Top four FileMaker 11 features that improve the user experience

FileMaker 11 is here! Are you ready for the next generation of the world’s most widely used, easy-to-use database?

As Platinum members of the FileMaker Business Alliance and long-term beta testers with FileMaker, we’ve been testing the new version of FileMaker for a while now and wanted to share some of what we’ve learned.

We’re extremely pleased to report that FileMaker 11 makes some core improvements for the user experience and these are what we’re going to focus on in this article. There’s a bunch of under-the-hood improvements that developers benefit from, but for now, we’ll focus on improvements for users.

 

Quick Find

For the first time, there is a single consolidated search available in the status bar of FileMaker. This Quick Find searches through any number of fields on your current layout, all at once. It’s up to you to decide which fields should be searchable via the Quick Find.

EXAMPLE

Imagine you need to do a reverse look-up by searching on a single phone number in a contact database on FileMaker. However, your FileMaker layout has many phone number fields per record (work, home, cell, etc.). Previously, you would need to enter the phone number in each phone field and then do a Find. With FM11, you just enter the phone number once in the Quick Find search bar and the record(s) associated with that phone number are immediately found, no matter which field contains the phone number.

QUICK FIND TIP #1

Quick Find acts like an “AND” search, so if you enter:

The results will include any records with fields that include these three words, not necessarily in that order, and not necessarily from the same field. The returned results will match ALL the search terms.

QUICK FIND TIP #2

Quick Find indexes are based on the start of the word, which means a Quick Find search for:

The results will return records that contain “Beezwax”, but not those containing “bumblebee”.

PRO

This powerful new tool will massively speed up how you find records in FileMaker, especially if you don’t know the specific field that contains your search term

CON

By default, every new field you add to a layout (even if a merge field) is automatically flagged as searchable by Quick Find. This can result in huge performance issues if the field comes from a related table or is unstored, and vastly increases the size of the FileMaker file itself due to increased field indexes. The developer should carefully decide which fields need to be indexed or risk possible file bloat and slowdown.

Snapshot Link

At last, you can send someone a link to a found set of records in FileMaker. Previously, you needed to use awkward work-arounds to send someone a set of records within the database (i.e. a CSV or Excel file export which almost immediately has stale data). No longer.

With Snapshot Link, you can easily create a link (actually a small executable file) that you can send as an attachment to an email or via a Web page. Once the user clicks on it (launching the executable), that same set of records within FileMaker is displayed and within the same layout originally selected. And since it’s live within FileMaker, the data is always up-to-date.

EXAMPLE

Imagine that your FileMaker system published a database of documents to the Web. Your internal team might need to quickly pass 50 records amongst themselves for review and updating. With Snapshot Link, the link can be passed to anyone in the organization to work on, with the data always fresh.

SNAPSHOT LINK TIP #1

Our development team came up with a way to use FileMaker 11 Snapshot Links to not just send found sets to other people, but actually make these conditional actions.

Just a quick sample of what you can trigger in FileMaker via a Shapshot link:

  • Set the position and size of windows
  • Make a specific tab the frontmost tab
  • Indicate which object is highlighted
  • Restore sorted states
  • Detect security status and redirect or exit if needed
  • Include an expiration time and date on the link
  • First-time users can get redirected to an intro screen or orientation video

SNAPSHOT LINK TIP #2

No need to stress about security of your data when sending a Snapshot Link.

Because data security is crucial to any FileMaker system, if that person does not have the correct privileges to view those records, they will not be able to do so. So you never have to worry about someone who shouldn’t have access getting the Snapshot Link and viewing the data.

PRO

Share found sets with anyone on your team with access to the database. And actions can be sent, enabling a great deal more control over their user experience.

CON

None really. Snapshot Links don’t have much going against them. However, setting up actions through Snapshot Links requires an experienced developer like Beezwax.

Charting and dashboards

Ever wanted to create a chart in FileMaker, using data that you have right at your fingertips? Previous to FM11, you needed to use one of many third-party add-ons, and none of these were perfect. While organizing data is important, understanding it is vital for survival in many organizations.

At last, FileMaker has added basic charting functions, allowing the creation of powerful dashboards and charts that update in real time. For those who watch their data closely (or should), these charts will save you the time of crunching the numbers, giving you instant visual access to the key metrics you need, even in printable form.

EXAMPLE

Imagine that you keep your receivables and payables in your FileMaker system. With Charting in FM11, you can create a dashboard screen to quickly view how healthy the company’s financials are at any given moment, compared against historical data in the system or any other benchmarks you set as goals.

CHARTING TIP #1

If you like a specific chart, you can drag it from FileMaker onto your desktop or to an email and send it to others. Simple.

CHARTING TIP #2

You can publish your charts to the Web with FileMaker Instant Web Publishing. Imagine having secure access to your charts worldwide (hello iPad!) or letting the world see a specific metric based on your data via the Web.

PRO

Native charting in FM11 will help all of us visual thinkers see the bottom line faster.

CON

Somewhat less flexible styling of charts and graphs than in MS Excel. While we expect more design control of Charts in FileMaker eventually, today we have a limited design palette which mainly includes color and font choice.

Increased security

Under the hood, there are a lot of major improvements and enhancements in FileMaker Pro 11. Rather than bore you with the geeky stuff, we’ll highlight just one key behind-the-scenes element that is crucial for all our clients: security.

Previously, FileMaker had a backdoor that allowed savvy, unscrupulous users to get into fields that they otherwise should have been blocked from accessing. F11 slams this backdoor closed with an extremely muscular and immovable External File Protection scheme. We like it a lot.

EXAMPLE

Well, we’d rather not give you instructions on how to get around FileMaker security in older versions of FileMaker. But trust us, it’s there.

INCREASED SECURITY TIP #1

FM11 also introduces a new script trigger, OnObjectValidate, which both increases security of data integrity while permitting a contextual error message (“That is not a valid email address,” for example). Previously, data entry security errors were more general, often resulting in confusion and lost productivity.

INCREASED SECURITY TIP #2

If you’re concerned about people getting into fields that they shouldn’t, get in touch with us to perform some security consulting. We can assess the situation and secure your FileMaker solution using FM11’s External File Protection. Often, the fastest way to discover a security hole is to hand the file to a savvy developer and ask the developer to try to circumvent the security model.

PRO

FileMaker 11 introduces a rock-solid new security scheme to protect your database.

CON

We have to be a bit vague about the hole it plugs. Our apologies – but we’ve got your best interests in mind, since we don’t want people learning how to do this on pre-FM11 systems.

FM11 is ready to go.

If you’re interested in upgrading your FileMaker system to take advantage of FileMaker 11, Beezwax is here to help:

888 835 4483

info@beezwax.net

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