I’m pretty fascinated by the FileMaker help system. Specifically the FileMaker script step and functions pages. They are packed full of information that further illuminates my understanding of the FileMaker paradigm. When I need a break from the process of writing a script, or when I ‘discover’ a function I’ve not used from an answer on the community, I can turn to these pages and explore more about the FileMaker help functions pages. Let’s take a look at how they are set up and let me point out the value in reading these pages on your own.
FileMaker Help Functions Pages
The FileMaker help functions reference set of pages begins here. But I hardly ever start from this location. I usually begin my inquiry from FileMaker itself, and we can do that with the context-sensitive help. If so inclined, you can review functions from the alphabetical list or the category list. The latter is more useful when trying to get a sense of what FileMaker can do with text or numbers.
FileMaker help functions Page Format
Each FileMaker help function’s page follows the same basic format:
- Name and Purpose (what it returns) of the function
- The Format
- Data Type Returned
- Originated In
This section shows a simple list and description of required parameters. Optional parameters are listed here as well. (I find these optional ones interesting).
Of these sections, I find the “Notes” one incredibly helpful. The text describes quirks or special circumstances or things to be aware of while using the function. Even well-used functions can have some interesting tidbit of information placed in this section.
The Examples are mostly helpful. Often there’s a description of the context (fields, values in fields, tables and relationships). The context can get a bit overwhelming to understand. I tend to just make my own examples as I can in the Data Viewer.
The Originated In section is interesting from a historical perspective, and its information would make for quite a few great trivia games. For folks not on the latest version, this is useful. While developing in FileMaker 14, for example, If I’m reviewing the JSON functions, I will see in this section that the functions originated in FileMaker 16. I’m out of luck.
Worth another look
The FileMaker help functions pages have been around for years. They’re updated as functions change or as errors are found. The information found in these pages are worth a look from each and every FileMaker developer. New-to-FileMaker developers can learn the basics of the function. Experienced developers can learn more about the function. As I wrote this, I read that the Substitute function can support up to 999 nested substitutes. I don’t recall knowing that before now.
And since we can get to any function very quickly using the context-sensitive help, it’s worth some time to look and review functions. I review those functions the time just for fun. I also review those functions that are posted in the community as a solution to a specific use case.
It’s worth our time to review these pages once in awhile.
Also published on Medium.