FileMaker 18 – Who Hates Importing?

I know I’m not alone in that one my long-term irritations with FileMaker has been importing data. Many of us have been in a situation where we are moving data from a table with dozens of fields into another where none of the fields share the same name. You can spend a long time in search of the right field, slowly dragging the field to the top of the list, losing the field halfway up, then searching again. Setting up imports isn’t something that happens all the time, but it happens frequently enough that the new import interface in FileMaker 18 is very welcome.

There are several changes that FileMaker 18 brings to importing, including a pretty new design that doesn’t trigger our usual import-triggered eye twitching.

Anyone familiar with importing in older versions of FileMaker will probably notice two things right away, the first being that the interface looks nicer. The UI has been made to fit with what you would expect from current applications. The second thing developers will notice is that the list of fields is limited by the number of fields from the table being imported. Therefore, if you are importing from a table of 10 fields into a table with 100 fields, you will only see 10 fields in the list. This eliminates the endless scroll for a field at the bottom.

This raises the question “how do you find the target field?” You find it with a dropdown. You can select the destination field from a dropdown menu of all fields in the table.

The dropdown is sorted alphabetically, with the exception that any field already selected for importing (indicated by a green arrow for import and a blue equal sign for matching) will already be at the bottom of the list. The assumption is that you have already assigned those fields correctly, and don’t want to scroll through them to find what you are looking for.

This dropdown is great because you don’t have to drag a selected field up and down the list in search of the desired source. If you still have a lot of fields and don’t want to scroll through the dropdown, you can search for it. This is a feature developers have been asking for since FileMaker made the Feature Request website. As you would expect, this search limits the fields you see as you type. Unlike the FileMaker dropdown autocomplete feature, it will find your search string anywhere in the field name and not just narrow it down from the start of the name.

Another nice feature about the new imports is the ability to choose whether you want fields with auto-enter values to update. Previously, things like serial number, creation dates, etc. could be imported or manually set after the import. Now you have the choice to have those fields update automatically on import by using the checkbox at the bottom. Turning on this feature doesn’t mean you are forced to have all of the fields with auto-enter options update. You can individually select how each field acts by using the orange cog next to its name or the black cog next to the auto-enter selection at the bottom.

The last new feature worth mentioning is the ability to import a file that uses a non-standard character for field value separation. This is very straightforward. When selecting the file type to import there is now the option for “Custom-Separated Values” in the dropdown. After selecting that, you can input the character being used.

During the import selection, you can change the character being used if needed. In addition, when importing to a new table from a non-FileMaker file you can select a record other than the first record to stand for the field names if desired. This is handy when importing from an Excel file that has a number of rows before the actual headers. When you do this all of the rows before the field names “record” are excluded.

These improvements aren’t game changers, but they’re certainly nice to have. I think people importing large tables into new databases are going to be happy to have these options.