A Vim plugin for working with FileMaker calculations.
Vim script
Clone or download


Official project home is now at GitHub.


Combining FileMaker with Vim may seem like an odd coupling, but I use both every day, and have been getting more and more atuned to the "Vim" way of doing things. Years ago, when I was using TextMate I wrote a bundle for it that made for easier FileMaker calculation editing in TextMate. This project has the same goal for Vim.

The filemaker.vim plugin provides syntax highlighting and snippet support for FileMaker calculations to be edited in Vim. It detects the filetype for the extensions .filemaker, .fmcalc, .calc, .fm and .fmfn and also recognizes FileMaker calcs that have been opened using the QuickCursor app on OS X.

Why Vim

Just about everyone looking at this project probably knows FileMaker but may be unfamiliar with Vim. As great as FileMaker is for quickly building database applications, its leaves a lot to be desired in its calculations dialogs. Using an external text editor alleviates that problem for me. Not wanting to get caught again in the vaporware problem that TextMate gave us for many years, the safest choice of text editors on the Mac comes down to either BBEdit or Vim, both of which have been under active development for over 20 years and I've used both in one form or another for nearly that long.

Vim won out for two reasons: extensibility and open source. I've honestly never seen software that can be customized to the extent that Vim can. If you don't like how Vim behaves, you can generally change it, and there are hundreds of plugins available that allow you to simply plug some text files in and get even more functionality.

And because it's open source, the likelihood of it becoming abandonware is slim, especially given its popularity among programmers. The #vim IRC channel consistently has hundreds of users online ready to answer any questions. And should Vim itself become stagnant, there are already forks of it in development.

Of course, there's the final reason, which is that once you become proficient in Vim, editing text is unbelievably fast. If you give it a try, you'll become amazed at how much you can acomplish in strikingly few keystrokes. Don't let Vim's reputation for having a steep learning curve disuade you. I can tell you from experience the return on time investment will be amply repaid.


QuickCursor is an OS X app that allows the editing of appliation text fields in an external text editor. For example, while I'm in the text field for a FileMaker calculation, I can press Cmd-Opt-Ctrl-V and it will open that calculation in MacVim. But this procedure has two downsides.

First of all, as nice as QuickCursor is, it's no longer being supported because of its inability to work with Apple's sandbox, but my old version does seem to work with OS X Yosemite.

Second, my version of FileMaker apparently uses DOS returns in calculation dialog boxes even though I'm running this on a Mac. Therefore when a FileMaker calculation is opened in Vim the DOS returns are automatically replaced with Unix returns. This doesn't seem to be a problem, but you should be aware that saving a Vim buffer back into a FileMaker calculation is changing the carriage returns at the end of each line.

My point is, QuickCursor is one of the pieces that will make your editing of FileMaker calculations within Vim (or any external text editor, for that matter) much smoother. If you didn't buy it when it was available in the Mac App Store, QuickCursor's author, Jesse Grosjean has kindly given permission for us to make Version 1 available on Dropbox. He's also made the source code available for version 2. Finally, you can try one of the workarounds people have come up with using other tools such as Keyboard Maestro. I can't comment on how useful these are, being satisfied with QuickCursor.


filemaker.vim is compatible with Vundle.vim and Pathogen. The easiest way to install is with Vundle by adding Plugin 'chivalry/filemaker.vim' to your .vimrc and running :PluginInstall from within Vim. Alternatively, if you already have Pathogen then clone the filemakervim project into ~/.vim/bundle.

cd ~/.vimrc/bundle
git clone https://github.com/chivalry/filemaker.vim.git

If you don't use Vundle or Pathogen (and really, you should, Vim's native plugin management is non-existant), then you'll need to place the files manually as follows, creating the folders in .vim as needed.:

filemakervim/ftdetect/filemakervim.vim -> ~/.vim/ftdetect/filemakervim.vim
filemakervim/ftplugin/filemakervim.vim -> ~/.vim/ftplugin/filemakervim.vim
filemakervim/syntax/filemakervim.vim   -> ~/.vim/syntax/filemakervim.vim

Perhaps in the future I'll look into an installer script to do this automatically. If you're using FileMaker and Vim on Windows, place the files in the analogous vimfiles folder (I think).

To take full advantage of filemaker.vim you'll need UltiSnips in addition to Vim. With Vundle, the installation of UltiSnips is just as easy as it is for filemaker.vim.

See :help filemakervim (or :help fmv for short) for complete documentation. This file is found in the repository at https://github.com/chivalry/filemaker.vim/blob/master/doc/filemakervim.txt.


filemaker.vim has two main features. First of all, it (generally) detects the following patterns for syntax highlighting:

  • Syntax highlighting of the following:
    • Local and global variables
    • FileMaker operators (i.e., '+', '-', '&', etc.)
    • String and number literals
    • Built-in FileMaker functions
    • Built-in FileMaker constants (such as Get function parameters)
    • Block and in-line comments
    • Calculation variables that begin with an underscore or tilde (i.e., '_foo' or '~bar')
    • Custom functions that begin with a prepended code and dot (i.e., 'code.CustomFunction')
    • Embedded source code within FileMaker strings for SQL, JavaScript, Groovy and PHP
  • With the installation of UltiSnips, intelligent snippet insertion for all of the built-in FileMaker functions
  • Function completion using (mapped by default to <c-tab>
  • Confirmed compatibility with MacVim and command-line Vim on OS X.

