The introduction of WebDirect at the expense of Instant Web Publishing has added a much enhanced toolset to the developers armoury. There are considerable improvements in function that can avoid the clunky, compromising and design limited results of an IWP solution. WebDirect offers the following specific feature improvements that are now supported where they were not or were limited in IWP:
- Container Fields
- Dynnamic data entry [No “save” requirement]
- Data Import [.TAB, .CSV, .DBF, .MER, .XLSX]
- Data Export [TAB, .CSV, .DBF, .MER, .HTML]
- Quick Find [Status Area]
- Drag & Drop
- Support for rich text formatting
- Keyboard Commands
- More script steps supported
- Script Triggers
As FileMaker developers we should welcome these improvements while recognizing that web browsers have restrictions and the fact that fileMaker Pro client operations have flexibility that is still way in advance of that offered via a web browser. For instance, developers should limit layout features to those that are essential as surplus layout objects will take longer to render and will slow performance for users with poor network connections. Multiple window functions also do not translate well to WebDirect. Best practice dictates that WebDirect layouts should be designed specifically and tested thoroughly using the supported browsers of Safari, Chrome and Internet.
Having an appreciation as to what WebDirect is best suited to is critical. Viewing data, simple data entry and manipulation for remote users is where it thrives. Displaying product ranges as a catalogue, allowing clients to view their order status and capturing data submissions are prime examples of where WebDirect is a very useful tool. There are functions, notably printing, which is only possible via a browser [a pretty messy function to manage at the best of times] and exporting data which has output options that do not include .XLSX.
Add to the above a few bugs that have and will continue to surface in the initial stages of what is new territory for FileMaker means that we should tread with care. The first steps of this journey may prove to be tentative but illustrate the opportunities that are available and I’m sure that the technology will continue to adapt to meet the demands that it faces.