased to present his thoughts on Tableau here on FileMaker Hacks.

Demo files: (6Mb, contains two .twbx files)
Tableau trial:

The Tableau connector widget for the FMS 16 data API has made developers aware of the incredible interactive charts and graphs in Tableau. What may be less obvious is that Tableau can also tease out data that is hard to see natively—independently of the cool graphs.

FileMaker data is about a thing, an entity—the customer, stock, auto part, invoice item, reservation. With some additional work, we can see patterns in groups of data, but the default is to deal with it at the row level.

Visualization tools like Tableau, on the other hand, start out with groups of data. With some additional work, Tableau can elicit information about individual records, but the default is to work at the aggregate level. One of its strengths is, in fact, revealing patterns about groups of groups.

This post looks at how Tableau can—apart from its dazzling graphics—reveal hidden information within FileMaker data. It does not get into how to build calcs and views, nor how to connect Tableau to FileMaker data; some suggestions for learning about Tableau appear at the end of this article. Continue reading

Virtual List Reporting + JSON

Update 29 June 2018: see Virtual List Reporting with JSON Arrays for updated thoughts on this topic.

Today we’re going to look at an alternative approach to the multi-window VLR technique we examined last month in Virtual List Reporting part 3, utilizing and extending techniques introduced in last month’s JSON + Virtual List. To avoid needless repetition, today’s article will assume the reader is familiar with that material.


Demo files: vlr-plus-json-v1 and vlr-plus-json-v2

As you may recall from VLR Part 3, we have a system that allows us to spawn as many separate reports as we wish (each in its own browse mode window) and sort each report independently via clickable column headings. Continue reading

JSON + Virtual List

31 July 2017: As per my exchange with Beverly Voth in the comments section of part 2, the date encoding technique used here is strictly intended for situations where FileMaker will both produce AND consume the JSON.

29 July 2017: demo has been updated to require a minimum version of FileMaker 16.02 as per my exchange with John Renfrew in the comments section.

One nice thing about FileMaker being on a yearly release cycle is that there is always something new to learn and write about… and, having recently attended a pair of highly informative sessions on the topic of JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) at Devcon 2017 — thank you Todd Geist and Anders Monsen — it is clear to me that JSON + virtual list is a compelling combination.


Demo file:

My original plan was to integrate JSON with virtual list reporting, but in the interest of clarity, I decided to save that for a future article. Today we have a straightforward demo that a) generates a small amount of JSON from a standard FileMaker table, and then b) renders it in a virtual list table. Continue reading

FM 16: SortValues and UniqueValues

[Update 7/1/17, 12 noon (PDT): demo file has been updated to make the found set tracking more robust; article text has been revised to reflect this.]

Today we’re going to look at two functions introduced in FileMaker 16: SortValues and UniqueValues, and you may want to download and follow along in this demo file: FM 16 – SortValues & UniqueValues (requires FM 16 or later).

Each of these functions operates on a return-delimited list of values, and the names are self explanatory: SortValues allows you to intelligently sort the list in ascending or descending order, and UniqueValues removes duplicate entries. Continue reading