FileMaker Pro Web Viewer
I've had a few minutes to play around with FileMaker Pro 8.5, specifically with the included Movie Library database found in the "Home Collections" templates. I put the included fields in a tab of their own and added a new tab called IMDB. Created a new Web Viewer and used this custom address: "" & Movie Library::Movie Title which is the search string from the site combined with "& Movie Library::Movie Title" from the database via what is essentially a calculation field that is provided in the Web Viewer set-up dialog.

To discover the find string for a website go to the site and perform a simple one word search. The resulting page url, minus your search term, should do the trick. Some are not so easy but many are.

Really, they could not have made this easier. Of course I'm sure I'll think of little things I'd like to do with it that are not so easy. For example, is it possible to pull data out of the
IMDB page and have it automatically entered? That seems less doable. Anything on a page that is consistent link and that can be calculated should be doable as a unique Web Viewer object such as the link to artwork that every IMDB entry has. But thats a link to another page. Images might also be linked in via calculations if one knows the formula used for calculating from the base url.
FileMaker Pro 8.5 Ships
Good news for FileMaker Pro geeks. FileMaker Pro 8.5 has been released. In this initial post there are two new features I'll mention because they appear to be the most important: FMP is now a Universal Binary that will run natively on Apple's new Intel Macs and the new "Web Viewer".

I recently came into possesion of a broken intel mac (and fixed it using this part) so i am now Intel ready. What I can now comment on is the new Web Viewer. I've downloaded the demo and have already hacked the included Contacts database to include a MapQuest Web View. Neat! I've actually incorporated web searches in previous databases such as my Bird Tracker which will search Wikipedia via a new window or tab in the default browser. With the Web Viewer of FileMaker Pro 8.5 I can now have the page displayed right in the database. This is going to rock.

So, to be clear, this new version of FMP includes an integrated web browser! Not only can you view web pages and pdfs on the web but local html files and pdfs as well. In fact, you can also view Quicktime and Flash on the web and locally. Basically, if it's viewable in Safari it works. I'm not sure how it's implemented on the Windows side but on the Mac side 10.4 and Safari 2.0 are required, at least for pdf viewing.

Setting up a Web View using the included Web Views such as MapQuest could not be easier. They include several that will be very helpful and from a quick look I'd guess that setting up new ones will not be too difficult. It goes without saying that this kind of implementation is going to be most useful for those that have a high speed connection. I'm sure I'll post a follow-up when I've had more time to experiment.
A bit of iCal feedback for Apple
Speaking of iCal...

Something I noticed recently regarding iCal and how an event or todo shows up in a Spotlight search prompted me to send a
suggestion in to Apple:

If I initiate a Spotlight search via Command-Space or click the Spotlight icon in the top right my iCal to-dos and events show up but there is no date in the date field so if I want to filter to just the past day or week the iCal event disappears. For those of us that use iCal and Spotlight to manage projects it would be great to look at just the past day's email, tasks, files etc. As it is now filtering in such a way skips the iCal todos/events because they show up in Spotlight searches with a date of "No Date".

Which prompted another suggestion regarding the current options for viewing information for an event or to-do. As it is now you can view this info in a detached window or in a drawer. Yuck. My request? Add an option to view info as an integrated pane under the task list. I really love iCal but there's always room for improvement!!

The powerful combination of iCal, Mail, and Spotlight
Merlin over at 43 Folders has a great post for getting more out of iCal.

Of particular interest to me were his mentions of creating calendar groups and his advice for using the various iCal fields such as the notes field for tasks and events. It's excellent advice and something I've been doing for a while. Something he does not mention that I would like to add in to the mix are MailTags which connect iCal to Apple Mail as well as Spotlight in the Finder.

First, let me reiterate the usefulness of groups and notes. You can easily create groups of calendars by going to the File menu and choosing new group. If you are a practitioner of David Allens GTD you can create Groups based on contexts as Merlin does:
So, for example, I’ve put “email,” “web,” “design,” “print,” “google,” and “buy online” tasks into a group called “Computer.” When I’m planning for a time when I won’t be at the computer, I deselect one box, and a couple dozen tasks I can’t possibly do anything about just disappear. Print that list, and off I go.

Remember: whether or not you’re doing GTD, it’s valuable to always know what you don’t need to be thinking about at a given time.

That last sentence is great advice. Here's how I do it. I've created two groups which contain about half my calendars. The first is a Projects group and it contains a calendar for any active or semi-active project. I can see them all or hide them all with a single click in the checkbox for the group. I've also created a Remote group which contains subscribed calendars such as Family events and weather via (just do a zipcode search and you'll see an iCal link for your local weather). Again with a simple click and can see or hide these events.

