‘Automate What You Hate’

With the move to remote working and the changes to social distancing since the onset of COVID-19 many businesses have been forced to evaluate their use of technology and quickly adopt solutions to fill in some gaps in their business processes that have changed under the coronavirus. Companies that never thought they could function with a remote workforce have been forced to adapt quickly – I’ve spoken to many employees at other companies who have helped their organisations transition to a remote workforce in under 2 weeks.

I’ve had a lot of conversations over the past 6 weeks with customers who have found themselves in two common situations:

  1. having been forced into working remotely they quickly need a new solution or integration (e.g. implementing eSignatures now that in person signing isn’t safe or transitioning from retail sales to online sales)
  2. they have been able to take the extra time they have to finally get around to some of those projects they have been putting off, such as getting an eCommerce store up and running or integrating two different software platforms to remove those repetitive manual tasks.

Earlier this week Shopify, a leading global commerce company, announced that the number of new stores created on Shopify grew 62% between March 13 and April 24, compared to the prior six weeks. In the 6 week period since March 13, local orders have more than doubled in English-speaking geographies. As retailers suspended their in-store operations retail merchants managed to replace 94% of lost point-of-sale orders with online sales over the same period.

Earlier this week I attended the DocuSign Momentum Live APAC which was streamed live where a number of DocuSign customers shared their experiences and best practice examples of how they’re keeping business ticking in the current climate. We saw examples of how businesses are using the DocuSign platform to complete JobKeeper application forms so they can access the Australian Federal Government JobKeeper scheme payments. This form can be bulk sent to employees and a complete audit trail can be maintained.

DocuSign have a dedicated page on how they are supporting the global response to COVID-19 in healthcare, government, education, and business. We’ve helped a number of businesses in the past 6 weeks quickly adopt DocuSign for sending out agreements to their customers which, for now at least, can no longer be signed in person. Using eSignature allows you to have agreements signed remotely anywhere from any device – using our fmESignature Link (DocuSign Edition) solution you can also integrate this into your existing FileMaker solution.

I came across an article recently on the Inside Small Business website titled Automate what you hate which talks about the benefits of automation and how small businesses can use technology to replace boring manual repetitive tasks. The article goes on to give four reasons to automate the repetitive tasks you hate.

Here at Databuzz we’re big fans of using technology to automate repetitive manual tasks and leveraging the power of APIs to integrate various systems, something we’ve written about many times before. If you find yourself with some extra time during the COVID-19 shutdown we would encourage you to use this opportunity to look at ways you can streamline your current workflows and remove any unnecessary manual tasks, particular those that involve double data entry. If you’ve been planning to integrate your FileMaker solution with another platform now is a great time to make these system changes to your business and automate what you hate.

Here’s some ideas based on conversations and work we’ve done over the past few months helping customers on ways you can change the way you communicate with customers or integrate your FileMaker solution with other platforms:

  • SMS is a great alternative replacement for certain communications, such as appointment reminders, special offers, school alerts to parents. We saw a great example recently with a doctor in the USA using our fmSMS solution to implement a “Doctor by Text” service
  • If you have an online store and find yourself manually entering orders into your FileMaker solution look at whether you can integrate the two platforms. Most online stores have APIs that you can use to integrate with your FileMaker solution – if you’re using either WooCommerce or Shopify we have integration solutions already built that you can use to get up and running quickly.
  • eSignatures are becoming more popular with the social distancing rules and can help you remove paper and establish a digital audit trail and allow your customers, staff etc to sign documents on their own device at their convenience. Our fmESignature Link (DocuSign Edition) solution is proving very popular at the moment as it can help you get up and running with integrating eSignatures into your existing FileMaker solution
  • Accounting software integration: see our earlier article about the benefits of integrating your FileMaker solution with your accounting software. If you find yourself manually entering the same invoice, payment, purchase order etc in both your FileMaker solution and your accounting software there is a better way! If you’re using either Xero or MYOB AccountRight we have integration solutions already built to help you fastback an integration.

fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) Now Supports OAuth 2.0

Earlier this month Xero said goodbye to OAuth 1.0a and moved to OAuth 2.0 for a simpler, faster and more secure authentication experience (see our earlier post about this). We’ve been busy working on an update to fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition), our solution for integrating the FileMaker Platform with Xero, which we previewed in an previous post where we discussed the changes and the updates we plan to release as a result of the move to OAuth 2.0.

