Here are two features you might consider building into any database solution you develop. The first, a timed expiration (time bomb) feature, protects both you and your client. It makes sure that you get paid and ensures that your client doesn’t mistake incomplete preview builds of a database system for the real thing. The second feature is a global back button, which allows a user to press a button called “Go Back” to return to whichever layout in whichever database they were last on.
Even the most comfortable developer client relationships can have a dispute where the client decides not to pay you for your development work for some reason. If, just before the dispute, you have just delivered a fully functional build of the database system to the client, you’ll have little leverage (the client has a fully unlocked system that they can use and develop as they please).
Therefore it is in your best interest to install some kind of non-confrontational timed expiration feature into your solutions. Builds that are timed to expire will stop working after a certain number of days, unless the client enters an unlock code that makes the expiration lock feature go away. (Note that the example explained in the next paragraph does not include the unlock code feature.)
(When you launch it, the master password is -master-.) It demonstrates a simple way to implement a time bomb, which you should place in the Main Menu, Home, or other main database of your database system. The reason to place the Time Bomb in the Home/Main database is that, if you are the veteran FileMaker Pro developer that you should be at this point, you are using Home as your single-record data transfer/graphic button storage (maybe even value list and script storage) database. By crippling this database you effectively cripple the entire database system.
Here’s how the time bomb works: The user logs in to the main menu, which has a master password that you have not given to your client. The login date is recorded in a global field. If the login date is seven days or less than the expiration date, the user is politely reminded to contact their developer for the most recent version of the database system and they are then kicked out of FileMaker.
If the login date is equal to the expiration date, the user is reminded to contact their developer for the most recent version of the database system but isn’t kicked out.
Once you’re in with the master password, run the Unlock script, go into Layout mode and navigate to the Admin layout to mess with the dates used in the Time Bomb scripts to see how the script works.
Make sure to explain your use of time bombs to any prospective client prior to signing a contract with them so that they are not surprised when they encounter yours. Also, any final build of the client’s database system only to be installed when the client has paid in full should have the time bomb feature disabled or removed.
Universal Back Button
A universal back button allows you to put a button called “Go Back” on just about every layout in your database such that when a user presses it, they’re taken to the last layout they’d been looking at, even in different databases. Of course, you would not want a universal back button to work if the user was in the middle of some process, like a project creation wizard, because that would leave a process half finished. But if a user is just hopping around browsing records in different databases, a back button like this can be pretty handy.
When building a universal back button you essentially have to keep track of a user’s navigation history (layout name/database name) in a global text field in the menu database. But rather than explain it all here, take a look in the “Time Bombs and Back Buttons/TimeBomb 2” folder, and you’ll see a solution by a fellow developer that not only includes a universal back button feature but also a more sophisticated time bomb than the one explained above. (This one does contain an unlock code feature.) Make sure to read the About Template.doc Word document for information on how to log in to this cool mini-solution.
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