Developer Conference 1998

 

FileMaker Developer Conference Field Report

Didn't have a chance to attend the FileMaker Conference 98? Here's a look at the news, the latest technologies, and helpful tips gleaned at the event.

By Jonathan Stars


I've worked with FileMaker Pro for more than 12 years, but a solution that was presented at the FileMaker Developer Conference 98 made me realize I've spent too much of that time thinking inside the box. After viewing this solution, I'm now aware there are really no limits to which you can take FileMaker Pro.

Craig Schlossberg, founder of Image Info, Inc., led the session called Growing Your Business, and he gave attendees great business advice. But, far beyond that, Craig showed an online catalog solution he'd developed for the fashion industry. His product looked so different from anything I'd ever seen that, at first, I didn't know he was using FileMaker Pro. I kept wondering, "Why is he showing us this?" When I finally caught on, my jaw dropped. When I scanned the room to see other people's reactions, I saw some sophisticated developers looking on in amazement.

The reason for this reaction was that the usual user interface and menus were gone -- probably eradicated by turning the solution into a runtime version. None of the buttons looked like anything I'd ever seen. The application seemed to be something out of science fiction. In 30 seconds, Craig created a catalog page, complete with text, by dragging and dropping pictures of models wearing different outfits. He was then able to instantly reformat the page at will.

Craig's solution made me aware that I need to start thinking outside the box when it comes to database development. After seeing Craig's work, I realized FileMaker can look like almost anything. All I can say is this: You can't go there if you don't know the potential. Now I know the potential.

The FileMaker Developer Conference was full of such "aha!" moments for me -- and for many other developers as well. There are numerous benefits to attending the event, including the chance to learn from the FileMaker Pro experts. But possibly one of the most significant benefits is building relationships -- the age-old "networking" thing. I made connections with other companies that might need my programming services. There's just nothing like face-to-face contact to help other people build confidence in your ability to handle work -- not to mention the fact that attending the conference increases your stature in the eyes of your customers. It was also great fun meeting the stars of the FileMaker world; the FSA leaders, product developers and session hosts -- they were all very accessible.

Keynote presentations
There was a great deal of excitement in the air at the Developer Conference keynote address by Dominique Goupil, president of FileMaker Inc. Goupil told the audience that FileMaker Pro is currently the fastest-growing database for Windows. Windows revenue has nearly doubled in past two years and now accounts for 51 percent of FileMaker Inc. revenue worldwide. We also learned that the FileMaker Pro share of worldwide database market (PC and Mac) is about 30 percent, a strong number two to Microsoft Access. Goupil added that FileMaker continues to be the market share leader in the Mac database market with 82 percent of revenue.

Goupil also added that, when you exclude database as part of the suite sales, and exclude volume license sales, FileMaker is number 1. That is, FileMaker owns about 60 percent of the non-suite, retail database market (both platforms). He said that IS and big corporations are embracing FileMaker Pro as their workgroup solution. Volume license sales made up 49 percent of total revenue in FY 1998 worldwide. In North America, volume license sales were more than 60 percent of total revenue, according to Goupil. We also learned that companies such as NASA, Harvard IT, Calvin Klein, Pizza Hut, Motorola, 20th Century Fox, Pillsbury, The Franklin Mint, and Otis Elevator are among the users of FileMaker Pro.

During the keynote and at other sessions throughout conference, I got the distinct impression the leaders of FileMaker, Inc. are listening to us. It felt as if they consider us a part of the team. They know that if they provide us with the best overall product, we'll all be a success, and FileMaker Pro will keep growing.

Information overload
Deciding what sessions to attend was the probably the most difficult part of attending the event. As the sessions progressed, I began to realize that all of us have many of the same problems-whether we're a single developer or a larger company. Speakers presented a slew of answers as to how to face many problems. The sessions offered these specifics: how to estimate projects and how to get paid for the estimate, how to add to a project, how to keep the customer on target, how to balance the work with self-promotion, and how to do all that and have a life outside work!

Jon Rosen, owner of Intellitec, did an incredible job of telling us how to estimate projects and write proposals. I'm creating a form that I'll be using for my future work based on this session. Invaluable!

A session on marketing and managing your small business by Rich Coulombre and Brian Yoder was worth the cost of the conference by itself. They spoke about promotion techniques that worked for them -- and those that didn't. For example, they told the audience that advertising in the Yellow Pages and joining the chamber of commerce were just not effective for their company. These are both things I had seriously considered. If I had followed through with those two, I'd have spent more than I did on the whole conference.

Cool stuff
As I reviewed my convention notes in preparation for this article, I realized I'd already forgotten a bunch of the great ideas. Thank goodness for notes! Matt Petrowsky's Advanced Development Techniques and Eric Culver's Advanced Scripting sessions both presented much improved approaches to documenting your work as you go. I can't tell you how many times I've come back to rework a script or a calculation only to scratch my head trying to figure out what my original intent had been. If I want to grow my business, this will become pivotal as my company adds more programmers.

John Mark Osborn's Complex Calculations session featured a demo of an interesting idea passed on to him by developer Christiaan Schriks. As you enter information into a field, other fields (and even buttons that were previously hidden) become visible. That way you can better control data entry. You can download the file at http://www.best.com/~jmo. [Editor's Note: This file is no longer available.]

John Mark also showed a looping pause that I'm now using for one of my customers in which they absolutely must not end up accidentally entering data on the Find page. How many times have your clients aborted a Find while they were still on the Find page, only to enter incorrect data into a "live" record? I've done this myself!

Quality and value
The FileMaker Developer Conference 98 was a first-class event. In my former life as an entertainer, I was lucky to perform for conventions at some of the finest resorts in the country. This conference was right up there with the best. There was a point when I began to realize our fee couldn't cover all the food, facilities, handouts, and training. This convention was a great value.

The whole event was well organized. My overall impression was that of being uplifted. My feeling was; if I'm associated with FileMaker, Inc., I'll be a winner, too. And they gave me the tools for the job.

 

© 1992 Jonathan Stars

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