The FileMaker Developer Tool - File Maker

Assuming you’ve run a standard install of FileMaker Developer, fire up the FileMaker Developer Tool application. You’ll see a dialog like this:

The File Maker Developer Tool

You can make more than one selection at a time and step through each, one after the other, and apply them all to your solution.

Once you’ve learned the functions of the FileMaker Developer Tool, we’ll look at how to properly design a stand-alone database system.

Create a Stand-alone Runtime Solution
This option allows you to combine your database system with a scaled down copy of FileMaker Pro so that you may distribute it to other people who may not have a copy of FileMaker Pro installed. The resulting bound solution will not require FileMaker to be installed in order for it to run. To try it out:

  1. Check this box and click Next. You’ll get a dialog like this:
  2. Create a Stand-alone Runtime Solution

  3. Use the Add File button to add databases to this new solution. You can also open the Contact Tracker folder and drag the two databases (Children.fp5 and Friends.fp5) into the window; do that now. Once databases are added you can double click one to rename it (while preserving all of its internal links). Click Next. Now you’ll see this dialog:
  4. The FileMaker Developer Tool

  5. Here you choose the main database in your solution. In this case, choose Friends.fp5. In most cases the main database will be your MainMenu.fp5 database or the one that has all of your global preferences, scripts, and navigation in it. It’s also the database that you want opened first when a user launches the runtime solution. Once you’ve selected the primary database, you can set a few options for it, including:
  6. Use custom About script This allows you to give the users a menu item that takes them to information about the Contact Tracker program they are using (like your company’s name, your name, copyright information, and so on). Check this box and select the “About Contact Tracker” script in the drop-down menu.

    Use custom Help script This allows you to give the users a menu item that takes them to the Contact Tracker’s FileMaker-based help system or to a Web page on which you supply help. Check this box and select the Get Help script in the drop-down menu.

    Rename Scripts menu Usually users don’t know (or care) what the word “Scripts” means when they see it as a menu item. So you can rename this menu to something else, like “Functions” or “Things You Can Do” or similar, assuming you have some scripts visible and executable with shortcut keys in the Scripts menu. In this case, you don’t, so don’t check this box.

    Click Next. Now you’ll see this:

    The File Maker Developer Tool

  7. Here you name the runtime’s executable file; enter Contact Tracker. Enter a binding key, which is any string you’ll remember. The main purpose of this key is to allow you to later add even more databases to the solution in the next version (without allowing others to do so). Leave “123456” in there for now because it is easy to remember. (You can enter your own binding key of 6 to 31 characters later.) Click Next. You’ll see this dialog:
  8. The File Maker Developer Tool

  9. Here you choose a unique, three-character extension to stick on the end of each database instead of .fp5. The primary purpose of this is to make sure that if someone double-clicks one of the auxiliary databases in the solution it will find the right primary executable file to launch (in case there are similarly named auxiliary databases or runtimes installed on the user’s computer). Keep “USR” and click Next.
  10. In the last dialog, you’re asked where you want to save your new runtime solution. Navigate to the desktop using Browse and then click the Finish button.
  11. After a few seconds, a folder should appear on the desktop called “Contact Tracker Folder” containing newly modified copies of your database system. Open it and you’ll see all sorts of files, including the executable and the support databases; on Windows you’ll see numerous .dll files, too, which make the window seem confusing. (Don’t touch these; they are required for this runtime to work and should always be distributed with the solution.)

Limitations of a Runtime Solution
Now launch the Contact Tracker executable. (It has a .exe extension on Windows and a big file folder icon on all platforms.) Contact Tracker will launch and you’ll be brought to the friends detail view, which will look like FileMaker Pro, with a few exceptions. The first is that there is now a custom Help menu containing the About and Help links you specified in the FileMaker Developer Tool.

Also, the File and Scripts menu are curtailed quite a bit. (There’s essentially no access to design functions, though you can still get to them by opening the auxiliary database in FileMaker Pro, unless you checked “Permanently prevent modification of database structure” when binding the runtime.) And runtime solutions are not shareable; you can only use them one workstation at a time in single-user mode.

Other limitations of runtime solutions include the inability to create, open, or close a database using the runtime (this is not FileMaker Pro after all); the lack of FileMaker help (providing help for your solution is up to you); some unavailable toolbar items; a lack of OLE automation support; and so on.

