Level: Advanced, Version: FM 16 or later, Virtual List

Virtual List Simplified

Demo file: virtual-list-simplified.zip

Note 1: The example in today’s article/demo is intentionally very basic.
Note 2: The demo is self-populating to keep the data current, so the values you see in the screen shots will not exactly match those you encounter in the demo.

Recently I had the pleasure of discussing virtual list with Paul Jansen and Jeremy Brown on The Context podcast. One consequence of having written so much on the subject over a period of many years, is that information has been spread across many articles. Another consequence is that my thinking re: certain implementation specifics has changed over time.

At the risk of stating the obvious, there are many, many ways to skin the virtual list cat, and the purpose of today’s article is not to say “this is the best way”, or imply that other approaches are flawed, but simply to propose one particular approach you might take — especially if you are either: a) new to virtual list, or b) already using virtual list, but are unhappy with the performance of your current implementation.

At any rate, my aim today is to gather some useful insights from earlier articles into a single document (with an occasional new idea thrown in as well), and some of what follows has been recycled from those earlier articles. Continue reading “Virtual List Simplified”

Level: Intermediate

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

Continue reading “Exploring Problem Spaces”

Level: Advanced, Version: FM 13 or later, Virtual List

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 multi-part series on producing reports using the virtual list technique, or more properly, collection of techniques. Demo file: VLR-part-1.zip

demo

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 “Virtual List Reporting, part 1”

Level: Advanced, Version: FM 12 or later

Radical Separation, part 4

Disclaimer: This article contains speculative and experimental techniques that are in the proof-of-concept stage. Use at your own risk and test thoroughly.

FYI: In March at the Portland PauseOnError un-conference, Matt Navarre and I had a freewheeling Separation Model discussion, a podcast of which has just been posted as episode 85 at FileMaker Talk.

Welcome to the fourth and final installment in our series on Radical Separation. Today’s article assumes familiarity with part 1, part 2 & part 3, and continues in the direction we were headed at the end of part 3. Specifically, we will finish up our exploration of “virtual calculations” by examing an intriguing approach suggested by Barry Isakson to a) reduce the field count, b) solve the “define more fields than you’ll ever need” problem, and c) accommodate summary fields, and I invite you to follow along in today’s demo file, Virtual Calculations, Part 4, if you are so inclined.

6-9-2013 4-10-10 PM

Continue reading “Radical Separation, part 4”

Level: Advanced, Version: FM 12 or later

Fast Grid Displays on a WAN

Last October I began a series on Outer Joins, which explored a number of different ways to display summarized information in a grid, and at the time I concluded that the “fastest” method was to leverage the FileMaker relational model. And it was plenty fast, locally… and not too bad on a LAN… and technically, it was the fastest method on a WAN but only because the other methods we looked at were even dog-slower than it was.

I like to test solutions on a WAN, even if they’re only going to be deployed on a LAN, because it’s a great way to uncover performance bottlenecks. But recently I needed to deploy a summarized grid on a WAN, and was incentivised to come up with something faster… and after a bit (well, okay, a lot) of trial and error settled on the approach we’re going to look at today. To cut to the chase, with a million records in the test file, the previous best grid rendering time of 11 seconds on a WAN has been reduced by a factor of 10, to just over one second.

5-28-2013 11-11-16 PM

Continue reading “Fast Grid Displays on a WAN”

Chart, Level: Intermediate, Version: FM 11 or later

Array Charting, part 1

In recent postings we’ve looked at…

While these three techniques may not appear to have much in common, all of them are used as building blocks in today’s demo, line-chart-from-field-array. Our data set is a table of web site visits, by week and by state, beginning in March 2006 and running through June 2011.

Wouldn’t it be nice to to use FileMaker 11’s built-in charting capabilities to produce a line chart showing weekly visits per year? Continue reading “Array Charting, part 1”

Level: Any, Version: FM 8 or later

Lookups and Repeaters

Not long after FileMaker 7 was released, I happened to mention to one of my colleagues (Ilyse Kazar, in case you were wondering), “Now that auto-enter calcs have gotten so much more powerful, there’s really never a reason to use a lookup ever again, is there?”

“Actually,” she replied, “there is one thing that you can do with a lookup that you can’t do with an auto-enter calc…” and proceeded to tell me what it was. I promptly built a primitive prototype of today’s demo file, to see for myself, and she was indeed correct.

At first blush, it appears that every feature of the venerable FileMaker lookup option for fields can be replicated via auto-enter calculation — until you attempt to populate repeating fields that is, because it turns out that auto-enter calcs can only address a field’s first repetition.

If you ever need to set or clear a whole bunch of reps at once, you will appreciate how easy a lookup can make this operation. Continue reading “Lookups and Repeaters”