Helping A High School Student With Their FileMaker Database

From Dwayne Wright - Certified FileMaker 9 Developer
TWITTER: dwaynewright

A couple weeks ago, I had the mother of a high school student give me a call to help with her daughters FileMaker database. I’ve been in the FileMaker related database consulting arena for about 20 years and this was a new one on me! We agreed it would be best for me to come over to her home and work through it together.

FYI ... I noticed she was in Edmonds Washington and pulled out my 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Seattle book, just to see if there was a trail in the neighborhood. Indeed, there was one listed that we had not visited, the Meadowdale County Park listed as trail 40 on page 174. It is listed as a 2.5 mile hike, just about perfect to do after our meeting, so the wonder dog came along with me for this client trip (although he stayed in the truck for the session). If you would like to checkout the pictures from that excursion, here is a link ...

The first meeting was very pleasurable, I asked questions about the project she wanted to conquer and walked her through terms such as tables, fields, layouts and value lists. She is creating a database for shell collectors that includes the ability to produce printed reports and their pdf counterparts. I showed her some of the default templates that FileMaker gives its new users but she decided to create her own layouts. As I left, we decided for a repeat visit after she had completed doing her data entry.

Yesterday, I made a repeat on site support appearance to my young apprentice and was very curious about how far she had progressed. She had entered in 80 new records in her shell collection database and that was impressive by itself. She had done some basic layout design work but wanted to step up their look some more. She had a number of print outs of other projects she had seen and wanted to reproduce their functionality into her database. This impressed me as well because it showed she knew the importance of research.

In a little more than a hour, I introduced her to container fields, buttons, value lists based upon previously entered field values and grouped subsummary data reports. We created a button under a small container field (holding a picture of a shell related to that record) and this took us to a layout with a larger view of that shell and then created button on that layout that takes the user back to the original layout. She asked if there was a way to hide the button from showing up printouts and that led us to a discussion of the sliding objects menu command. We even dabbled a little bit with scripting, creating a simple script that produced a pdf catalog and enclosing it in an outgoing email! Amazing how fast this young mind was taking in this content and immediately producing results!

It would be interesting to see how far a group of young students could go with a dedicated class in FileMaker Pro design. I would almost bet you could have a two semester class of FileMaker Pro design and have some students ready to support some small office database systems. I definitely think you would have some students that could build database templates that rival the ones that come along with copies of FileMaker Pro. What better way to introduce students to various concepts of business such as inventory or invoicing than to have them build FileMaker database projects to support those interactions?
More info about the author and FileMaker in general, contact me at

© 2009 - Dwayne Wright -

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