We’re pleased to announce that v1.97 of fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) now supports OAuth 2.0, so new customers can now create OAuth 2.0 apps for the Xero API and connect them to the FileMaker Platform using fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition). We’ve updated our integration guide and posted a new video showing you how to setup an OAuth 2.0 app. Setting up an OAuth 2.0 app in Xero and connecting this to the fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) solution only takes a few minutes and once you’ve completed the initial authentication everything works the same as before.

We’re working on documenting the process if you wish to convert your existing fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) solution from OAuth 1.0a to OAuth 2.0. There’s no immediate rush as you have until December 2020 to update existing OAuth 1.0a integrations to OAuth 2.0. We’re also working on v2.0 of fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) which will only support OAuth 2.0 and not require a FileMaker plug-in – it will use native FileMaker functions and scripts and will require FileMaker Pro v16 or later.

If you have any questions about fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) and OAuth 2.0 please get in touch or post a comment below.

FileMaker Admin API Authentication Issue

Now that the FileMaker Admin API is a standard feature in FileMaker Cloud for AWS 1.18 and FileMaker Server 18 and no longer a trial* I’ve been incorporating certain parts of the Admin API into client solutions. For example it is often helpful to see how many users are logged into your solution and get a list of their Account Names without having to use the Admin Console, or provide non admin users with access to the Admin Console.

I recently encountered an issue when calling the List Clients endpoint to see who was currently connected to a particular FileMaker solution. It was generating a 1627 error (Authentication failed) when performing the Insert from URL script step. This was strange as the same script had been working successfully earlier in the day and in previous days. I double checked the credentials for the server that were being used in the API request and they were correct, and verified these by logging into the Admin Console.

I was a bit puzzled at this stage and ran through the script once more with the Script Debugger. I was saving the response from the Insert from URL script step into a local variable, and upon further examination I noticed this was recording the following response from the Admin API:

{
"response": {},
"messages": [
{
"code": "956",
"text": "Maximum number of Admin API sessions exceeded"
}
]
}

There were no other Admin API sessions in use at this point – the Admin Console wasn’t being used – which further confused things. Logging in to the Admin Console again I could see that the list of connected clients wasn’t correct. If you’ve been using the FileMaker Server Admin Console for a few years now you’re probably familiar with this situation and the need to periodically restart the Admin Server via the following command line interface command:

fmsadmin restart adminserver

Once the Admin Server had restarted I tried the Admin API request to list the currently connected clients and it was successfully this time, so the authentication error was misleading in this case. If you encounter this error and you’ve verified the credentials are correct I would just go and restart the Admin Server on the FileMaker Server using the command line option above.

* the FileMaker Admin API was a trial feature in FileMaker Cloud 1.17 and FileMaker Server 17 and that trial period will expire on September 27, 2019 after which the API will cease to operate

Create Order Fulfillments in Shopify with fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition)

We’re pleased to announce that you can now create Order Fulfillments in Shopify in the latest release of fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition). We’ve added the ability to create a Fulfillment record in fmEcommerce Link for one or more Order Items in v1.4 which was released today:

You can enter the Tracking Company (select from a list of known Tracking Companies), Tracking Number and optional Tracking URL and select the Location that the Fulfillment will ship from. Clicking the Upload to Shopify button on this window will create a new Fulfillment in Shopify or update an existing one if you’re making a change to a previously uploaded Fulfillment.

