FileMaker, Great Tool, Bad Manual

This is me in 2013.

I was a junior factory manager in a small factory located in Hong Kong.

If you look at the bottom of this picture, you will see a printed spreadsheet. And that is my biggest headache at the time.

Each day I have to collect pieces of physical paper from factory workers, and double entrying the data into an excel file, adjust the cell formula, then fiddle with the formatting to create that printed inventory summary report for my senior.

It’s a time consuming process that takes hours each day. Often requiring me to leave work very late in the night.

So when I first learn about FileMaker, I was hooked.

It looks like a powerful tool that has the potential to organise and automate my data entry work. And the apple store presenter makes it look easy too.

So I got myself a license, reserved my spare time for the next few weeks, planning to learn it and implement it into my work.

I ended up spending 4 months, just to build 10% of what I was thinking in my head.

For a software with 30 years history, my expectation was that it would be easy to find beginner learning material.

This is not the case at all.

Most tutorials out there was created by seasoned developers… for other seasoned developers. They write about deep, technical topics that interest them as a 15+ years veteran. But as a beginner, all I was trying to learn is how to create a simple portal…

And when I do find a “beginner tutorial”. Its not beginner friendly at all. Not only do they uses technical language that is difficult for non-programmer to understand. They also pace way too fast and skip through important steps. Almost as if they think I already have a phD in programming.

Instead of weeks I ended up spending months. I had to grind through those difficult tutorials, download the sample files, and relentlessly trying to deconstruct and reverse engineer what they did.

And finally I started to click. Its a long grinding process, but at the end it was all worth it.

This is the result… (i was so proud I took a picture of it)

4 months in, I ended up building my first ever functioning inventory database, that allows factory workers to directly input data into an iPad, and sync it back to my computer to generate a report. Eliminating unnecessary data double entry, and making the report generation a one click process.

It was a major success for me. From there I started to enjoy working with FileMaker. I was able to create database left and right to improve my work process. Eventually leading up to becoming a full time FileMaker developer myself. 

Fast forward to 2016. I am more experienced, but I notice there is still very few beginner resource out there. So I thought “Why not create this myself?”. And I posted my first tutorial on Youtube, the rest you already know…

Hopefully this site can help someone, who is in similar shoe as I was in 2013, to learn FileMaker and see great improve in their work.