Cross-Platform Design Issues - File Maker

Another design issue for developers is what to do if both Windows PCs and Macs will be accessing their database system. While FileMaker is almost completely cross-platform, there are some issues to be aware of when designing a database system to have it work perfectly no matter which platform a user is on.

You can always use this function in scripts or in calculation formulas (or in field validation) to see which platform a user is on and then act accordingly by taking them to a certain layout or running a platform-specific script step like Send AppleScript.

ScriptMaker Steps Available in Windows, Not on a Mac
There are several script steps in the Windows version of FileMaker that don’t exist in the Mac version, including DDE Execute, Insert Object, Update Link, Send Message, Print Setup, and Print. Other than the last three, these script steps will do nothing (they’ll be skipped) when a script containing them is run on a Mac, though the rest of the script steps in the script will execute. Send Message is translated into the Mac’s Send Apple Event, and Print Setup is translated into the Mac’s Page Setup (and vice versa for both).

When printing and setting page/print setup specifications (for saving in a script for example) remember that these settings are specific to the printer that the workstation will be using, and they differ depending on the workstation’s platform. It’s wise to call a different subscript when a script is about to print a report that sets the page setup depending on the platform of the workstation that’s running the script. Or you can uncheck “Perform Without Dialog” in the Print script step so that the user must select the page/print settings just before printing.

ScriptMaker Steps Available on a Mac, Not in Windows
The following Mac-only script steps will be skipped when a Mac user runs a script containing them: Speak, Send Apple Event, and Perform AppleScript. See the Windows section above to see which Mac-specific script steps get translated into which Windows script steps.

Fonts and Character Sets
There’s a whole passel of issues that can arise from using fonts on layouts that don’t display exactly the same on a Mac as they do on a Windows PC. For instance, fields might not appear high enough on one platform because the font is a bit taller on that platform than on the other. Or sentences might wrap differently on a precisely designed report on a Mac because the font is just bit wider on a Mac than on a PC.

To solve most of your font problems, make sure that the fonts you use come from the same manufacturer (like Adobe) and in both Mac and Windows versions.

Also, allow a little extra space in fields, in buttons, and in precisely designed reports so that even if there are slight differences in a font’s height or width there will be some give on the layout/within the layout object. Or, you might just create completely separate layouts one for Mac and one for Windows though this adds a lot of development time to any database system.

As for character sets, remember that Mac and Windows have a few characters that are different or don’t exist on the other platform. Also, some characters look completely different depending on the font. For instance, the “¾” fraction character doesn’t exist on a Mac.

If you want platform-specific graphics used on layouts or in fields to be visible and compatible on both platforms, make sure that “Store compatible graphics” is checked on the Edit > Preferences > Document > General tab. Otherwise, use only cross-platform compatible graphic formats such as GIF and JPEG. Checking this box doesn’t work after you’ve added graphics; you’ve got to check it before you add them.

Color Palette
Use the 216 color Web color palette (accessible from the Edit > Preferences > Application > Layout tab) so that colors used by your layout objects look the same on both platforms.

Some plug-ins only exist for one platform. Try to find a plug-in that offers the functionality you need and is available both in Mac and Windows versions.

For both Macs and PCs to be able to access shared databases at the same time over the network, all clients and the server must be using the TCP/IP networking protocol.

Database Naming and File Extensions
When naming databases, keep in mind that depending on your platform, database names might have length or content restrictions. For instance, a Mac database name can be no longer than 31 characters. On Windows, a database (or any file) name can’t contain certain punctuation like ?, * or /. There are other restrictions too; test on both platforms if you aren’t sure if a character is valid on both sides.

Also, always make sure that all databases have the .fp5 extension as part of their name. This is not required on a Mac but if you then copy a database without the extension to a Windows machine, that machine may not recognize what application it is associated with and won’t open properly.

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