Blast From The Past - My Original Impressions On The FileMaker 10 Toolbar

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

WEB: www.dwaynewright.com
EMAIL: info@dwaynewright.com
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I came across this five year old post and thought I'd reshare it with you. It shows how a developer can look at new features and how over time we begin to think "what was the big deal anyway?".

Hope you enjoy it, Dwayne

The New FileMaker 10 Toolbar Editorial
With FileMaker 10, FileMaker has done away with our trusty old left side status area and went horizontal with a feature called the Status Toolbar. This is one of the very first things you will notice when you are introduced to FileMaker 10 and there will, undoubtedly, be mixed feelings about it from the FileMaker faithful. The general mood from new developers is quite good and the change is welcomed. Many are calling it a standard Macintosh toolbar and think it is has a more iLife or iWork look and feel. The user has limited customization options for the status toolbar (which was never possible via the old status area).


Now how do I feel about the new toolbar? Do I feel anything about the toolbar? Will the new toolbar make a difference in the way I design my FileMaker 10 databases versus my default design methods for FileMaker 9 and earlier?

Like many developers, I’m fighting years worth of muscle memory as my mouse instinctively goes to the left, pauses, moves upward and finally finds the correct control element I needed. More than a few “dabnabbits” issue as whispers from me as I take another drink of coffee. The strategic pauses as I scan for where my tools are now, seem to trigger my drink response, good thing it is just coffee. So I’m getting use to it but more about that at the end of this post.

TO SHOW OR NOT TO SHOW - THAT IS THE QUESTION
The age old question of “to show the status are or not to show the status area” is a common debate among the FileMaker faithful developer. In fact, it spawned another 20 + set of debate postings on the FileMaker technical network forums. Some developers have used techniques such as hide the status area/bar but do not lock it or only show the status area when in List view or Find mode or Print Preview mode.

BTW - Odd Fact - Did you know that in previous versions of FileMaker, the status area in previous versions of FileMaker is bigger by 3 pixels in list view than it is in form view? At least that is what a little birdie told me once!


For many developers, the choice to show the status area, now the status bar, is under consideration simply because of the well designed record flipping tool. Now what would be cool is if the entire record flipping element would become a layout object available to developers like the button, portal or web viewer tools! Now that would be darn right handy! I’ll be sure to have my lobbying minions get in touch with FileMaker Inc.

The status area / bar does have some of the most important browsing / search related controls in FileMaker. In some cases, hiding this area allows a developer to place their own control elements in place and perform background tasks when the user performs simple tasks like navigating from one record to the next. Designing and testing all these controls can become time intensive and that always raises the cost of development and extends out the amount of time before rolling out a solution. Another FileMaker 10 feature may help in this area though. Script triggers can operate in the background and reduce the need for developers to wiring additional scripting controls into every button / custom menu in their solution.


RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

I have had customers that would never consider a major update to the user interface for their production database because they felt it would be too disruptive to their users. So I would do my best to integrate their requested new features into the existing layouts and merge into the previous developers mind set for the database.

As odd as it may seem, the new status bar may kill some companies from getting FileMaker 10 upgrades and that is a real shame. I cannot help but wonder why FileMaker didn’t include both options (horizontal or vertical) and simply make it a preference setting? But again, I’ve been monitoring a lot of the FileMaker 10 related tweets on twitter. I have to say that the new status toolbar is getting rave reviews. So I think we should prepare ourselves as developers for a little push back from some customers and illustrate to our users all the benefits of the FileMaker 10 feature set!

NOW IT IS ALL ABOUT ME
Out of the gate, not a fan of the new status toolbar. I was quite comfortable with the status area and now I’m out of my comfort zone a little bit. The more I read about it, the more my concerns started to dwindle. Then I decided to spend some time working with FileMaker 10 in a project I’m working on. This project is a reduced feature version of my CRM package and this new database is geared primarily towards an IWP (instant web publishing) implementation.

Now this is kind of weird to me and I’d like to share it with you. My initial plans were to take InBizness 2.8, duplicate it, remove a ton of code / features that didn’t make sense in a web implementation, update the UI just enough to look OK in a browser, run it by BaseElements for errors, fix said errors, test the living daylights out of it and roll it out. It would simply be a “mini-me” version of InBizness SOHO.

The new FileMaker 10 status bar persuaded me towards a UI change and I didn’t think that was possible for this project. I found myself embracing a user interface I always wanted to do for InBizness but the old status area made it a bad choice. Back when I was a computer salesman at a place called ComputerCraft, I used a hypercard product called Focal Point 2 to manage my leads and customers. Hypercard had an update and Focal Point became incompatible and I had to look for something else. I ended up moving towards FileMaker and the rest is part of my own little history.

With the new FileMaker 10 status bar and script triggers, I think I can now build the CRM product I’ve always wanted to build!

Here is a screen shot of the clients module for the existing InBizness product and it will probably stay the same for this product. It is designed to have “a touch too much” in the feature set and this user interface is slanted more towards power users.

Here is a screen shot of a proposed user interface for the InBizness IWP product. A simplified user interface that should be OK for a browser experience. It has the old Focal Point 2 look and feel that I feel in love with back in the early 90s ( you know, while wearing my brightly colored tie and matching suspenders)!

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More info about the author and FileMaker in general, contact me at info@dwaynewright.com.

© 2008 - Dwayne Wright - dwaynewright.com

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