Skip to main content

Airtable: I'll take that data to go

Will Porter's review of Airtable is online now at Macworld:

Rucksack TeXnology clients may be very interested in Airtable. It's a relational database management system that has many advantages. It's free to get started (and possibly free to stay with). On computers, it runs in any web browser in pretty much any operating system. On smart phones, at the moment it's available only for iOS devices, but an Android app is in the works and coming soon.

How's Airtable compare to FileMaker?

FileMaker is a much more powerful tool: not just a more powerful RDBMS, but a much more powerful application development system, that is, a more powerful user-interface builder.

But surprisingly often, you don't need the user-interface tools that FileMaker provides. You just need to store data for later retrieval. In that case, Airtable may beat the pants off FileMaker, because Airtable costs nothing to start using and may cost nothing to keep using, and because it's so easy to use.

Photography analogy: FileMaker Pro is like my Olympus O-MD E-M1: Powerful, customizable, but challenging. Airtable is like the DxO ONE: Powerful, too, albeit in a more limited way, yet delightfully easy to use.

I like FileMaker Pro and even if I didn't, there's simply no way for me to rewrite CMAssistant or Acquittal or my other key apps using Airtable. But I like Airtable a lot, too, for different things. It's great to have more than one tool available. I'll be writing more about Airtable in the future and I expect I'll be recommending it  to some of my clients.


Popular posts from this blog

Virtual List Basics

The conceptThe basic trick behind virtual lists is the wonderful GetValue() function. GetValue() takes two parameters: A list of return-delimited values A number specifying which value in the list to get

For example say you have a field in a single record called “List of Values” and it contains the following:

When that record is selected, GetValue ( MYTABLE::List of Values ; 4 ) will return “Doorknob”.

The brilliant idea is to replace the list of values stored in a field with a list in a global variable.

The basic implementation, part oneCreate a table called VIRTUALLIST. In it, define these two fields: VALUE NUMBER: a number field Value_calc: calc field returning text value, = “GetValue ( $$VALUES; VALUENUMBER )”. Make sure that this value is an unstored calculation.

Go to the layout for the VIRTUALLIST table and create some records. Later you can create hundreds or thousands, but right now just ten will do. Use ReplaceFieldContents to po…

Getting out of fullscreen mode in FileMaker Pro

In version 2 of Acquittal, our criminal defense case management app, we're doing some nifty stuff with windows, and that means we're finding out that even in FileMaker Pro 15, we still don't have quite all the tools we'd like for managing windows.  One problem is how to trap for the possibility that the user has switched into fullscreen mode. The other problem is how to get out of it.

Is this window in fullscreen mode?
This one's not too hard. This calc formula seems to do the trick:

Get ( WindowHeight ) = Get ( ScreenHeight ) and
Get ( WindowWidth ) = Get ( ScreenWidth)

That will return true if the window is in fullscreen mode, false if it's not.

Why does this matter? Because there are certain things that you can't do with a window if it's in fullscreen mode. In Acquittal, for example, there are times when we want to generate a second "sidecar" window, then display the main and sidecar windows side-by-side. Can't do it if the main window …

More about why I like the new navigation part in FileMaker Pro 14

I myself didn't completely "get" the navigation layout part at first. In this post I want to clarify a few things about the benefits of this new feature.

The new navigation layout part in FileMaker Pro 14 and FileMaker Pro 14 Advanced differs in two significant ways from the header/footer parts we've had since forever (and which we still have in 14):

Navigation parts don't zoomNavigation parts don't scroll out of sight
Well, it's a little messier than that, in reality. Let me elaborate on the messiness of it first, since the messiness may have some impact on why navigation parts took me a day or two to "get".

First potential confusion: objects in navigation parts don't zoom, but they are not completely inflexible. If you grab the edge of the window and make the window wider (I'm not talking about zooming the content, I'm talking about actually enlarging the window) then any objects in a navigation part that are anchored to both sides …