FileMaker 6 Unlimited and long file names

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
December 7th, 2004 • 6:48 am

Another week, another batch of weird bugs and problems in web development…

The web site I am currently developing is hosted on an Xserve (G4) running Mac OS X Server 10.3.6. Most of it is powered by WordPress and is compliant with web standards. Some sections of it, however, are still powered by FileMaker 6 Unlimited, for various legacy reasons.

(This particular web site was initially hosted on a Power Mac 6100 running Mac OS 8.6, so we’ve come a long way already…)

I don’t mind using FileMaker 6. It certainly is more user-friendly than the MySQL stuff on which WordPress is based. But of course, FileMaker, in spite of the fact that it’s a Mac OS X application developed by a fully-owned Apple subsidiary, still lags behind in terms of adoption of core Mac OS X technologies, as I have had the opportunity to mention several times already in this blog.

Yesterday, I encountered yet another one of these flaws, this time on the server side of things.

The FileMaker 6 application itself appears to support long file names. In another words, if you have a FileMaker 6 file (.fp5 format) whose file name is longer than 31 characters, it opens just fine in FileMaker 6, with its full file name in the document window’s title bar.

However, if you are using FileMaker 6 Unlimited as a web server, as I am for parts of the site that I am working on, you need to be aware that, apparently, the web server part of the FileMaker 6 Unlimited application (the “Web Companion” plug-in) does not support long file names.

I discovered this the hard way yesterday. I had a bunch of HTML file that were working just fine with FileMaker 6 Unlimited. I made some changes to some of them, including file name changes for a few, for which I had to add “new_” as a prefix at the beginning of their name.

Then I uploaded the modified files on the server and tried to test the web site powered by FileMaker 6 Unlimited. Instead of doing its normal thing, the server started sending me cryptic messages about a “JavaScript” error (?) asserting that the files in question were nowhere to be found on the server.

I checked and double checked my directory on the server, and the files were most definitely there. Yet for some reason FileMaker 6 Unlimited was unable to see them and use them. I uploaded them again and again, just in case something weird had happened during the uploading process. (I am still on dial-up, remember.) All this to no avail.

To make things even weirder, I had just updated another similar batch of files with the same modifications (including the addition of the “new_” prefix to the file names) and those other files were working just fine.

That’s when a light came on in my head. “You swine, I said to myself. I bet you don’t support long file names all the way through.” I started counting the number of characters in my modified file names and, sure enough, the addition of the “new_” prefix had caused the file names to extend just beyond 31 characters.

I change the file names to something a bit shorter (and changed the file references as well, of course) and… things worked just fine after that.

The lesson here? Even when FileMaker does adopt some core Mac OS X technology, its support for it is only skin-deep. That what we’ve already been able to observe with another core Mac OS X technology in FileMaker, namely Quartz Text Smoothing.

I’ll be curious to see whether the Web Companion portion of FileMaker Server 7 Advanced program (which replaces FileMaker 6 Unlimited and which I have as part of my FileMaker maintenance plan, but have not yet installed and tested) has better support for long file names. I am not holding my breath, though.

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.