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What does it mean to "Use System Formats"?


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THE CHOICE... and the Use of the Verb 'to Use'

The timeless quandary for database users and developers.


I am confused by FileMaker's terminology regarding file & system settings for date & time formats. I've stared at that warning message that pops up when a database is opened on a computer where the operating system is configured to display date/time in a format that is different from the date/time format configuration of the OS where & when the database was created (see attached screen shot), but I don't understand the practical difference between these two choices. What does it mean to USE the file's settings or the system's settings? How does one determine the correct choice? What are the consequences of making the wrong choice? What is the difference between "using" file or system settings and the manner in which date & time are displayed (or entered) in a field?


There's also the "Format > Use System Formats" menu command and the [awkardly named] "Set Use System Formats [On/Off]" script step. Again, one is faced with a choice. Am I correct in reasoning that the "File's Settings" choice in the screen shot dialog box is the same as an unchecked "Format > Use System Formats" menu command or the "Set Use System Formats [Off]" script step?


I've searched and read a lot of stuff about this but have only found self-evident or open-ended definitions, i.e.,

File's Setting
tells FileMaker to use the file's settings


instructs FileMaker Pro to use the current system formats

(current w.r.t. the databse server or on the local user's computer?)

I have not found an explanation of the practical differences, dangers and benifits of these two choices. If someone knows of a clearly-written document (or just a perfrectly-written paragraph even) that might break though my too-thick skull, please share it with me.


So, I gave up searching and reading and tried some old-fashioned experimentation. Empirically, it appears that for a server-hosted database used by people in different countries, the correct thing to do is to include the "Set Use System Formats [On]" script step in the opening script. IS THIS CORRECT?


My tinkering also suggests that applying formatting to date and time fields is not impacted by "the choice"; however, data entry format is impacted by "the choice." IS THIS CORRECT?


OK, now that that's off my chest I will try to sleep...

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I think I figured out the "real" solution:

Go to File > File Options... .

Select the Text tab.

Select the "Always use current system settings" option.


Are there any dangers with choosing this option?

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The whole issue of system/file formats is totally ****ed up, FileMaker need to do a better job of handling this, it still makes **** all sense to me and I use it every day.


Basically what I understand is this, system settings come from your computers settings, ie via control panel on a PC or system preferences on a Mac. File formats are saved with the file, however the files "format" can only be set when the file is either


A) First created before records added , or

B) by Saving a clone of your file, opening it, setting the format, and reimporting records


There is also a differentiation here between what gets displayed as things like dates in fields, and what is actually stored as data in the fields, a real bone of contention.


You can change the option from system to file and so on, and if your system formats differ from the files, you will see things like dates displayed in different formats when you change the setting. However underneath it all, dates are always stored in a specific format, it's either one or the other. So you may have dates stored in dd/mm/yyyy , yet your file displays them as mm/dd/yyyy, which can be confusing if you are using dates in relationships and wondering why they aren't working.


There are also other issues with this, displaying dates in calculations will show those dates in their "stored" format, not the display format, which is quite annoying.


If you find that the format is wrong, and things like calcs that show dates are in the wrong format, then easiest way to fix it is to save a clone of the database, open it, set the option you want under the files options, then reimport your records.

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I think the problem is that Filemaker stores the dates, not as a number, but as a textual representation: 11/12/2009. According to your date setup that could be november or december.


If Filemaker stored it is a date number, there wouldn't be any problem other than how we want to see the text representation.


You can verify my statement by using a text editor on a test file...

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