The Fulfillment will be created in Shopify and save you from having to update Orders in both Shopify and FileMaker when it comes to managing Order Fulfillments:

Once again this is a this free update to all our existing customers who can download this version from the link on your original order email (contact us if you need the link to be reset etc). Here’s a video that demonstrates uploading an Order Fulfillment from fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) – you can also watch it on YouTube here:

Sending Messages from FileMaker to WhatsApp Users with Twilio

 

Last month I attended the Twilio Engage + Superclass events in Melbourne, Australia. This was my second Twilio Engage event after attending last year’s Sydney event, but my first Superclass session. Superclass is hands-on training for developers to learn how to use all things Twilio, with Twilio engineers on hand to help as you work through code challenges in TwilioQuest, their self-paced training video game. The use of TwilioQuest makes the day lots of fun with your awards flashing up on the big screen every time you compete a new challenge.

Even though I’ve been developing with the Twilio APIs for many years ( see my article from last year about how we’ve integrated FileMaker with Twilio for two-way messaging, voice calling, number lookups and polling for incoming messages) it’s always great to spend a day away from work with other developers and the Twilio staff to learn new skills and immerse yourself in the content without distractions.

My aim for this year’s Superclass was to spend time learning some of the other Twilio APIs that I wasn’t very familiar with, with a particular focus on the Twilio API for WhatsApp. I was aware that Twilio had recently launched the API for WhatsApp which allows you to send SMS messages directly to WhatsApp users – there are over 1.5 billion people using WhatsApp – and I was keen to see if I could get this working from fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the FileMaker platform.

The Twilio API for WhatsApp is currently in beta and you can use their Sandbox to setup access from a Twilio number and start sending messages using their sample templates. The API works in a similar fashion to their standard Message API and I was able to get up and running quickly and send my first message from fmSMS to my WhatsApp account. Here’s a screenshot showing the message I sent from fmSMS:

and here’s how it appears in the WhatsApp app on my iPhone:

I then enabled a Webhooks for incoming messages and was then able to receive incoming messages from WhatsApp back in to fmSMS. You can learn more about pricing for the Twilio API for WhatsApp here and API documentation here.

Once the Twilio API for WhatsApp is out of beta and you can easily request your own numbers we’ll definitely be adding this as another supported Gateway for fmSMS. We’ve put together a short video showing sending and receiving messages between FileMaker and WhatsApp in action:

2018 – Another Big Year for APIs

2018 was another big year for the API (application programming interface) economy – the ProgrammableWeb directory, which tracks APIs, passed the 19,000-API mark in January of 2018 and currently sits at 20,653 on the last day of 2018. There has been an explosion in growth in the last 5 years, with more than 2,000 APIs being added every year to their directory.

Earlier this year I attended the annual Xero Developer Roadshow in Melbourne and this slide caught my attention (apologies for the resolution/quality):

Xero released their first API in 2007 – the first cloud accounting API – and now receive more than 450 million API calls each month! There was another slide showing the number of ASW Servers they deploy for handling these API calls, which from memory was in the hundreds but could have been in the thousands.

Gartner have been talking about the concept of an API economy for a number of years and that businesses should put APIs at the centre of their digital business platform. An API economy is an enabler for turning a business or organisation into a platform which is something we’ve seen with APIs like the Xero API, which now has 40,000 active developer partners and over 700 certified application partners.

2018 also saw FileMaker, Inc. ship the FileMaker Data API as part of FileMaker Server/Cloud 17 platform. This is the first REST API (Representational State Transfer) from FileMaker which makes connecting other applications and web services much easier. You can now choose your programming language of choice when connecting to the FileMaker Data API – you can even use a FileMaker client such as FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Go which we’ve done on a number of projects (see our earlier article if you’re wondering why you would do this).

We specialise in FileMaker integration here at Databuzz, which more often than not means working with APIs. We’re typically connecting FileMaker to another platform such as Xero for accounting integration or Shopify for ecommerce integration, allowing our customers to easily exchange information between different platforms and streamlining business workflows.

Looking back at the projects we’ve worked on in 2018 here’s a partial list of the APIs that we connected the FileMaker platform to over the last 12 months:

We already have a few projects lined up for 2019 which will see us working on some new APIs for the first time. Now that the FileMaker platform can easily integrate with APIs, both as a client and as a server, working on integration projects has never been easier.

