FileMaker Database

FileMaker Database

Jul 31, 2020 rap

Link to this note in Evernote:
FileMaker Database
Bob Proctor ANRL VP

ANRL’s Database uses FileMaker 17 Pro Advanced. It’s a relational Database. That means that unlike an Excel spreadsheet with its columns and rows, tables with columns and rows are connected together to other tables with relationships. All records have unique keys to keep things organized. For example: members belong to clubs, have a record of membership payments, and are in categories. Categories have descriptions. Books have Authors and Authors have books.

Note that records in the Database do not contain media files such as .pdf, .mp3, .mp4 etc. We only keep names of the magazines, books, videos and other segments of our archives. Keeping records in sync requires manual work, inventories, and use of functions like SSH or perl to get names of files in our data archives.

The master FileMaker data file (around 550 MB in size) resides in ANRL’s Dropbox. Dropbox is available both inside ANRL and at several of our volunteer’s homes. FileMaker is installed on both Mac and Windows computers and although it’s identical for each, there are some minor differences.

When a user logs into the Database a main navigation button allows navigating to the main parts of the Database which include: Audio Recordings, Books, Videos, Who’s Who, Clubs, Club Folders, Calendars,Newsletters, Magazines, Photographs and Membership. The same menu is then available on those parts to navigate to any other part of the Database. Each of these parts has its own table or tables.

Records can be added one by one through the user interface or created or modified by export and import of comma separated variable (.csv) files. Those files may originate form a spreadsheet program or created with a text editor. So it’s text files only. Please don’t expect file types of .doc or .docx or .pdf or any other proprietary files too be fed into FileMaker. Text only please for input of new records or fields. The data must contain a key record if its purpose is to add to existing records. Keys will automatically be generated for new tables.

Records can be filtered and sorted and then printed. View options include Table, List and Form. Users typically use Form View when updating the Database. A rich scripting scripting language is available for creating scripts that automate navigation, report generation, data validation on entry, error correction and many other things. Most pages of the Database have buttons with scripts attached that execute when the button is pressed. The buttons automate the process of record updates, using the Database and elimination of manual work. Reports and statistics are available for many of the data types handled by the Database and these reports can be posted to our web site.

FileMaker can send eMail to any or all members. The eMail may be a simple note or a note with an attached file such as a Newsletter or Board Meeting Notes. The membership chairman can send dues reminders, receipts and certificates. A record is kept when a dues reminder is sent.

The possibility of merging ANRL’s data with data from other libraries has been suggested to improve collaboration between libraries. To make merging possible, we must have common names for books, magazines, videos and all other data. Without common names, it’s like merging apples and oranges and it would require a huge amount of work.

Monthly backups of the Database and backup before major scripting or layout changes keep our data safe. The Database doesn’t have an UnDo feature therefore it’s easy to accidentally damage something. Care is needed because FileMaker does exactly what you tell it to do.

ANRL’s Database is a work in progress and not everything works like we want it to. As mentioned before, enhancements are possible when new functionality is identified and justified. At some point in the future I’ll be looking for a helper to support the Database. We need a backup volunteer who could step in and continue this work. Learning to use the Database requires several hours of one-on-one training. I have tried to make its use as bullet-proof and intuitive as possible. Enhancements and improvements are constantly being written.

Learning to create and maintain FileMaker for me was accomplished with training courses. Note that this was previously called on-line training. There are a couple dozen course titles available for FileMaker so you can dig as deep as you want. Each title is broken into a good number of short videos. I watched over 30 hours of training but have also gone back to review details of some complicated topics. Contact me at If you have questions or need help using FileMaker. I can help you install FileMaker on your computer and give you a copy of a partial Database to play with.