Resource Systems

About RSS

RSS Design

Operating Systems













e-Mail RSS 















Making Data Useful ... and Flexible


A sample invoice layout in FileMakerDatabase Building...for Fun and Profit?

This is the beginning of my treatise on the wonderful world of Databasing. You read that correctly: Databasing. And you are right if you contend that it isn't always fun and it likewise isn't always profitable.

It is also very important to understand what data is and how your client wants to use it. Furthermore, I believe it is critical to realize that a string of characters isn't data and presenting data out of context does not constitute information. (For more, see my "Data Hierarchy Axiom.")

But if you're primarily a creative, like me, the value in understanding the disciplines of database design can be carried over to other aspects of your life. However, it might, indeed, make others think you've suddenly gotten a bit dull.

Yes, it helps to understand the fundamentals of data normalization, those rudiments of building related, simple data files (or tables, as some applications might call them) and understanding what fields to keep unique to a file and which key fields to place across multiple files. I won't bore you here with those details, as you can find them elsewhere.

Designing at More Than One Level...That's What Makes It Both Fun and Challenging.
Not all database programs appeal to a graphic designer; that is, they help you manipulate data, but the printed output and the screen layouts leave something to be desired. That is why I settled on FileMaker Pro for my development environment of choice.FileMaker Pro for Data Design

    I prefer FileMaker Pro for many reasons, including:
  • It offers a bounty of design tools on a graphical level
  • Unlike many, if not most, database applications, FileMaker Pro allows you to make changes in your core files down the road. You don't necessarily need to have all your fields, calculations and structures defined before you start. (That would be nice, of course, but it's not always possible.)
  • Unlike Microsoft Access, FileMaker Pro is also a cross-platform tool, permitting me to develop on a Mac and implement over a Windows network or, better yet, a mixed Mac/Win environment.

Designing for Others...That's What Makes Its Flexibility So Appreciated.
How many clients can have a complete grasp of what they need a database to do for them? Can you be sure you've asked all the questions up front so that you will know all that's needed? I contend the answer is NO, and that makes FileMaker particularly valuable. It's graphical tools also permit you to build an attractive, clean GUI for every file layout and turn off those elements you only want on-screen but not to appear in print.

Don't get me wrong: FileMaker Pro is not the most powerful relational database tool around. Because you don't have to be a programmer to use it, limitations are to be expected. Because its ScriptMaker has a finite selection of scripting options, you can't do everything with it. But these very limitations, which help automate much of the behind-the-scenes power of FileMaker also make it very desirable for a predominantly graphical person like me, or for the non-techies (read: small-business clients) who must inherit your end-product and learn to use it for themselves.

To the right is an opening screen of menu options for a database I built for a customer with FileMaker Pro.

2004 UPDATE! Resource Systems is now beginning to make available to the public some original database files. The first, EXPENSE TRACKER, is discussed (and displayed) on the next page.