We are sorry, information on this page is available only in Czech. Use Translator Switch to Czech

Initiative '24 for Faster FileMaker Calculations

by HOnza Koudelka

Initiative '24 for Faster FileMaker Calculations - Preview Image

It's January 24, 2024, the 40th anniversary of Macintosh, and we are announcing Initiative ’24, our endeavor to make FileMaker calculations faster for everyone. To join us in this endeavor, vote for my idea and stay tuned. Read more details below...

Why 24?

The number 24 has a strong symbolic value for 24U and even stronger for myself. It's not only part of our company’s name (although it means "two for" there). I was 24 years old when co-founding 24U, and the company celebrates 24 years in business just next week. This year I simply see 24 all around, wherever I look.

So, being known as the “mad optimizer”, I decided to focus this year on making FileMaker calculations faster for everyone through education and engagement of the FileMaker community. And because I love symbols and challenges, I have set an ambitious goal to make FileMaker calculations run at least 24 times faster by the end of 2024.

However crazy this goal may sound, it is not so unrealistic. See how FileMaker calculations compare to popular scripting languages:


FileMaker vs popular scripting languages


The values shown above are collected from running my reference calculation (see below) for exactly 1 second and counting how many times it gets evaluated in that 1 second. There is one test for math operations and one for text manipulation operations. Each test is then executed 30 times, counting the best result only to eliminate impact of temporary conditions such as the operating system performing other tasks in the background. Here's what the calculation looks like in FileMaker:


Reference calculation


I have manually ported it to PHP and then used ChatGPT to help me porting it to Python and JavaScript as well. What really surprised me was the poor performance of math operations in Python compared to the others. On the other side, JavaScript's math peformance blew my mind.

Download the code and try it out yourself

I admit my test is not any kind of scientific benchmark, but it was not supposed to be. My intention was to test the operations which I believe are the most commonly used in vast majority of business apps. If you have any suggestion what other formula to add to the test and compare across all these platforms, don't hesitate to let me know.


Why calculations?

One reason can definitely be that I am so passionate about FileMaker calculations. You can see that from the various examples I recently created, including PDF Cancas, PDF Barcodes, PDF Pages, PNG Canvas, or PNF Barcodes. I also successfully completed the first 15 challenges of the 2022 Advant of Code solely using FileMaker Calculations. But more important reason is that I simply found it to make a huge sense...

Some people will contradict me that it's more important to focus on the speed of creating, commiting, finding and sorting records. But these operations are really not peforming badly when you try them in a simple database with a simple table, no relationships and no calculations. But the same database will start getting slower as you start adding calculated fields, auto-enter calculations, record-level privileges etc.

Some people will argue that network performance is the key. Yes, client-server apps are still mostly affected by the network latency. FileMaker is still extremely chatty even though it has become much better since its version 6. But it's really not so bad with a starter solutions, until you start adding calculations which, for a single record to show, have to pull tens or hundreds of related records as well.

Claris has already been aware of and optimizing these key operations at lease since the release of FileMaker 12. But how many of you can say your apps have ever become at least twice as fast solely by upgrading to the latest version? Back in 2018 we made one app's layout rendering more than 5 times faster mostly by removing conditional calculations and replacing them with calculated color text fields.


Resource planning layout rendering optimization


We have been helping our customers make their FileMaker solutions faster since 2007 and became known as experts in hardware integrations and peformance optimizations. And on our journey, we have discovered one important pattern. All our optimization projects have one thing in common. Even though they were not the only factor, we always touched calculations.

And that's not a coincidence, because in today's FileMaker, calculations are everywhere!

Calculations are everywhere

Making FileMaker protocol less chatty will definitely help especially those of you who have your apps hosted in the cloud. Script transactions will help you who can rewrite your scripts to take advantage of them. Calculating summary fields on server will help those who are not using aggregate functions over relationships. Sorting records on server will help everyone who does not have those record loaded to the local cache yet. Perform Script on Server is already helping all smart users of Bruce Robertson's Virtual Lists. OData will improve performance of most every HTML/CSS website showing dynamic contents from a FileMaker databas. Amazing performance of JavaScript is open to anyone not scary of diving into proper programming. Better caching of relationships and dependencies will decrease impact of those ugly chaotic relationship graphs. But making the FileMaker calculation engine faster will help every FileMaker app out there without having to touch a single line of code.

How to make it happen?

Making FileMaker calculations faster for everyone cannot be done without Claris making the calculation engine faster. Three years ago I submitted this idea in the Claris Community. This year I would like to convince and help Claris to turn the idea to reality. Here I would like to kindly ask you to help with the former - to convince Claris...

Step 1: Help convince Claris

This is very easy. Just go to my idea in Claris Community and vote for it:


How to vote

Vote now...

Every vote adds 10 points to the idea and the highest rated idea of all time has received 6.4k points. My idea has 860 points at the time I am writing this, so if only 555 more of you vote for it, adding 5550 more points, it will become the #1 rated idea...

Step 2: Stay tuned and educate yourself

This year, I am planning to share more tips and advice on how to make FileMaker calculations faster than ever before. With or without getting the whole calculation engine faster from Claris, you don't want to miss my announcements. So make sure to subscribe now:

Sign up for updates on calculations performance..

Make sure to sign up even if you are already subscribed to our newsletter. By filling out the subscription form here you will let us know you are particularly interested in FileMaker calculation peformance updates, so that we can send you even updates that we won't be sending to anyone else.

Step 3: Enjoy faster FileMaker apps

To make you able to start today, let me share my first tip right away...

One of the kinds of calculations that can slow your apps down are the "hide object when" calculations. Very often you want to hide several objects, such as fields, at the same time, based on the same condition. It's easy to just select all those objects and specify the hide condition:


Hide calc for individual fields


But in this case the calculation has to be evaluated over and over again, for every single objects it is attached to. That is 10 times for the example shown in the screenshot above. To make this happen 10 times faster the only thing you have to do is to group the objects together:



Just don't forget to remove the hide calculation from the individual objects first if you already added it. Then you can define the hide condition for the group, which is a single object on the layout:


Hide condition for group


Now your hide condition needs to be evaluated just once for all the 10 grouped objects. Even though you have not made the calculation itself evaluated 10 times faster, you made it evaluate 10 times less often, which has exactly the same impact.

Have you found this useful? So don't forget: vote for my idea, stay tuned, and enjoy faster FileMaker apps!



Call us Call

+420 608 301 880

Usually available on working days between 7am and 5pm GMT

We'll call you back if you call from a discoverable phone number and fail to reach us

Let us call you Let us
call you

By completing and sending the form you agree that 24U s.r.o., a company established under the laws of the Czech Republic, with its registered office: Zvole u Prahy, Skochovická 88, CZ-25245, registered in the Commercial Register with the Municipal Court in Prague, section C, inset 74920 will use your personal data contained in the form for the purpose of sending 24U’s news, updates and other commercial communications. Providing 24U with personal data for the said purpose is optional. Details on personal data processing and on your rights connected therewith are contained in 24U’s Privacy Policy.

Loader Image