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

PDF Trickery

If you produce reports or other FileMaker output in PDF format, here’s a little trick that can be a real time saver in terms of development.

Imagine this: a client receives a nightly report via email in PDF format, and asks you to make sure it will fit on a single page in landscape orientation. The report always contains three groups of 12 records, with each group preceded by a leading subsummary, a latticework of horizontal and vertical gridlines, etc.

It is a busy, crowded report, but with patience and fine tuning, you manage to get everything to fit on a single page. Just. Barely.

Now the client wants you to add a trailing subsummary to each group, but of course still expects everything to fit on a single page. The report is already at 8pt type, with tight vertical margins, and you are not looking forward to a bunch of time-consuming heroic measures to accommodate this request, so instead you employ the following trick. Continue reading

Obscure Multiple Window Issue

Note: Thank you to Colleen Hammersley for bringing this issue to my attention, and to Howard Schlossberg for proposing a clever and elegant work around that addresses the issue on the Windows platform. (We’ll also look at another fix that works cross-platform.)

Today we’re going to explore a windowing behavior change that was introduced in FileMaker 12. If your solutions display multiple on-screen windows, then you may at some point find yourself facing this issue.

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The problem manifests in different ways on the Windows vs. Mac platforms; we’re going to start out by looking at what happens in FMP/Win via the Window Focus, v1 demo.

Continue reading

Tips ’n’ Tricks, part 2

Welcome back for a second dip into the developer bag of tips and tricks. A few of today’s entries assume familiarity with part 1, so if you haven’t already checked it out, I invite you to do so before proceeding.

We begin today with a couple ExecuteSQL tips.

Tip #1: Get to know COALESCE

The SQL Coalesce function takes a series of arguments and returns the first non-null result, like so:

COALESCE ( arg1 ; arg2 [; arg3 ; etc.] )

For example, given a table of customer data including these records…

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Tips ’n’ Tricks, part 1

Over the last few years I’ve been collecting miscellaneous tips and tricks with the thought of eventually aggregating them into a blog posting, and it appears that day has finally come. Ideally there will be something new and useful here for developers of all levels, from the neophyte to the most grizzled of FileMaker veterans.

We start off with a couple FM 14-specific tips.

Tip #1: Tool tips in layout mode

In layout mode in FileMaker 14 you can hover your mouse over any badge and an informative tool tip will display.

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Tip #2: Shift-Return in the Script Workspace

Did you know you can add new line above the current line in the Script Workspace by pressing Shift-Return? It works with the standard Return key, as well as the numeric Enter key.

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Before… line 1 is active, and the user is about to press Shift-Return

After... a new top line has been added

After… a new top line has been added, and existing entries have moved down to accommodate

Continue reading

Multi-State Dynamic Graphic Buttons

I had a client request recently to toggle an image button to a second image on mouse over. Under normal circumstances, this would not be difficult to accomplish since you can assign one image to the Normal state, and a different image to the Hover state, like so.

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However, if you go this route, you can’t use container fields as the source for the images, but instead must make static file selections, like so:

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Since this button would be appearing on dozens of layouts throughout a 20+ file solution, the client wanted to be able to store the two images in container fields, so an authorized user could easily swap in new container images (in browse mode, not layout mode) and have the changes ripple through their entire solution.

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Demo Files:

Continue reading

Found Set Awareness Revisited

Recently a colleague contacted me with some questions about making ExecuteSQL found-set aware, and I realized that while I had addressed aspects of the problem in various blog postings over a multiyear period (for example, here and here), I had not assembled my thoughts into one cohesive, up-to-date article.

Well, that shortcoming has now been addressed, and today we’re going to look at three demo files, all of which rely on the summary list field type (introduced in FM 13).

9-20-2015 8-52-01 AM Continue reading

FileMaker UI Tricks: Dual-Purpose Layout

Editor’s note: Today it’s my honor and privilege to present an article by guest author Beverly Voth, whose contributions to the FileMaker community are numerous and much appreciated. It’s great to have her back here on FileMaker Hacks.

FileMaker 13 & 14 have some features that can be leveraged to allow one layout to toggle between Form View & Table View and look differently! We will be using the Starter Solution, “Contacts”. Feel free to download the demo file (Contacts14.fmp12.zip) or you may start with a fresh copy of the database file or another Starter Solution and follow the steps below.

NEW to Starter Solutions? Select “New From Starter Solution” under the File menu. Click the “Contacts” icon and click on the “Choose” button. A dialog will come up with the “Save As” field filled in with the name of the database file you chose. Navigate to where you wish to save the file and click the “Save” button. This will open the file to the default layout and be ready to change.

The default layout for Contacts is “Contact Details”, is in Form View and shows two “tab-like” buttons called: Contact List & Contact Details. These are buttons that Switch you to different layouts. Notice how the placement is the same and there is a smooth transition between the two layouts. You may also notice that the view is “locked” to just allow View as List or View as Form (respectively). You cannot select other views on these two layouts.

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Continue reading

FM 14: Separation Model Data Mining

Note: Interface file #1 requires FM 14 or later; interface file #2 works with FM 12 or later.

What do you get when you combine the Separation Model + FM 14 placeholder text + ExecuteSQL + a million-record table + a variable array + Get(CalculationRepetitionNumber) + the Mod and Ceiling functions + a couple custom functions, with blazingly fast (local, LAN and WAN) performance thrown in for good measure?

This article w/ accompanying demo (fm-14-separated-data-mining.zip), that’s what.

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The Challenge

Provide a data-mining interface to query a million-record table (cc_transactions) containing 20 years’ worth of credit card transactions. The client wants to be able to pick a date via a calendar widget, and see transaction info for that date, summarized by card type, transaction type and region.

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This is a separated solution, with cc_transactions living in a file called z_data.fmp12, and a specific requirement for this project is to not make any schema changes to the data file. The data-mining will take place in a separate interface file… or in this case, two interface files, since we’re going to look at two methods.  Continue reading

FM 14: Separation Aggregation Aggravation revisited

Four years ago I posted the original version of this article, exploring a technique that worked fine in FM 11, but that broke and required extensive work arounds in FM 12 and 13. What you’re about to read is a revision of the original article, showcasing a FM 14 method made possible by a new feature: placeholder text.

Introduction

FileMaker developers take it for granted that calculated sub-total and total fields will update automatically when portal rows are created, edited or deleted. This becomes problematic when one a) uses the separation model, and b) either intentionally or unintentionally holds the parent and related child records open (uncommitted) while editing, but still expects to see these aggregates update in real time.

7-3-2013 2-57-02 PMToday’s demo file is FM 14 Aggregates and Separation, and for demonstration purposes it has interface elements in both the Data file and the Interface file. Normally of course, in a separated solution, you wouldn’t have interface elements in the Data file (since that would defeat the purpose of separation). Here we are looking at a newly created parent record in the Data file, with a couple newly created portal rows, and the three calc fields below the portal are tracking the changes in real time. Continue reading