My remaining calendars are not grouped and are generally left viewable all the time. I lead a fairly simple life so these don't tend to get too crazy: Personal, Birthdays, Family, TV, Work and Travel. I tend to watch very little television which is why I remind myself of the one or two things a week that I do want to see. Birthdays are fairly sporadic as is travel. Clients that are likely to be one-time events such as an OS X install go into the Work calendar.

One additional thought, it would seem that combining project and context organizing would be fairly easy by adding tags and using iCal's oh so nifty search field. If you are context oriented as Merlin is you could add a project tag to the notes field of your contextually organized calendars. If, like me, you are prefer to organize by project, just and a context tag in the notes field of tasks and events. Want to see all your errands? Use the search field to search for @errand to find anything you've tagged with "@errand". Best of both worlds.

Speaking of notes, use iCal's very useful notes field! In fact, use all the fields that iCal provides for events.

Let's start with the free form notes field and what you can add to it: Phone numbers related to the task or appointment. Any notes, summary of a related email, or full paste of an email (we'll get to MailTags in a minute). As Merlin suggests if this a task or meeting that is being scheduled far in advance you'll be happy to have a few notes to remind you of the purpose of this meeting or task. One last word about the text you place in the notes field, these are searched by Spotlight and we'll come back to that in a moment.

If you are sending this event as an iCal invite you may want to consider what may be useful for the recipient. Use the notes field to include a location address as well as a google or yahoo maps link to the location. You may also want to include notes for materials that may need to be prepared or brought to a meeting.

The Attendees field is not only useful for sending an invitation but if you print your calendar rather than carry a laptop you can include the phone numbers of everyone involved via the attendees field.

Use that alarm! Not only will iCal pop up an alarm for upcoming meetings. It gives you the option to send email or open files such as an invoice for a job event or a map. Your reminder thus becomes a prompt to print an invoice or any other related material for the event.

The url field can be quite handy for the above mentioned links to a google map to the event or, in the case of MailTags , a link to the email that prompted the creation of the todo. If you're using iCal and Apple Mail you really should check out MailTags. I've mentioned it before and will again in the future. This is a fantastic donationware plug-in that enables the creation of iCal todos which create an active link to the email. From the email you can create the to-do, make notes, set a due-date, and mark complete. Click the magnifying glass in the MailTags panel and you jump right into the todo in iCal. From iCal, any changes you make to the todo are actively communicated to the email tag and the changes are reflected there too. Very cool. Not only that, but you've now linked this email and iCal todo to Spotlight searches.

Think about that. Assuming you use MailTags and consistently tag your project emails, events, contacts with the same project keyword, you can now use the Spotlight search for a project keyword from the top right of your screen and get everything listed in one place. Be sure to use a unique keyword or combination of keywords together with no space and your searches will be that much faster and more accurate. Tag all project files with that unique keyword in the Spotlight comments of the file for even better results. One last place to tag would be contacts related to the project. Add the keyword to a contact's note field in the Mac OS X Address Book and the contact will show up in the Spotlight search.
OS X, Spotlight, and FileMaker Pro
One of the greatest things about Mac OS 10.4 is Spotlight searching. Having access to universal search from so many access points and for so many kinds of data just plain rocks. Unfortunately, Spotlight does not look inside FileMaker Pro databases and it's actually a good thing in terms of security. But if we can't search FileMaker data with Spotlight perhaps the next best thing would be the ability to create one single search field that will search across all the fields of a FileMaker Pro database. A sort of Spotlight within FileMaker. Well, it is possible and it is fantastically cool.

It's not that hard to implement and let me tell you the search results are instant. So, so sweet.

This works with FileMaker 7 or higher but you'll need to download this FileMaker plugin which you'll put into the Filemaker Extensions folder. Then head over to Emile's post at Secret Weapon Labs, Spotlight redux: Building a FileMaker Search Engine. Here's an excerpt:

...this technique is simply a field placed in the header part of a FileMaker 7 layout that executes a script when data is entered into the field... Simply put, this lets FileMaker do even more of the technical thinking and working for database users when they are querying for data, much like how a search engine like Google can determine if you are looking up an address, phone number, website, document, image, or a product to buy.

