J-File and FMSync Bundle
Sunday 28th January, 2001
Want to view and edit your FileMaker files on a Palm? J-File 4.2 is a Palm OS database application which lets you build flat-file databases on your Palm device. Databases can contain up to 50 fields, with eight different field types: text, date, time, a text pop-up list, Boolean, integer and floating point numbers and a checkbox type designed to use with FileMaker. Date and time fields can be auto-initialised with creation and modification dates. Text fields are limited to 4000 characters (about 900 words).
To create a database, you open J-File, click on the New DB button and complete a form - the database name, and each of the field names and types. Your design is flexible: even after you’ve started to enter data, you can come back later and insert or delete fields.
Once you’ve created your database, you can add records - click on the Add button and fill in a standard Palm entry view form. Dates, times and pop-up lists can be entered manually, but clicking on the field name displays a standard date/time picker or your user-defined pop-up list. In theory, you can have as many records as memory allows.
Tapping a field heading brings up a pop-up menu, with options to sort (ascending or descending), calculate a total for a column across the current records, or to change the column width. When you scroll right to view other fields, the first field stays fixed for easy record identification. Even more impressively, for Boolean, pop-up, date and time fields, you can edit field values by tapping on them to access the appropriate picker or menu. The List view is especially useful when combined with J-File’s menu-commands, simple record finding and special record filtering that works in conjunction with the column-totalling feature.
For a flat-file, handheld database, J-File takes a lot of beating. On its own, however, it doesn’t provide any direct access to your FileMaker data. But FMSync Software’s Mac-only application does. FMSync will synchronise a FileMaker Pro database on your Mac to J-File database on your Palm, and vice versa.
You install FMSync as a conduit in your Palm folder, along with a folder of documentation and example files. To set it up, open the database you want to synchronise to your Palm and create a new layout containing the fields that you want to capture. You can assign checkboxes and list-based pop-up menus to your layout, and even include fields from related files. The tabbing order determines the field order in J-File.
After creating your layout, leave FileMaker running and open the Palm HotSync Manager. Setting specific preferences within the HotSync Manager tells FMSync exactly how to transfer data. FMSync goes through each of your databases in the list and opens them. If the database already exists on the Palm, it synchronises the data; if not, it creates a new one and downloads your data.
Where FMSync really scores is in the other options it offers when synchronising. There are options for running FileMaker scripts before and after the synching process, whether to synchronise the whole database or just the found set, whether to duplicate records instead of asking the user to resolve conflicts, and the synchronisation method you want to use - two-way, clear palm before download, or clear palm after upload (for data collection).
The gem here is two-way synchronisation. Suppose you’ve changed the same record on both the Palm and in your FileMaker file. You can choose which changes to keep on an individual field basis for the first record, and then continue for each conflicted record in turn, or apply the choices to the rest of the conflicted records. Because the solution is conduit-based, FMSync happily deals with different Palm users on the same Mac, as well as multiple J-File databases extracted from the same FileMaker file - great for splitting a large file into smaller ones.
As a bundle, these two pieces of shareware certainly show the big boys how it should be done.
Want to view and edit your FileMaker files on a Palm?
|Get Further Info|
|Manufacturer||Land-J Software & FMSync Software|
|Pros||Excellent GUI + Excellent synchronisation method + Memory + Limited record counts|
|Originally Published||MacUser, Volume: 17, Issue: 02, p37|