FileMaker Database Design, Development, and Maintenance

Fundamental FileMaker Extensions (Plug-ins)

meetingFileMaker is a very powerful development platform, but with any production application comes the need to link your database to the rest of the world. Whether you need to read and write regular (non-database) files, create a repository of electronic documents, fully integrate the sending and receiving of email into your database, or accept credit card payments within your FileMaker application, you'll need additional software to add these capabilities.

There are many high-quality plug-ins (extensions) available from third-party software developers that let you perform these and others functions directly from a FileMaker application. Some plug-ins perform such fundamental operations that we consider them essential to a cost-effective development effort. The license fees for these plug-ins are modest – typically a tiny fraction of what it would cost you to develop these routines on your own – assumming you have the unique expertise required.

In short, we wouldn't start a FileMaker development project without these essential plug-ins:

Accessing Disk Files: Troi File from Troi Automatisering

With this jam-packed toolbox of functions, you can create a list of all the files or folders in a disk directory (folder), open an existing file and retrieve some or all of the contents, create a new file, write new or updated data to a file, check creation and modification dates and times, and much, much more. Troi File makes it simple and quick to perform any file-access operation on any disk file from within a FileMaker application.

Document Storage, Retrieval & Publishing: SuperContainer from 360Works

It's pretty neat that FileMaker has the built-in capability to import and store entire files in container fields within a database record; including photos, audio and video clips, Word documents, PDFs ... whatever. But importing and accessing such documents can really bog down your application as the numbers increase. For an industrial-strength solution, we always use SuperContainer. By storing documents as ordinary files that can be easily indexed and retrieved from within a FileMaker application, displayed full size or as auto-scaled thumbnails on any screen, printed on reports, and uploaded and downloaded for web-based users, SuperContainer amps up performance while removing all the subtle limitations of container fields. And backups become much faster, too!

Email: POP3it Pro and SMTPit Pro from Comm-Unity Networking Systems

The ability to send email is built into FileMaker. But if you need to create a full-fledged email client so that messages are automatically linked within your database to your contacts, employees, and suppliers, we recommend these two plug-ins. With POP3it Pro and SMTPit Pro you can utilize all the power of email for prospecting, communicating with clients, and instantly pushing updated information from your database out to anyone who needs it.

Web Services: Web Services Plug-in from FM::Nexus and Beezwax

This way this brilliant software works seems like magic: You write a one- linescript that passes this plug-in any URL pointing to a Web Services Decription on the net, and instantly any and all services the site provides are converted into new, easy-to-use FileMaker functions. Then add a single line of code to invoke one of your new functions, and you've connected your database application to any of thousands of enterprises that speak Web Services. You can use this plug-in to ship and track pakages, integrate Google and Amazon services, validate e-mail and street addresses, convert currencies, retrieve stock prices, get weather updates ... The list is staggering in length and growing every day. (We integrated our first, real time Web Service in about 10 minutes ... without even reading the documentation.)

Here are some other plug-ins we rely on (and recommend) when needed to meet specific client requirements:

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Use Our Custom Functions to Speed Your FileMaker Development ... for Free!

If you have a complex calculation or formula you need to evaluate in several different FileMaker scripts ... or even in multiple places in the same script ... you can make your life easier by creating a custom function. A custom function is a series of calculations bundled into a neat little package you can reference by name from your script to automatically invoke all the steps you coded into the function.

In order to add a custom function to your database solution – whether you're writing your own function from scratch or just using one of ours – you'll need a copy of FileMaker Pro Advanced. (Your users don't need FileMaker Pro Advanced to access a database that includes custom functions.)

To browse the custom functions we've created, click on the button below:

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Free Custom Functions by Other Developers

The FileMaker developer community is large and generous ... with many talented developers willing to share their solutions to problems we all face every day. While we can't personally vouch for the accuracy of all the custom functions listed on these sites, we know you'll find some great code ... even if only to use as a starting point for your customzied calculations.

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FileMaker Applications You Can Use to Jumpstart Your Project

For us there's nothing more challenging than a blank canvas ... or, in our world, a brand new, empty FileMaker database with no tables, no fields, no layouts, no buttons, and no scripts. It's so easy to stare at a blank screen for hours, imagining an infinity of possibilitites. But where to start?

That's why we've built our highly-customizable Framework application ... so we can jump right into a new project without delay. And since we're starting with a fully-functional application instead of an empty database, we get almost instant feedback the momentwe make the first few changes to customize the database for a new project or client.

There are some starter applications that come on the FileMaker Pro installation CD that can help in this regard. All of these are unlocked, meaning you can use them without paying any additional license fee and you can modify them to suit your needs. But if you need something a little more capable or a little more specific, it's good to know there are additional options available.

Here are some other sources for up-and-running FileMaker database applications that you can download for free so you don't get caught in the deer-in-the-headlights, blank-canvas time warp (appologies for the mixed metaphor):

Learn from Others on Filemaker Developer Forums & Blogs

"You can never be too thin or too rich," (or so they say) ...

Morgan Jones, here. I say you can never have too much information about the inner workings of FileMaker.
If you're a developer like me, I highly recommend you join FileMaker Inc.'s TechNet for US$99 per year. Included as a part of TechNet is the TechTalk developers forum. I've configured my TechTalk profile to send me an email of every post made to the forum. Just by browsing these messages each day I've greatly expanded my overall understanding of FileMaker, and I have often found pearls of wisdom that saved me hours of research or trial-and-error testing.

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