FileMaker Analysis Tools

From Dwayne Wright - Certified FileMaker 9 Developer
WEB: www.dwaynewright.com
EMAIL: info@dwaynewright.com
TWITTER: dwaynewright

As many of you know, there are few database applications that allows you to build database solution faster than FileMaker. However, sometimes a good thing can get away from you. Ever sit down and begin working on your FileMaker database, then look up to see a few hours have passed. Take that experience times a few months and before long your FileMaker solution seems to have never ending number of files, layout, fields, relations and scripts. Here is a listing of FileMaker analysis tools on the market. I’ve included a couple sentences from the product page from their web site. I’ve used some of these and have found all of them have certain advantages and disadvantages. Most of these have excellent information on their web sites ... including the ability to download a demo and give it a test spin.

Database Design Report
by FileMaker Inc.

http://www.filemaker.com
The Database Design Report (DDR) is part of the FileMaker Advanced edition and allows you to take a closer look at your FileMaker code from an overview standpoint. The DDR doesn’t actually provide any direct feedback such as potential problems but it allows you to see more of an overall scope of a FileMaker solution.

BaseElements
by Goya Pty Ltd

http://www.goya.com.au/baseelements
BaseElements is a FileMaker developer tool to analyze and document your FileMaker database solutions. It provides a cross reference of every element in your solution and helps developers find and fix errors, track issues, document changes, and plan future development. It's an essential tool for all professional FMP developers.

FMDIFF
byHuslik Verlag GmbH

http://fmdiff.com/?ref=fm_solutions
FMDiff compares FileMaker files (including FileMaker 9 Advanced features) against a previous copy, backup, or clone. Differences are listed in a comprehensive report in HTML or XML format.

Inspector
by FMNEXUS

http://fmnexus.com/products/inspector/
Inspector™ is a must-have tool for any serious FileMaker developer working in the new architecture of FileMaker Pro 7, 8 and now 9. It helps with documentation, finding problems, and general troubleshooting. Version 2.0 fully supports FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced and has some great new features.

MY EXPERIENCES?
I’ll be quite honest, I’ve had so many poor results with FileMaker analysis tools in the past, I’m a bit jaded. In my previous job, we did have a copy of Inspector and it was a part of our QA process. I liked a lot of it and have a very healthy respect for all the work that must have gone into it. It didn’t catch some things that I thought it would and it reported problems that were not problems. Overall, I did see it as a nice tool to have for any larger development firm that may have QA issues.

One thing that was really troubling about Inspector (and it has been about 6 months since I used it) was the high number of false positives. We had gotten a client file that was full of fields that had previously had auto enter calculations. There was over 200 fields that had the auto enter calculations turned off and Inspector reported a problem with all of them. Yes, if someone were to try and turn that auto enter calculation back on, it wouldn’t work. However, I had to manually click into over 200 fields that did not have their previous auto enter calculations on and fix them. Otherwise, every Inspector report has full to the brim with error messages. But I don’t know how someone could program around a problem like that. So I do give Inspector a thumbs up but it isn’t a “silver bullet” for analysis needs.

I continue to think the Database Design Report in FileMaker Advanced isn’t feature rich enough in the troubleshooting area to be of much help. You have to perform multiple mouse clicks inside of the interface to get any real detail and generally reports are not a mouse intensive experience. So the FileMaker DDR falls into the category of “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick” category.

I haven’t spent any time with BaseElements or FMDIFF. I tried the BaseElements demo as soon as it came out. Couldn’t get it to work and their office didn’t reply to any of my emails. Since then, I’ve seen a large number of developer rave about the application but I haven’t take a second swing at trying it. I did try the demo for FMDIFF about a year ago. It didn’t really do much for me but feel free to give their demo a try.

If any of the above vendors send me a copy of their application to evaluate, I’ll be sure to write up a comprehensive review of it.
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More info about the author and FileMaker in general, contact me at info@dwaynewright.com.

© 2008 - Dwayne Wright - dwaynewright.com

The material on this document is offered AS IS. There is NO REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTY, expressed or implied, nor does any other contributor to this document. WARRANTIES OF MERCHANT ABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE ARE EXPRESSLY DISCLAIMED. Consequential and incidental damages are expressly excluded. FileMaker Pro is the registered trademark of FileMaker Inc.

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