The second major feature is snippet support using UltiSnips. You don't need UltiSnips to use filemaker.vim, but you'll definately want it. It allows the typing of triggers followed by a trigger key (generally tab) and fills in a snippet based on the trigger. Although a textual description won't due the feature justics (see the vidos linked to on the UltiSnips page) as an example, if I type mid<tab> I get the following:


The word text is highlighted for me so that I can enter the first parameter. Pressing Ctrl-B then takes me to the start parameter, where I can type over the template text for it and press Ctrl-B again to get to the third parameter, enter it, press Ctrl-B one more time and it takes me outside the function. filemaker.vim has entries for every FileMaker function there is (OK, Pi doesn't have a snippet, but even External is included, which it probably doesn't really need anymore), including all of the Get functions with mnemonic abbreviations such as getfc for Get( FoundCount ). But filemaker.vim is even smarter than that.

UltiSnips includes Python interpolation, which means that we can use Python code to provide even more intelligence to our snippets. A major example in filemaker.vim is the Get function. Typing get<tab> inserts the following:

Get( (AccountExtendedPrivileges|AccountName|AccountPrivilegeSetName|...|WindowZoomLevel) )

That's every parameter that Get accepts. The snippet places you at the beginning of that list and as you begin to type it narrows down the list of available parameters:

Get( Accou(ntExtendedPrivileges|ntName|ntPrivilegeSetName) )

Once you wheedle the list down to a single possible parameter, that's all filemaker.vim provides, and Ctrl-Bing takes you outside the function.

All of the functions that take a list of possible parameters, such as TextFont, TextStyleAdd, and GetContainerAttribute, include this feature.

Another nicety is that the design functions that take a file name as a parameter, which is almost always going to be Get( FileName ), fill that in for you automatically. As an example, fn<tab> expands to:

  Get( FileName );

If this turns out to be a feature some don't prefer, an override setting might be provided in the future. But given that the text Get( FileName ) are highlighted in the resulting expansion and you can immediately type over them, I don't see a downside yet.

The last snippet feature is that some functions, those which often take the same other functions as parameters, have those sub-functions filled in by default. For example, ts<tab> expands to:


However, the top-level parameters are tabstops for the snippet, so the initial jump to them highlights their entirety so that they can be overwritten by simply typing. Jumping to the next tabstop without overriding them takes you to the sub-function parameters.

Formatting and Conventions

FileMaker calculation formatting conventions are notoriously divergent and at this point filemaker.vim uses mine. This expresses itself in how the snippets are inserted and in what variables and custom functions it recognizes in the syntax highlighting.

Syntax highlighting uses regular expressions to match text to language tokens, and honestly I'm no regex expert. For years, however, I've used the convention of beginning my calculation variables with an underscore and my custom functions with a three or four letter code followed by a dot. Recognizing these is much easier than recognizing anything FileMaker would accept, so for the time being that's what filemaker.vim does.

If you don't use this convention the rest of the syntax highlighting will still work and prove useful. If someone out there is a regex expert and would like to assist on this front, the help would be very welcome.

Function formatting is also a convention affected by filemaker.vim. I generally format functions with the following rules:

  • Single parameter functions appear on a single line.
  • Mult-parameter functions generally have each of their parameters on their own line.
  • Parameters are indented by two spaces more than their function.
  • There's no space between a function name and the opening parenthesis.
  • There's a space between the parentheses and the parameters.
  • There's no space between a parameter and its following semicolon.
  • When multiple parameters appear on a single line there's a space between the semicolon and the next parameter.

filemaker.vim, by default, follows these conventions strictly. I'll admit that this isn't always the best option for readibility (which is the purpose of my general conventions), but for an early version it was easiest to use the same conventions across the board.

Some customization is possible, however, and I plan to include more down the road. For the time being you can override two of the defaults by setting global variables within your .vimrc file.

set g:FMVAddSpaceAfterFunction=1 " places a space between a function name and the opening parenthsis
set g:FMVPadSpacesWithinParens=0 " does not place a space between parentheses and parameters

See the help file (:help fmv-overriding-conventions) for additional information.

Future Enhancements

This is version 1, and it does most of what I set out to do to make it useful, but I do have plans for future features, and am very interested in feedback regarding their anticipated usefulness as well as their priority.

  • Addition of an indent file that allows for automatic formatting of calculations
  • Ability to customize triggers without having to edit the original snippets file
  • Ability to provide variable triggers for fuctions such as Case and Substitute
  • Integrated function documentation
  • Integration with other Vim plugins, such as YouCompleteMe
  • Optional inclusion of popular FileMaker plugin external functions
  • Optional inclusion of a standard library of custom function snippets
  • Are FileMaker functions language-dependent? If so, multiple language support

Snippet Triggers

Every included function (except the Get function's parameters and DatabaseNames, for which such a snippet is pretty useless) has a snippet that is the same as the function's name in lower-case letters. So you know right away that the trigger for RightValues is rightvalues, but most have abbreviated but unique triggers (ritv in this case). Although UltiSnips supports duplicate triggers, using them seriously reduces the time savings, so if a function has a trigger, that trigger is unique. When selecting between competing functions I tried to make the most common function the one with the most obvious trigger.

The triggers for Get functions are generally get followed by the letters in the words making up the parameter, such as getfp for Get( FilePath ), but using that technique does result in some duplicates. When that's the case I tried to use the default on the more common function and added a logical letter to the alternative.

Finally, triggers are generally case-insenstive. In other words, getv, Getv, and GETV are all triggers for the GetValue function.

To find the abbreviated trigger use the help system with the function name, as in :help fmv-filter.