My Support for ".FP7" Files Ends 2013 Dec. 31

UPDATE: As of 2013 Dec. 3, FileMaker Pro Version 13 is available, so old ".FP7" files are now even more out of date than before.

FileMaker Inc. (FMI) released FileMaker Pro (FMP) Version 7 in 2004. That was the one that created files with the ".FP7" extension. Among other virtues, it allowed us to pack multiple database tables into a single file. It was also tremendously robust. It was usable not only by Version 7 but also Versions 8, 8.5, 9, 10, and 11. Thus, as the user interface became more versatile, powerful, and user-friendly, the underlying file structure stayed rock-solid, and files created back in the mid-oh-ohs continued to be usable right up to the present. Frankly, it spoiled us, because it looked like it might last forever.

But computer years are like dog years, the ".FP7" file format finally ran its course, and the good folx at FMI needed to move on, particularly given the explosion of hand-held devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch), which were barely a gleam in Steve Jobs's eye back in 2004 and which ".FP7" databases weren't really able to deal with. Thus, in April of 2012, after an unusually long delay following the release of Version 11 in 2010, FMI announced not only a new version (12) of the FMP software but also a new standard for the file structure, called ".fmp12".

Older ".FP7" databases could be converted (quite easily, in fact) to the new ".fmp12" format, but those created natively by FMP 12 weren't backward compatible; they could only be used by FMP 12 (and, eventually, 13, 14, etc.).

So about half my users jumped on board, upgraded their software, converted their files, and kept right on chugging along with the new, enhanced FileMaker Pro. The other half stuck with the older ".FP7" files, since they didn't really need the new features. And this was fine with me for awhile. I was perfectly willing to continue to support the older files, since I'd been doing it all along and couldn't, in all honesty, get everyone converted over all at once in any event.

But it's been a year now, and I've spent a goodly chunk of that year exploring some of the new capabilities within the ".fmp12" file structure and coming up with new standards that I've been installing in the ".fmp12" files I'm supporting. Older ".FP7" files aren't getting those features, and they're lagging further and further behind their brethren. It's not worth my time to do dual-track development even for those features that can be supported under ".FP7", since I've already done the work once for the ".fmp12" format, and I'd much rather work on something new than on repeating the same work under the older system for a dwindling client base.

At the same time, while the ".FP7" files haven't been advancing, they still require the occasional tweak and kick, and I haven't wanted to leave my users in the lurch, especially since I recognize that upgrading the FMP software to Version 12 is a cost item that they may not have budgeted for. But now I'm running into needed (or requested) changes to ".FP7" files that wouldn't have been necessary had they been equipped with the features that I'm making standard with ".fmp12" files, and again I have to question what's the best use of my own time.

So, in order to give everyone time to adjust, I am herewith announcing that, as of 2013 Dec. 31, I will cease supporting systems that use the ".FP7" file format. I will gladly pick up that torch again for the sole purpose of converting such systems to the ".fmp12" format, but I won't be working with ".FP7" any more after that date. That should give you plenty of time to acquire the latest version of the vanilla FMP or FMP Advanced software and get it installed on your system. Let me know if I can be of any help.


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Changes to the "Universal" File

The Universal file contains the basic information about your organization: its name, logos, address, phone, eddress, website, etc. Up till now, there was just enuf of this information that it couldn’t fit conveniently on a single page, so we used 2 separate data-entry screens — General and Stationery — to accommodate it all.

Well, with the advent of wider computer monitors and the availability within FileMaker Pro of tabbed subscreens, we can now get the whole works onto a single screen (click to enlarge):

General information appears down the left side, while the right side contains 4 tabs:
  1. “Stationery”, the frontmost tab, contains what used to be on the old “Stationery” screen.
  2. “Logos and Finance” contains the 4 container fields for logos as well as 2 fields — Generic Benefits and Sales Tax Rate — with financial implications.
  3. “Org Picker” is new. It lets you (well, me, really) jump to the organization you want to work with. That’s because, to make life simpler for myself, I’m now including base data for all my client organizations right within this single file. You’ll probably never need to use this tab.
  4. “Agents” is also new. It lets you jump directly to the person you want in the Agents table.

There are also several new features in the Universal file.

There’s now a Motto field where you can enter a single-line slogan, statement of purpose, aspiration, or boast. Like everything else in Universal, once you’ve entered it there, it’s available everywhere else in your system.

