My FileMaker Pro Kanji Project

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Long ago before I started learning Japanese, FileMaker Pro was one of my favourite programs. Then I started spending most of my time on Japanese and FileMaker was sidelined, especially as it didn’t support Japanese characters at that time. It’s interesting though, I get the same fun from learning Japanese as I did when I solved a problem using FileMaker.

Lately I’ve taken a look at the Kanjidic2 XML file. I’d like to do a little more than a standard dictionary search. The various sites and standalones don’t quite do what I’d like. I’d like to be able to pull out the data for which JLPT2 kanji are also Grade 4 for instance. I’d like to add my own notes, set up my own cross references, link it to Kradfile, link it to websites, get rid of the most annoying Heisig definitions (old-boy for 君 springs to mind). I have ideas for kanji learning I’d like to integrate. Although I wonder if I won’t have Yet Another Japanese Dictionary Reader in what is already a crowded market.

Anyhow to start to do this I need to put it into a database. FileMaker is the only real candidate to do what I want easily.

So I’ve bought myself an early Christmas present of FileMaker Pro 10 Advanced and have set about relearning it and learning how to do some new things with it. Initially I’ve been working with the Kanjidict2 xml file and am learning how to extract the data I want using XSLT and putting that into FileMaker so I can work with it.
It’s fun. Now that I understand a bit more about XML I think it’s a wonderful way to transport data.

The project at Monash University run by Jim Breen and the Electronic Dictionary Research and Development Group is an amazing resource as well. It seems to be the de-facto standard for Japanese dictionaries on the Web. Once I get the Kanji database started I’ll start looking at integrating JMDict into it.

While importing Kanjidic I noticed some very minor data inconsistencies. (two entries in a single field)
I submitted a bug report to Jim Breen by email and was surprised to get a very quick reply from him. Especially as I hadn’t read his guidelines for emailing him. I would have thought he was too busy to reply to emails like this.

Watch this space (but don’t hold your breath as I’ve very little spare time). Eventually I’ll upload what I come up with to see if it’s useful for other people and to hopefully get some feedback.
I also have a lot of half-written posts for this blog I need to finish off! So little time so much to do!

08. December 2009 by ロバート
Categories: 01 news • 新聞, 02 reading • 読む事, 03 writing • 書く事 | Tags: , , , , | 3 comments

Comments (3)

  1. Ah Filemaker. Haven’t used that in ages, but it is pretty powerful for a desktop-style database. Curious to see what your final product is after getting it all to work.

    Also, like you, I am saturated with half-finished posts, and with holidays getting in the way, I am having trouble keeping up. :-/

  2. I sort of hope I can get some project time in over the holidays. I’m probably deluded.

    My last foray with FileMaker was FM5. Now I can only run it in emulation as a Windows version.
    II need to relearn some core concepts about database design I think. I did consider SQL and a front end made in RealBasic, but programming is a step too far at the moment and having to learn all that from scratch too daunting a task. With FM I’m up and running very quickly.

    Hopefully I’ll blog my progress here.

  3. Yeah, SQL services are intended as a dedicate server-based database, not something to run at home necessarily as they require a reasonable amount of care and feeding. :) I think FM is a perfectly good compromise.

    Good luck on your development efforts nonetheless!

    One of my side-projects is documenting my efforts to make BSD unix and Japanese-language tools and input work more smoothly (e.g. anki), so I salute your efforts. People will definitely find it useful. :)

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