What Draws The Line Between The Basics And Beyond Them?

From Dwayne Wright PMP, PMI-ACP, CSM
Certified FileMaker Developer

WEB: www.dwaynewright.com
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I’ve given this quite a bit of thought to where are the boundaries between basic, intermediate and advanced topics. I’m sure I’m not alone in this area. You look at the annual FileMaker Developer Conference tracks and you have a fundamental, advanced and integration track. If you look at the FileMaker 9 Training Series workbook, you have eight modules before you come to a module titled “Intermediate and Advanced Techniques”. This module has a combination plate of topics that can be linked to discussions in the earlier modules.

Taking a look at the top two FileMaker 9 books out there also illustrates the division between basics and beyond. The FileMaker Pro Missing Manual has 19 chapters with 7 of them under a Basics or Advanced category (such as Basic Scripting and Advanced Scripting). Look at the brand new and rewritten from scratch FileMaker Pro 9 Bible. It has Part 1: The Fundamentals that includes 4 chapters and just under 100 pages. Then there is another section with another 4 chapters until we hit an Advanced section with 5 chapters. This organization seems to say there is a middle ground as well as a basics and advanced area.

So when I’m asked a question, I have to think about what category it belongs in and then form my answer using knowledge that should fall into the current or lower category. For example, why is this one field in my portal row always showing the same data? A field on a layout is having problems? This sure seems to fall directly into the basic category. However, the problem is actually related to relationship context and how the field used (although in the right table and a linked table occurrence) has to have a new table occurrence added for it. This is because the data needs to be branched differently in the relationship graph. A golden opportunity to introduce the user to Anchor/Buoy but ... where in the blue blazes did our limits on FileMaker basics go?

When I do my virtual one on one sessions, relationship context is the number one thing users need me to help them with. Relationship context is one of those things that falls directly into the basic category once you understand it. Context is a basic and core foundation of FileMaker design. However, here is a FileMaker database that is doing wonderful things and almost all of it functions with a problem. The developer has no idea what you mean by relationship context, that must be an advanced topic.

Relationship context is one of those topics that doesn’t really matter until it is violated. Learning it can then change what you thought of your database design so far and any future directions you might have for your solution.

As you work with FileMaker, you will likely bump into fundamental, intermediate and advanced areas (and not necessarily in that order). Still, the fact of the matter is that you have to build a solid foundation, to move into the intermediate areas and then on to the advanced one. To master then basics, you need to be

- Familiar with fields, the different types of them and indexing
- Familiar with files, tables and file references
- Familiar with the relationship graph and table occurrences
- Familiar with the relationship operators and relationship types
- Familiar with related fields and portals

Then as you migrate into the intermediate areas, you need to be ...

- familiar with scripting
- familiar with security settings
- familiar with how a relationship can affect layout objects
- familiar with how a relationship can affect calculations
- familiar with how a calculation can affect a relationship
- familiar with how a script can affect everything
- familiar with how a script can be affected be everything

Then as you evolve into the advanced design, you begin to see that almost every key area in FileMaker can be affected or enhance another area. There are no single areas of knowledge as the key. It is more of an understanding how they all can work together (or not work together) to affect the overall health of a FileMaker solution.

You don’t reach a point where you have learned FileMaker, you reach a point where you have learned more than you knew before.

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© 2008 - Dwayne Wright - dwaynewright.com

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