Tag Archives: Position

FM 13: Anti-deduping, part 2

In part one, we explored various “anti-deduping” techniques. As you may recall, the challenge was to retain duplicates and omit unique entries from within an existing found set, as opposed to starting from all records… otherwise we could have just searched on ! (find all duplicates), but the ! operator does not play nicely with constrain, and cannot help us with this particular challenge.

Update 9 May 2015: it turns out that there is a way to reliably use contrain with the ! operator from within a found set — see Ralph Learmont’s technique + great demo + explanation here — Successfully Find Duplicate Values Within A Set Of Records

Also, last time, we were seeking to omit unique zip (postal) codes, which, in the example file, were always five digits long, i.e., of fixed length. Today our goal is to omit unique (a.k.a. “orphaned”) first names, and it turns out there are some additional challenges when the field in question is of variable length, which we will explore in today’s demo file: Anti-deduping, part 2.

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Question: if we say we want to locate “all the Marias”, what do we really mean? Here are some possibilities… Continue reading

FM 13: Anti-deduping, part 1

Recently there was a question about cleaning up a found set on one of the FileMaker discussion forums. When a question of this nature arises, it’s typically some variation on “How can I remove [or delete] duplicate entries?” But this was the opposite: For a given found set of customers, how can I omit those whose Zip codes only appear once in the found set?

In other words, keep the records whose Zips appear multiple times and banish the others.

Note that the challenge was starting from a subset of records. If the challenge had been for all records in the table, one could simply search on ! (find duplicate values) in the Zip code field. However, this trick won’t work when starting from a found set rather than all records. And constrain won’t help here because it doesn’t play nicely with the ! operator.

Update 9 May 2015: it turns out that there is a way to reliably use contrain with the ! operator from within a found set — see Ralph Learmont’s technique + great demo + explanation here — Successfully Find Duplicate Values Within A Set Of Records

Off the top of my head, I suggested…

Sort by Zip code, then loop through the found set from top to bottom… using GetNthRecord() test the current record’s Zip code against the previous record and also against the next record. If both tests are negative, omit, otherwise go to next record (and of course exit after last).

As it turned out, it was a one-time cleanup task, and my suggestion was good enough. But I had a nagging feeling there were better-performing ways to go about this, and today’s demo file,  Anti-deduping, part 1, presents four different methods. I encourage you to download it, experiment, and add your own methods or variations… perhaps you’ll come up with a faster approach, in which case, needless to say, I hope you’ll post a comment at the end of this article.

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ValuePosition: The Function FileMaker Forgot

25 Feb 2012: Custom function syntax corrected to fix a minor bug.

There are various FileMaker functions that we can use to extract one or more characters from a text string (or any data string for that matter), provided we supply the proper numeric coordinates. For example,

Middle ( "Literature" ; 4 ; 3 ) = "era"


GetValue ( "Winter¶Spring¶Summer¶Fall" ; 3 ) = "Summer"

The key is knowing the numeric address of the data we wish to extract. In some cases we know it in advance (e.g., the first item of a return-delimited list); in other cases we calculate it on the fly. Continue reading

Dude, that code is sooooo FM3

Recently I saw some code that brought nostalgic tears to my eyes. The goal was to parse the file name from a reference in a container field called, appropriately enough, photo_ref. Here’s an example of what the data viewer showed when pointed at that field:

image:/C:/Client/XYZ Corp/photos/andrew wigan.jpeg

And this is the code the developer had written:

Middle (
   Photos::photo_ref ;
   Position ( Photos::photo_ref ; "/" ; 1 ;
      PatternCount ( Photos::photo_ref ; "/" ) ) + 1 ;

In a nutshell: count the slashes, and then retrieve everything to the right of the final slash. Here in a FileMaker 11 solution was code that could have been written in 1995.

To his credit, the code correctly returned “andrew wigan.jpeg”, but I had to wonder whether the developer was aware that there were several things he could have done to make his life easier (and his code more readable).

First, he could have simplified the code by using Let() to eliminate the multiple references to “Photos::photo_ref”.

Let ( a = Photos::photo_ref ;
Middle (
   a ;
   Position ( a ; "/" ; 1 ; PatternCount ( a ; "/" ) ) + 1 ;
)   //   end let

He could also have moved a few more things up into the Let portion of the calc.

Let ( [
a = Photos::photo_ref ;
b = PatternCount ( a ; "/" ) ;
c = Position ( a ; "/" ; 1 ; b ) + 1
] ;
   Middle ( a ; c ; 99999 )
)   //   end let

I find that to be a heck of a lot more readable than the code we started with. However, there’s a different approach that could be used to solve this problem, which strikes me as being both easier to understand and more elegant.

Let ( [
a = Photos::photo_ref ;
b = Substitute ( a ; "/" ; ¶ ) ;
c = ValueCount ( b )
] ;
   GetValue ( b ; c )
)   //   end let

In other words, convert the reference to a list, by transforming the slashes into hard returns, and then grab the bottom value from that list. Once you get comfortable with this technique, you will find many situations where it comes in handy.

For example, if you use the GetFieldName() function, you know that it returns both the table occurrence name as well as the field name itself, separated by “::” like so:


What if you just want to extract just the field name? You can use a simplified version of the technique we just finished discussing:

Let ( [
a = GetFieldName ( Invoice::id_customer ) ;
b = Substitute ( a ; "::" ; ¶ )
] ;
   GetValue ( b ; 2 )
) // end let

…and the result is “id_customer”.