Saturday, March 05, 2005


FileMaker Pro 7 Hassle

[Updated after I installed a browser that supported compose mode]
Many moons ago, I created an application for my parent's business. Originally it was created using some old version of FileMaker Pro (FMP) - maybe 3 or 4? - and has been upgraded a few times over the years. They had been using it with FMP5 for awhile, but decided that FMP7 would be a better host to live in the wonderful world of OS X.

The most recent upgrade was not the painless upgrade that I was used to - I had to get in and fix a bunch of things manually. At the time I was not sure if this is because my parents skipped a version of FMP, but it later become clear that it was more likely to be because version 7 appears to be a major rewrite of the platform.

As it turned out, I got most things in order relatively quickly - the only total road block was a particular report that gathered data from multiple related tables using multiple portals on a single layout. The report was an utter mess in FMP7 - I suspect that I was getting stung by a FileMaker Pro bug (specifically this bug or something similar).

The real irony is that one of the big reasons that this report was one of the big reasons that I didn't finish porting the application to 4th Dimension. FMP has always made it really easy to throw together reports that are clever about how much paper they consume.

Back to FMP7. The only workaround that I could figure out was to write four different reports, and then print them in succession as if they were one report. The downer is that a short report that may have previously only taken a page or two will now always take a minimum of four pages. This is probably what I could have done in 4D?

Now, don't get me wrong - I am happy that FileMaker made the big changes that got made in version 7. When I first developed the application (or more specifically first did some maintenance on it), I shook my fist at not being able to easily separate the application logic and the data. In my mind, this single feature alone made the whole upgrade worthwhile - it was also half the reason I considered the jump to 4D. I am also realistic enough to know that big changes increase the chance of bugs (and googling about implies that not too many others have needed the feature that I was relying on).

What actually annoyed me the most, is that I don't think that the response that I got from FileMaker Australia's support was adequate at all. Initially my parents had been dealing with support directly to get the application upgraded and they really just didn't help them at all. It was only once my googling (I decided that I can use this as a verb if I was using[.au]) turned up a link to the unresolved bug that they admitted "As it is a known issue it is actively being investigated".

I asked for a recommended workaround, but gave up waiting after a month.

To top off the agro factor - when my brother rang up to get a status update, he was told "you support on this purchase has expired". Personally I think when someone has active issues open, you need to follow them through until completion. Granted after my brother hassled them a bit, they did give him license keys to down-grade to FMP6, but I had already sorted out the dodgy workaround in the meantime. A touch too little, a touch too late guys :(

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