Richard: In this video, I want to do a quick brain dump on the important issues that you’re likely to see with the FileMaker 17 release. So this is the quick brain dump. If you could only watch one video, this is the one video you need to watch. So I’ve got – helping me today is Myles Debski, newly promoted to Senior Engineer at RC Consulting. Hello, Myles.
Myles: Hey Richard. How is it going?
Richard: I’m good and William. Hi William. How are you?
William: Hey, Richard. I’m doing great. And yourself?
Richard: Ah, you’re extremely perky for being this late in the day. So we’re excited here. We’re going to get this going. So the reason we have these other people involved is to help give a little color commentary and different perspective on the most important pieces of the FileMaker 17 launch.
So first off, I guess the top items for me, number one and number two, is that the FileMaker 17, the file format is the same file format. So FileMaker is continuing to use the FMP 12 file format, which means that there’s really no migration or conversion for a FileMaker file.
The other thing to keep in mind is that of course a lot of people have different clients or different server versions that are in use and so if you’re going to use 17, then you will be allowed to mix 17, 16 and 15. 17 and 14 will not talk to each other, either the server to the client or the client to the server. So understand that 14 really is in the life if you want to stay up to date with things. So those are the first two items that I would say. Myles, what do you think?
Myles: Yeah. First thing that came to mind for me is that everybody now has access to the advanced features of FileMaker Pro. These are really great tools that us as developers use every single day, but a lot of users did not have access to and maybe some didn’t know about it. But now everyone has access to that.
You can actually go into your preferences and you got to turn on those “Use Advanced Tools” and then that will give you options, basically a tools menu at the top where you can access a script debugger and you can do more developer utilities and all these awesome features that will really help you with your development and make a better solution.
Richard: So to clarify, FileMaker Pro itself as a specific product no longer exists. The only client that’s shipping now for Windows and Mac is FileMaker Pro Advanced. However, as Myles said, the advanced features are actually a mode that you turn on or off. So I know that’s a little confusing. But suffice it to say that you download FileMaker Pro Advanced and then within Pro Advanced, the application, really a Pro mode and kind of Pro Advanced mode, right? It’s a checkbox you turn on.
So William, what’s your top need-to-know item when moving to the FileMaker 17 platform?
William: I think the FM migrator tool will be one of those things that you don’t use every day but will be of exceptional value when you do.
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Richard: Yeah. That’s a good one, William. The FileMaker data migration tool is a brand-new capability that’s really part of the 17 platform and allows you to much more easily upgrade or migrate a FileMaker solution from an older version to maybe a newer version.
So if your company or maybe one of your customers is using a custom application and you want to make improvements to it, you might make those improvements to an offline copy, maybe a copy that’s away from them. It’s not on their server that you test yourself. Then of course moving the data from that older custom app to the new custom app has been historically frankly a painful process.
The FileMaker data migration tool completely changes that. Using this tool, you can identify the old solution. You can identify the new solution and this tool will analyze the solutions, match up the tables even if you rename the tables, match up the fields even if you rename the fields and move the data over in one pass.
It updates the serial numbers. It updates custom values. It even updates all the accounts and privileges that may have been in the old file and it brings them over to the new file. So instead of you running like an import for each table separately and trying to align the fields and is taking all day, this thing does it literally in seconds. It’s really amazing.
William: For me, my perspective is a little skewed. I’m responsive for a lot of server maintenance here at RCC and when you have a situation where you want to restore from a crash database or move files around between solutions, very often you will be in a situation where you have to manually do a large number of imports or script them and it’s just a gigantic pain.
What FileMaker has done with the FM migrator tool is basically take all the pain out of that. Basically yes, you have to use a command line and I know Richard that’s not your thing. But for me, to have this tool, to put file A, file B, file B has to be a clone of the same file and move the data across. I’m looking forward to that saving me a lot of time.
Richard: So the data migration tool is really a big deal. We have a video on this and additionally there’s even a topic at the Developer’s Conference just on this one capability. In fact, probably, even though we’re mentioning this as item number four in this video, realistically this is probably the number one biggest capability in the platform. This is the thing that will make developers’ lives much easier. It will lead to developers liking the platform and loving the platform more instead of suffering through endless imports and frankly a lot of cussing and swearing that goes on with that.
This is a big deal. It’s a strategically big, big deal. So back to Myles. Myles, what’s your next item?
Myles: One thing that comes to mind – I know when I see a new release comes out is what looks different and the main thing that I notice in this is when you go into Layout Mode, we still have our Inspector and our Field Picker. But instead of being floating windows on the side, they’ve actually docked them into these panes, one on the left, one of the right, that you can actually toggle to show or hide those. So pretty much the same functionality. They’re just kind of on these panes now that you can access when you need them.
Richard: I can’t tell you how many times people have said, “Oh, I was looking for the Inspector and I can’t find it,” because it’s offloading on a different monitor or buried somewhere. So this is really a great advancement. It helps quite a bit. It probably doesn’t seem like much to a normal person. But when you’re going to Layout Mode and back and forth to Browse Mode, not losing your tools is really sweet. It’s kind of like having a toolbox but it’s belted to your belt, so you can’t lose it, right?
