FileMaker 13 Feature Roundup

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If you were blown away by the new features that were rolled out with the introduction of FileMaker 12 back in April of 2012, then hold onto your hats, FileMaker 13 introduces radically new features that continue to blur the line between desktop applications and web/mobile apps. Let’s cover the most notable improvements and new features to the new FileMaker 13 product line, with some of our thoughts mixed in.

FileMaker WebDirect
Arguably the biggest change is the obliteration of the IWP engine in favor of the new snazzy WebDirect engine. WebDirect is just about everything we were looking for in a thin client interface for FileMaker. WebDirect delivers a FileMaker-like experience through modern browsers, allowing you to save on the licensing and deployment costs associated with FileMaker Pro. The tradeoff to this new technology is the introduction of the concurrent connection licensing model, which charges you for the number of people you can support connecting via WebDirect. The cost savings is still there, and the user experience is light years ahead of IWP.

Unified server
The unified FileMaker Server product now boasts a shiny HTML5 based interface, removing much of the java-based headaches that administrators had to deal with before. By merging both Server and Server Advanced into a single server product, users can now see additional benefits during their upgrade. Server 13 also supports AES256 encryption, which is a monumental step in assuring FileMaker’s viability in the long-term. They even went a step further and combined a number of port functions to buckle down to just 4 ports needed for full access. Look for FileMaker Go and WebDirect solutions to rapidly latch on to this for reporting and data caching purposes.

Designer tools
FileMaker 13 buttons up a lot of what FileMaker developers with a design background (like myself), thought was missing from FileMaker 12. The most notable improvement is the allowance for fully custom and shareable themes. There is also a new layout creator dialog that will allow you to easily create layouts for targeted purposes (IE mobile, printing, desktop). There’s a fresh new theme set added in as well (Vibrant Touch is an excellent iOS theme). You’ll also notice a radically different field selector and inspector, allowing numerous improvements over what you can control on a per-object basis (yay padding!). One last thing of note is that you can elegantly hide objects on your layout now, instead of leaving them in the off-layout space.

Layout objects
Two important layout objects are now available in FileMaker 13:

  • Popover Button / Popover – No longer do we have to use new window popups with hack job cross-platform window tricks. The popover button is an elegant way to hide content and display it with a click of a button. Since you can nest any objects on a popover, this opens up worlds of possibilities in terms of UI/UX development. FileMaker is definitely pushing the single windowinterface, and this will go a long way to eliminating extra layouts.
  • Slide Tab Control – We didn’t get vertical row portals yet, but this is the next best thing. Think of this as a sort of content slideshow. You can add any FileMaker object to each slide, so it’s highly customizable, and this also supports swiping in FileMaker Go.

Script steps
With the many updates to FileMaker 13 across the platform, there are a few new script steps to leverage:

  • Insert From Device – Designed for FileMaker Go, allows you to specify exactly what type of input to capture to a container field (rather than requiring user selection). So if you want signature capture, you don’t get users jokingly recording audio instead. Sources include: Music Library, Photo Library, Camera, Video Camera, Microphone, Signature and the new Barcode functionality in FileMaker Go.
  • Open Manage Themes – Opens the manage themes dialog box, so you can create or edit layout themes.
  • Perform Script on Server – This is the big one! This allows you to run a specified script on the server in a hosted file. This will allow you to put the processing load on your server for numerous tasks instead of on your device. Need to summarize 100,000 records for an iPad report? Do it on the server!
  • Refresh Object – A welcome addition to Refresh Window allows you to refresh the state of an object instead of requiring a refresh of the entire screen.
  • Set Script Animation – Allows you to turn off animations when switching between objects of a script. Say from one slide to another or one tab to another. This saves a bit of window draw time to make your script faster.
  • Upload to FileMaker Server – This activates the upload to server dialog that allows you to directly upload the current database you are working on to a FileMaker server.

With so many updates in FileMaker 13, there are numerous new functions to learn as well. Some of these were previously available via plug-ins, so it’s nice to get them natively now:

  • Base64Encode()/Encode() – Allows you to encode/decode container data into text, so that it can be used in places like XML exports.
  • Get(ConnectionAttributes) – Allows you to pull details of the server and certificate from a local device.
  • GetContainerAttribute() – Lots and Lots of container metadata, a blog post in itself.
  • Get(CurrentTimeUTCMilliseconds) – more accurate timestamp, assumedly you can store these values in timestamp fields now.
  • Get(Device) – Easier function to determine how a user is connecting, IE 1 for mac, 2 for PC, 3 for iPad, 4 for iPhone/iPod.
  • Get(EncryptionState) – Allows you to check your hosting connection to see if it’s encrypted.
  • Get(NetworkType) – Super useful function for FileMaker Go will allow you to see what connection FileMaker Go is using. IE 2 for cellular, 3 for Wi-Fi, 0 for local file.
  • Get(ScriptAnimationState) – Checks to see if animations are enabled in the current script.
  • Get(TriggerGestureInfo) – Used in combination with the OnGestureTap trigger, allows you to determine what type of iOS gesture was used, IE single vs. double vs. triple finger tap.
  • Get(WindowOrientation) – Tells you the window orientation of an iOS device (returns 0 for WebDirect/Pro connections).
  • *GetLayoutObjectAttribute() – IsFrontTabPanel has been changed to IsFrontPanel and IsObjectHidden returns 1 if an object is hidden on a layout.
  • *Get(TriggerCurrentTabPanel)/Get(TriggerTargetTabPanel) have been changed to Get(TriggerCurrentPanel)/Get(TriggerTargetPanel).

Trigger happy
FileMaker 13 introduces a few new Script Trigger actions as well:

  • OnGestureTap can be used with the new Get(TriggerGestureInfo) function to handle single-taps with 1-3 fingers, and double-taps with one finger in FileMaker Go 13.
  • OnLayoutSizeChange will allow you to track rotation on the iPad, as well as general actions that trigger layout viewable area adjustments.
  • OnTabSwitch has been updated to OnPanelSwitch, to accommodate the new slide panel object.

Trimmed the fat
Of course, new releases bring about the axe of certain aspects of the FileMaker line as well. While the discontinuation of IWP is the biggest thing, here’s some other things we’ve noticed as well that are absent from the FileMaker 13 line:

  • FMSA – Server Advanced is no longer a thing, as everything has been rolled into a single FileMaker Server product
  • IWP – just mentioning it again in case you didn’t believe it
  • Import/Open Bento Data Sources
  • Insert QuickTime for Container Fields
  • Traditional Chinese language dictionary for FileMaker Pro

With all of these new features and more in Filemaker 13, aren’t you ready to dive in and start using it!