I've made one little insignificant mod by adding the little X graphic found in all OS X search fields which is used to clear the search field. I've added that graphic to the search field and made it a button attached to a little script to clear the search field and show all records. This way the field is even easier to reset and more closely resembles the standard behavior of other OS X search fields.
RapidWeaver theme in progress: Gray Box
I've been spending some time playing around in RapidWeaver theme design. Here's the beginning of one (there are a few beginning to develop):Grey Box. There's a bit more to do. I'd like to build a theme with a few different photo options in the top header. I'm not sure I'll release it. It's a pretty basic theme as much for my learning as anything. These things are definitely time consuming! I may just build a few and have them in case I need them for a quick site for a client.
A love note for Filemaker Pro
I've probably said this before but it's worth saying again: I love FileMaker Pro. I particularly wanted to say this today because I've just spent the past couple of days working on a new FileMaker database for a client and I enjoyed every minute of it. Perhaps that just makes me a geek with a strange sense of enjoyment and if that's the case, I can accept it. I really do enjoy doing the work I do with FMP, both the process and the end result.

In the past 6 years of using FileMaker I've discovered that, as with web development, there is something very rewarding in the process of learning how to create better solutions. Developing in FileMaker, which always includes learning new ways to do a task better, seems easy and natural. With each solution that I build I usually discover several new techniques which results in generally improved databases. Sometimes it's a new layout technique, other times new steps in script building, quite often it seems to be a combination of both.

Thinking back to my first FileMaker Pro database, a modification of one of the included solutions in version 5.0, and the progression I've made, I realize what makes FMP so fantastic. FileMaker has built a platform that makes it easy to be a user and a developer. In fact they've blurred the lines of what those terms mean and that means they've created a tool that empowers the user. I started down the road of FileMaker development the first time I clicked that little button towards the bottom left of my database. I changed it from browse to layout and that was it, that was the moment. Within a day I had completely modified the visual layout of the library database. I'd also begun tinkering with fields and different methods for sharing.

From tinkering to developing

Within a few months I had modified another of the included databases and had started publishing information to the web via export into html. Let's jump forward two years. I was working at a non-profit as an all around office geek. They decided that it was well past the time that they needed an entirely new database for tracking their 700+ clients and volunteers. Their first decision was to hire one of their volunteers to develop the database with Access. After several months he had to quit the project and I jumped in though somewhat unintentionally at first.

I took a look at what he had completed and discovered his database was about 40% complete. Just for fun, over the next few days I quietly began experimenting with my first attempt at several, related databases. Within a week I had progressed to the point that I felt confident enough that I could offer to do the database in FileMaker Pro. We scheduled a meeting and discussed the FileMaker Pro option. I was given the go ahead. Less than three months later I was exporting data from the old system and importing into the new. This was 2002 and I moved away in 2004. To this day they are still using the system and with no problems. I check in every so often but the answer is always the same,"Everything is fine here."

That was the beginning of what I consider to be a great relationship.
A few thoughts on weaving the web: RapidWeaver 3.5, iWeb, Sandvox
First, let me say that I'm a relative new comer to RapidWeaver but with the recent updates to these web tools thought I'd post a few thoughts. RapidWeaver has moved from 3.2 to 3.5 (beta) and iWeb and SandVox have also seen updates since my last post on these apps. I'm not new to web development, I've been coding websites since 1997, mostly by hand but I've fiddled with countless programs over the years: PageMill, Dreamweaver, GoLive and most recently iWeb, Sandvox, and RapidWeaver. There were probably a couple others before PageMill. Generally I've always used a text editor as my primary tool, all the others were really just playing around. In no way am I an expert, but I've been around the block a few times.

I tried the earlier versions of RapidWeaver and never quite got it. I only really played with it so perhaps I did not give it a fair shake. I'm fairly certain I did not. My problem then, and to some degree now, is the "theme look." While the themes have gotten better many of them still have a canned feel about them and too many seem to rely on a plastic/glass style. This can also be said of the iWeb templates and the Sandvox templates. I think my other problem was the feeling of being confined. I'm used to the freedom of coding whatever I want. The template based process, quite frankly, freaked me out a bit.

That said, I think many of these templates for the three are very nice and quite stylish. I think the iWeb templates are the best but I think iWeb is the worst of the three in terms of over all performance. The code is a mess, the sites way too heavy and very slow to download. Sandvox, at $39 is not a bad deal. It's putting out better code, more optimized graphics, and quicker to download sites but it seems equally closed though bit more flexible. If I want access to html and greater customization Karelia offers a Pro version for $69 but I'd never pay that kind of money for those features. I'm certain that both iWeb and Sandvox will improve by leaps and bounds in their next versions but for now, I'll pass.

Last and best of the bunch would be RapidWeaver. With the release of iWeb and Sandvox earlier this year I got curious and decided to revisit RapidWeaver. Of the bunch, RapidWeaver is my favorite and at $39.95 I think it is a bargain. I've put this site together using RapidWeaver, but not because of it's ease of use. I could have put MacProductive together much more quickly by just coding it up. But as an experiment and basis for review I wanted to really give RapidWeaver a real run through.