You’ve seen people with tools in their pockets and stuff. That’s kind of what this is like. Otherwise, you have a toolbox and you kind of leave it in the other room or leave it in your vehicle or somewhere else and you can’t get to your tools. So kind of a hassle. This is a great improvement.
Now along the same lines of very visual things that have changed or new capabilities is this idea of a master detail view in FileMaker. A master detail view is a very common design pattern. That’s a fancy way of saying that people are used to seeing this kind of interface on their computer. Windows, Mac, it doesn’t matter, mobile devices. The idea is that you have some sort of scrollable list on the left side and more of a detailed view on the right side.
Well, the scrollable list obviously in FileMaker could easily be a portal and what FileMaker has done is added a portal option which allows you within about five or ten seconds to create a master detail view on your data entry screen.
So the found set of this data entry screen and the sort state, et cetera, are all synchronized to this portal here on the left automatically. So we have some videos that cover that. But that’s really a great add-on to the platform because it allows basic users to build some rather sophisticated designs that used to take a lot of scripting and frankly some advanced skills to build. So that’s a good one right there too.
So William, next item on your list of important things to know about FileMaker 17.
William: I think the FileMaker data API is going to be a huge step forward. It was available as a trial on FileMaker 16 and I think it’s definitely the next step forward in terms of integrating FileMaker with the web. They’ve done a lot to update the API in terms of technology. Now it’s using JSON with a RESTful interface as opposed to the older XML or PHP-based APIs. There’s a lot of promise in terms of integrating with existing industry standard tools and APIs based around these newer technologies and I’m looking forward to see what new and powerful solutions we can make with FileMaker and the FileMaker data API.
Richard: Yeah. To put a little color commentary on this, historically we’ve built public-facing webpages with view the website FileMaker using custom web publishing as a generic term and the custom web publishing either uses XML or PHP. Now custom web publishing can use this FileMaker data API. It’s basically from a very basic level the same idea. You’re taking data out of FileMaker and you can load it into a webpage. Now you can load it into other things besides webpages but just for the moment, let’s talk about webpages.
There are hundreds if not thousands of customers and I know tens of millions of dollars have been invested in building webpages that collect and display data out of FileMaker Server and this technology is all based upon PHP and the XML custom web publishing.
That technology is still in server 17. My guess is that it will still be in the server probably for a number of releases yet because FileMaker is aware of all the heavy investments in that area and it’s going to take time for people to take those websites and to convert them over to use the newer technology.
So one, there’s some new tech for custom web publishing. Two, the old tech is still there. But if you’re building a new website, don’t do it with the PHP API or XML. Do it with the new data API.
Myles, what’s your next item?
Myles: The last thing that I thought of is actually with FileMaker Go 17, which is for iPhone and iPads and it has to do with the type of head functionality.
Now this has existed previously in FileMaker Pro. But now they’ve brought it to the mobile platform and so this is when you click into a field and it has a value list assigned to it. You can start typing and it will restrict that dropdown list and just pretty much make it easier for you to enter data when you’re out on the go.
The second thing that I thought of is having to do with the background mode in FileMaker Go and how it relates to iBeacon and to geofencing. Richard, do you want to touch on that?
Richard: Yeah, that’s a pretty cool feature. So normally in the old days, FileMaker Go had to be in the foreground if you’re scanning for a beacon or a geofence. Now you can set it to be scanning for those things and then of course it could be another app taking a phone call or in Facebook or some other app and then it could pop forward with a dialog and alert to let you know that you’ve crossed into a beacon that you’re looking for or geofence and you can pop FileMaker forward at that point and even run a script, which is pretty cool.
All right. Well, we’re getting to the end here. William, any last final thoughts about things that people need to know real quick?
William: Yeah, this is kind of a more advanced topic but I think if you’re responsible for a server, more than one server, if you’ve got some customizations, you’ve worked with the settings in your FileMaker Server, you’re going to find things are very different with FileMaker Server 17. There’s a lot that has been added. I’m especially excited about the admin API. It works with the same speed of technologies that the data API does and that let us basically use REST to read and write settings from FileMaker Server.
Downside, FileMaker has given us this API. They’ve given us some new command line tools with the FMS admin command line tool. The downside is they removed a number of features from the graphical web-based interface that you’re accustomed to.
If there are certain admin functions that you need to do, you will have to make a trip to the command line or set up the API because it’s just not an option.
Richard: So I think that covers all the critical elements. A couple of minor issues here at the end is that one, if you’re using FileMaker Cloud and you’re going to use FileMaker Cloud 17. FileMaker Cloud will require that your clients are all 17 as well.
So while FileMaker Server is a little more flexible as to what clients it will allow you to connect with, for example 17 Server will allow you 16 and 15, the 17 Cloud server, really it’s kind of a server, requires 17 specific clients and so that’s important to understand. Also the operating system requirements for 17 Pro Advanced on the Mac have changed and now you have to have 10.12 or 10.13, the operating systems for that.
So for those of you who don’t know what the numbers are for the operating systems, if you have Sierra or High Sierra, you’re good to go. If you have the previous operating system 10.11, you will need to update that.
On the Windows side, they deprecated using 2008 server, if you’re building your own server and I think on the client side, pretty much it’s the same. You can use a Windows 7 if you have the high-end release and obviously we encourage everyone to move up to Windows 10. It’s a much better operating system. So if you’re not on 10, think about that and with that, I will see you in the next video.
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