Play around with Contact Tracker for a bit and then exit using the File menu. (Note the little “Made with FileMaker” banner that comes up. Hey, if people like your application, maybe they’ll buy their own copy of FileMaker Developer, bind their own runtimes, and spread the love!)

Open Solution in Kiosk Mode
This function creates the runtime with no window controls or menu bar and has it display full screen, like the touch screen kiosks you see at airports, grocery stores, or the new voting booths. Here’s what Contact Tracker looks like in kiosk mode:

Open Solution in Kiosk Mode

Ugly, isn’t it? This solution was not designed properly to utilize the full width of the monitor it’s displayed in, so when showing in kiosk mode, the solution appears centered in a black background.

Kiosk mode is not practical for distributed solutions like Contact Tracker. It is best used for touch screen solutions and could have great applications in your business, like providing a punch-in/punch-out time clock for your employees, a touch screen system for people to enter their orders at a restaurant, or an information kiosk for helping visitors find their way around the reptile house at the zoo.

Rename Files and Update Internal Links
This function is primarily used to rename databases in a database solution to be installed at a client location or to rename old copies of databases in a database solution that you are upgrading.

The primary benefit is that the FileMaker Developer Tool renames the databases while also keeping all of their internal links (filespecs) intact. This means, for example, that if you have a relationship in Parent.fp5 to Child.fp5 and you use the Developer Tool to rename Child.fp5 to Children.fp5, the relationship will still work. (Simply renaming the database in the Mac Finder or Windows Explorer would break the relationship.) Such links are updated for relationships, value lists, and external script calls, except in the case of design functions in calculations. Many of the design functions take a database’s name as an argument, and these arguments will not be updated if you rename the database.

This isn’t usually an issue, however, because design functions are seldom used in a normal FileMaker database system; they are more common in FileMaker solutions that document other FileMaker solutions. A common example of this is the GetNextSerialValue function, which takes two arguments: the database with the field you want to get the next serial value of and the field itself. This function is often used in an upgrade routine so that after importing data into a new version of a database the next serial value can be properly set. The “database name” argument of the GetNextSerialValue function will not be updated when you rename databases with the Developer Tool.

Try it out. Launch the FileMaker Developer Tool again and pretend that you’re going to be installing the Contact Tracker databases at your new client, NBC. Check the “Rename files and update internal links” box and click Next, and drag the two Contact Tracker databases into this familiar window. Now, double-click Friends.fp5 and make the ensuing dialog look like this:

The File Maker Developer Tool

Add the same “nbc_” prefix to Children.fp5, too. When you’re back in the dialog, you’ll see the new names for both databases to the right of their old names. Click Next. Now pick a folder to save the newly named databases to (with all their internal links intact) and click Finish. After a few seconds or so the folder of fresh databases will appear in the desired spot.

If you’ve ever tried to rename a database in a solution and manually update all of its internal field, relationship, script, and other internal links you’ll know how much of a pain that can be and therefore how much of a money- and timesaver this one FileMaker Developer Tool feature is.

Permanently Prevent Modification of Database Structure
This function makes it impossible to modify the fields, relationships, scripts, layouts, or other parts of the design and structure of the databases you run this function on. Use it with care, as it is not undoable. Basically, the usefulness of this is as an added security measure when developing either databases or runtime solutions (it works on both).

Go ahead and try it out on the databases in the Contact Tracker folder. After you launch the new databases that are created, you’ll see that all the design functions are grayed out. You could use this tool just before installing database systems at client locations to make doubly sure that the client does not look under your solution’s hood (though it makes upgrading the solution later a bit trickier and modifying it on the fly impossible).

Use Custom Menu Options for About, Help, or Scripts Menu
You tried this function when you created the runtime of Contact Tracker. It allows you to create your own custom Help menu in a runtime solution with links to your own About and Help screens. You can also use this tool to rename the Scripts menu to “Functions” or “Things You Can Do” or something else.

Add or Remove FileMaker Pro Extension
You also learned about this function in a preceding section. With it you get to specify a unique, three-character extension to stick on the end of each database in a solution in place of .fp5. The primary purpose of this is to make sure that if someone double clicks one of the auxiliary databases in a runtime solution, the solution will find the right primary executable file to launch (in case there are similarly named auxiliary databases/runtimes installed on the user’s computer).

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