So I dug in. My first run through resulted in a basic site that looked just like one of the default templates offered. Within a day I'd performed a couple modifications. Within a week I'd switched themes twice and modified more. I wanted to shake the look of the standard theme. If this had been a site for my family I wouldn't have cared much. But as my professional face, a template will not work. So, I modified, modified, modified. I started with 3.2 and had few problems to speak of once I got the hang of it. FTP can be a bit funky at times. Over all the tweaking of templates works well though it seems a bit slower than just coding from the ground up.

With the release of 3.5 I backed up and jumped right in. It's definitely an improvement. In particular I like the blog permalinks, code preview, and the interface changes. It doesn't make customization of code a whole lot easier but the new inspectors are an improvement. This version, as with the last, allows custom css and javascript via the inspector, no extra cost. It's also worth noting that of the various page styles RapidWeaver allows an html page and I can use html in the styled text pages too. Overall, it's quite a bit more flexible than iWeb or Sandvox and with no extra fee for a pro version. I'm sure I'll continue to discover more that I like. There are a few bugs but it is still a beta. There's nothing scary enough that I won't use it, I'll just be sure to backup more often.

Will I use RapidWeaver to build websites for clients? That I'm not sure about. I don't think I'd feel comfortable charging someone for an out of the box, template-based site unless they just need it quick and simple. If they are on a budget then a RapidWeaver site would be the way to go. But if they want something custom, something built for them I don't know that I would want to take the time to customize an already existing theme. Perhaps I just don't have the hang of it yet but it seems much slower going.

I'll end by saying that RapidWeaver is the application I'd recommend to any client, friend, or family member interested in building their own site. If I know a client uses a Mac and wants to maintain their site content after I build it I'd think that RapidWeaver would be a great way to go. Overall it is the best in its class and will improve, I'm sure.

I think we'll all enjoy the progress that RapidWeaver, along with its competition, will make in the coming years.
Apple Mail three-pane widescreen via plugin
If you're using one of the new MacBooks or any other widescreen Mac you can now have your Apple Mail displayed widescreen style, three panes side by side. Just download the three-pane widescreen plugin, unzip, and drop into your Library>Mail>Bundles directory. More details at the download page. Of course it goes without saying that you should always back-up your email along with all your other data. I tried this and it worked fine for me. Just follow the simple instructions and you can have your Apple Mail widescreen style in a couple minutes. I won't be using it anytime soon. My trusty 12" PowerBook is really too small for this kind of layout because I use the Mail Tags plugin which displays vertically along the message preview. But for anyone with any Mac with a larger than 12" screen this should be the perfect mod.
Safari RSS
A suggestion I just sent in to Apple via their handy dandy feedback form:
I've been using Safari's RSS feature and I love it. That said, I've got several groupings all in one master rss folder in my bookmark bar. Those groupings, Mac, News, Tech, etc are also bookmarked on the bookmark bar. What I'd like to be able to do is load up a group, say all my Mac rss feeds which contains 60+ feeds and see, in the sidebar of the rss page, which feeds have been updated (bold) and how many new items in that feed... all in the RSS sidebar. Would be a fantastic improvement. As it is now I have to click each one to check for updates or go to the folder of groupings which requires a good bit of mousework to navigate through the menu.

I've tried various RSS readers: NetNewsWire, Endo, NewsFire, and the Sage extension for Firefox. Of the bunch NetNewsWire and the Sage/Firefox combo were my favorites. I stopped using Firefox because it seemed a bit clunky and a resource hog. I tried NetNewsWire with Camino as my browser for a bit. Not too bad... in fact a great combo. I don't know that I want to buy NetNewsWire though and I've discovered that Camino keeps my processor going at a consistent 15 - 20% which means the PowerBook fans come on often. Between the two apps they use a good bit of my RAM.

My latest experiment has been Safari as both my browser and RSS. I'd tried it just after Tiger was released but stopped using it because Camino was faster for me, most notably going back through cached pages. At this point though, after a week of constant usage I've got the RSS set up with my groups of feeds and on the whole I'm very happy with the memory usage and low processor idle. In particular the saft plugin lowers the processor, fan noise, and heat of my PowerBook with its animation/ad blocking. Saft also has the benefit of features such as saved tabs, moveable tabs, and type ahead search (it is a long list).

Of course I'll continue checking in with Camino. It's been my favorite browser for most of the past 2 years. For the moment though, I'll stick with Safari. I'll probably send Apple a couple more Safari feedbacks but I'm really very happy with Safari RSS.