Dangers Of The FileMaker Find / Replace Feature

From Dwayne Wright PMP
Certified FileMaker Developer

WEB: www.dwaynewright.com
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The Find And Replace feature that was introduced with version of FileMaker 6 can have a downside. I don’t want to be dramatic but I remember when I had seen it introduced at a FileMaker developer meeting in Seattle, I was shocked more by the dangers than the benefits.

Used wisely, it’s not a bad feature but it could prompt a late night call to a developer about data loss ... and ... most professional database developers take this very seriously. When this feature is available to a user, they can mass edit a text field in very subtle ways. A user can misunderstand the find and replace dialog box (and if they do misunderstand it), they can cause a lot of harm to the integrity of a FileMaker data set.

Restoration of damaged data via the misuse of the Find / Replace command is not impossible but can be very difficult. In particular the longer the amount of time before the problem is detected / reported, the more difficult the restoration task can be for the developer.

You can effectively turn the Find / Replace feature off by setting a users menu privileges to “None” for their password. This of course turns off many other features of FileMaker as well. Developers using FileMaker Advanced can create custom menus that simply do not show this (or any other potentially dangerous) menu command.

All in all, the Find / Replace feature isn’t bad and for some users, it might be considered heaven sent. The placement of the feature can lead to some problems. This raises the bar in building solutions that are tightly locked down via security settings and solid scripting. A solid backup strategy is always a good idea and perhaps more so in light of this feature.

Now you may be thinking that the Replace and Relookup commands can also be used to mass edit data. They can also be used improperly and harm the integrity of a FileMaker data set. However, the relookup and replace commands are not part of a find operation. So many users ignore the Relookup and Replace commands. In fact, I’d say that most users don’t even know about the Replace command (and in some cases Replace can be downright handy).
More info about the author and FileMaker in general, contact me at info@dwaynewright.com.

© 2008 - Dwayne Wright - dwaynewright.com

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