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UPDATE: As of 2013 Dec. 3, FileMaker Pro Version 13 is available, so old ".FP7" files are now even more out of date than before.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