The basic address-component fields have also undergone an expansion. This is what they used to look like:

We’d pre-assemble these components into 2 ready-made fields — Address Oneline and Address Multiline — that were available thruout the database system:

Well, it turns out that this didn’t address all situations, so now we’re looking at a few more components and a few new ways of assembling them. In particular, we didn’t allow for the possibility that a post-office box (mailing) address might have a different zip code, or even a different city, than the physical (shipping) address. So now we’ve made the distinction explicit:

As indicated by the blue-green color of the mailing-address components, each of those values is auto-entered to be identical to what you type into the corresponding shipping-address component. You can, of course, change it thereafter if appropriate.

We still pre-assemble these components into 2 ready-made fields — Address Oneline and Address Multiline — that present both types of address (non-redundantly if there’s duplication), but in addition we provide you with 2 new pre-assembled fields — Address Ship and Address Mail — for those occasions when you very specifically want exactly that.

In addition, 3 more consolidated fields — Letterhead, Contact Info Medium, and Contact Info Wide — continue to be available for use elsewhere. But now you can initially fill these with a reasonable guess at what you’d like by clicking the Guess button. Immediately thereafter you can customize the information to make it fit more neatly or to add more info that’s not part of your standard address components.


Standard Window Sizing and Zooming

Back when computer monitors were small, we wanted FileMaker Pro windows to be as big as possible, so I set them all to “maximize”, so they’d entirely fill your computer screen, completely covering up everything else (including other FMP windows).

Well, now that computer displays have expanded, that just seems greedy. OTOH, there are times when you really do want a particular file maximized. You’ve always had manual control over window size and shape, of course, but you don’t want to have to be doing it every time you switch to a different layout. So now, for each individual file, you can customize window sizing and zooming to your preferences. You get to the control settings from each file’s Router (welcome) screen, by clicking for info on This Particular File, followed by a couple of clicks on the "next page" arrow:

Standard Window. You can specify what you’d like the standard window to look like. These are your options:

As you navigate to each window in a file, its size will be set to the preference you've specified:
  • Maximize expands it to fill your entire computer screen.
  • Resize to Fit shrinks it so that it’s just big enuf for its contents.
  • Restore resets it to whatever size you had previously set it at.
You can also change these sizes manually, from the “Window” menu, or via a script. In addition, you can manually choose 2 other settings:
  • Hide makes the window vanish from your screen altogether. Bring it back by choosing “Show Window” from the “Window” menu.
  • Minimize shrinks the window down to a minimal placeholder in your dock. Bring it back by clicking on that icon.
Manual controls are in the upper left corner:

Use the red dot to close the window altogether, the yellow dot to minimize it, and the green dot to toggle between maximized and previous size.

Standard Zoom. Similarly, you can specify what you’d like the standard zoom factor to be. These are your options:

As you navigate to each window in this file, its magnification factor will be set to the preference you've specified. You can also change these zoom factors manually or via a script. In addition, you can manually choose 3 other settings: 25%, 300%, or 400%.

Manual controls are in the lower left corner:

Use to zoom smaller or + to zoom larger. Click on the number to toggle between 100% and whatever your previous zoom factor was.

Do It Now. You should do this for every individual file in your system. If other people also use these files, get some kind of consensus before you arrive at your standard settings.


Changes to "Tag" and "Obsolete" Buttons

You should be familiar with the following arrangement of housekeeping fields and their associated control buttons, because they appear on every data-entry screen in the database system.

Henceforth the buttons will be treated differently.

Tag Buttons. The Set and Find` buttons next to the Tag box will migrate up to the top of the screen, where they will now be known as Tag and Tag`, respectively.

As before, holding down any modifier key while clicking on Tag` will offer you a chance to clear all found tags.

There are 3 motivations for this transition.

1st, having those buttons right within each individual record falsely implied that they’d only affect that single record, when in fact they affect multiple records, which is what the top-of-the-page buttons normally do.

2nd, the tiny Find` button that affected only the Tag box was too easily confused with the big top-of-the-page button of the same name, which performs general searches.

3rd, in general, gold buttons that do searches are labelled everywhere else by the name of the field they search on, which Tag` will now do too.

Obsolete Buttons. The twin Set and Clear buttons next to the Obsolete field will be replaced by a single context-sensitive button that will read Set if Obsolete is empty ...

... or Clear if it’s got a date in it.

This button does affect only the record it’s in, which is why it appropriately remains there.