Monday, October 19, 1998

FileMaker Sequel

Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

That's "sequel" as in SQL (Structured Query Language). For those of you "on the fence" - wondering if you should upgrade to FileMaker Pro 4.1 - the answer is - kinda'-sorta'-ish.

If you don't know what SQL is - don't bother upgrading. However, EVERYONE should upgrade to 4.0v2 which is available on the FileMaker, Inc. site (

Mac OS Users - the upgrade will clean up some bugs, speed network file opening, and other GREAT fixes - so upgrade when you can.

Windows 95 or NT Users - DO THE 4.0v2 UPGRADE NOW! FMI fixed some HAIRY BUGS in 4.0v2 (which is actually the same code fixes and updates in 4.1). For example - after working in ScriptMaker for a while - if you move around script steps - the machine would HANG (the first time). If you restart and edit the same script again (i.e. moving around script steps) and it HANGS again - there was a HIGH probability that your file would be PERMANENTLY destroyed. This bug has been fixed. There are a number of other bug fixes, speed enhancements (replace works MUCH faster), etc. It's well worth the time and effort of updating.

Also new to 4.1 are (from the FMI Web site):

EURO CURRENCY SUPPORT - FileMaker Pro 4.1 now provides cross-platform support for the new European currency symbol. To use the Euro symbol with FileMaker Pro, you must also be using an operating system and font that support the new symbol.

SUPPORT FOR CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS - In FileMaker Pro 4.1, you can see and use features enabled in the FileMaker Pro Developer Edition application, such as Kiosk mode, custom script menu name, custom help and about menu options and the removal of master access. For example, if a solution has been created using the FileMaker Pro Developer Edition to run in Kiosk mode then FileMaker Pro 4.1 will also run the solution in Kiosk mode.

I still haven't gotten the Kiosk mode thingie to work yet... maybe I'm just doing it wrong - but as you can see - most of the improvements have been "under the hood."

Back to the issue of SQL... the biggest (and only VISIBLE) update to FileMaker Pro 4.1 is the addition of the ability to IMPORT data from a SQL database via ODBC. If you don't know what ODBC is - don't bother to upgrade to 4.1.

For those of you who DO know what SQL and ODBC are - here's the "skinny" on ODBC/SQL integration in 4.1:

  • You can IMPORT from a SQL datasource via ODBC (cross platform) by using the traditional "import" menu item in the File menu (choose the new "ODBC" file type from the pop-up menu [or combo box] when you're choosing the file to import from);

  • You then select the datasource alias (has to be pre-configured with the ODBC control panel) and enter a username and password;

  • You CAN specify the SQL select statement by either typing it in - or by using a 3 panel "assistant" to select the datasource, choose the column(s), and structuring the SQL where statement;

  • FileMaker then does an IMPORT of the data (just like any other import) you specify the order and matching fields in your FileMaker db (just like any other import);

  • You CAN script the auto-importation of data from a datasource (it stores the SQL select statement, data source, username and password with the import order - so DO click the "Restore" checkbox in the "Import" script step).
However there are some SERIOUS limitations with the released SQL plug-in in 4.1:
  • You CANNOT WRITE back to a SQL datasource;

  • You CANNOT use a FileMaker database as an ODBC datasource (i.e. no "READ" capabilities);

  • You CANNOT specify a field for the SQL statement (i.e. each import from each datasource for each set of columns for each "where" statement must be scripted SEPARATELY);

  • You CANNOT script the datasource name, username or password (would be able to make import connections "on-the-fly").
If you need the ability to WRITE back to a datasource - check out the EXTREMELY COOL SQL plug-in developed by Professional Data Management and Rumora Automatisering en Advies ( From their website:

"The ODBC/SQL plug-in, available for download on this site, allows users to send any SQL-92 command from within their Filemaker Pro database to an ODBC datasource. In doing so, they can create, modify and delete tables and/or rows. Data can be sent to and retrieved from the ODBC datasource. The upcoming version 1.2 of the plug-in even allows users to import pictures, sound and movies from an ODBC datasource into a Filemaker Pro database. It will furthermore have support for ANSI and OEM character sets."

As of this writing - this is your only option for using a FMP database as a SQL or ODBC Client. Hopefully, FMI will add true ODBC compatibility in the near future.

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