If you would like to discuss integrating FileMaker with an API for your business please get in touch for a free initial consultation to discuss your requirements.

fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) Now Runs Natively on FileMaker 16/17 Platform and supports Order Creation Webhooks

 

We’re pleased to announce that v1.3 of fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) is now available and includes a number of new features, including native support for FileMaker Pro v16 and later. This is a free update to all existing customers (simply download using the same link that was on your original order email).

With the release of the FileMaker 16 platform we got a number of new functions and script steps, including support for working with JSON data and being able to specify supported cURL options with the Insert From URL script step. These new features meant that we were no longer dependent on plug-in functions and we could replace these with native FileMaker features.

We’ve updated all the requests for downloading and uploading to the Shopify API to use native FileMaker functions and script steps so you no longer need to use a FileMaker plug-in if you’re using FileMaker Pro v16 or higher. This means you can also use fmEcommerce Link on FileMaker Go natively (requires FileMaker Go 16 or higher).

Like our previous updates for native FileMaker functionality for our other products we’ve simply updated the scripts to check which version of FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go or FileMaker Server is being used and if you’re using v15 or earlier we simply use the previous plug-in functionality, and if you’re using v16 or later we now use native functionality. Everything works exactly the same regardless of which version of FileMaker Pro you’re using, but we can now include support for FileMaker Go as well as having one less dependency to worry about.

This release also includes support for Shopify Webhooks – see our earlier post for a short video demonstrating how the Order Creation Webhook works. Instructions for setting up the Order Creation Webhook can be found here.

You can get all the details on our version history page – we’re continuing to work on adding native FileMaker 16 support to our other products, as well as some further updates to fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) including support for processing Fulfilments in FileMaker and uploading to Shopify.

fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) Update – Notes & History and Attachments

In Xero, you can view the history of changes made to invoices, bills, transactions, inventory items, contacts and more. This audit trail also shows any notes recorded by users in the Xero app but until recently this information was not available via the Accounting API.

Earlier this year Xero added a new endpoint to the Accounting API to allow developers to be able to download the notes/history and also add new notes. We’ve just released an update to fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) that includes examples for downloading and creating Notes for Contacts and Invoices.

The history and notes for an Invoice in the Xero web app looks like this:

and contains important information, such as when the Invoice was sent to the customer and if they have viewed the invoice online. We’ve added a new Notes tab to display the same information in the fmAccounting Link file:

You can download all the Notes from Xero for an Invoice and a Contact and create a new Note and upload that to Xero for a Invoice and a Contact. We started adding support for the new History and Notes endpoint for Contacts and Invoices as these are two of the most popular modules, but will gradually add them to the other supported modules such as Bills, Credit Notes, Items etc.

We also took this opportunity to extend the support for working with Attachments to also include the ability to download Attachments for an Invoice and create/download Attachments for a Contact.

Here’s a video that demonstrates working with History and Notes and Attachments in fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition):

FileMaker and the Twilio API

Here at Databuzz we’re longtime fans of Twilio, the company with the strange name that offers a Cloud communications platform, providing the building blocks to add messaging, voice, and video in your web and mobile applications.

For many years we’ve been working with the Twilio API, primarily to send and receive SMS messages using our fmSMS FileMaker solution. Twilio provides great coverage and very competitive pricing and we’ve been recommending Twilio to our customers for many years – when they ask which SMS Gateway we use at Databuzz we don’t hesitate to recommend Twilio.

Earlier this year we had the chance to attend the first Twilio Engage Sydney and learn more about the company’s strategy and participate in some great product demos. Twilio are opening 2 new offices in Melbourne and Sydney and it was great to be able to meet some of their Australian based staff in person.

We’ve written about how we use the Twilio API in the past, including a demonstration for Voice Calling with FileMaker and Twilio as well as sending Emojis from fmSMS. We’ve also made some custom solutions for customers to allow them to send and receive MMS (picture messages) messages from the FileMaker platform.

Over the past few months we’ve had the opportunity to work on some additional Twilio APIs that enhance the functionality found in our fmSMS solution, including:

  • adding phone number lookup functionality via the Twilio Lookup API
  • adding the ability to poll Twilio for any incoming messages that may not have been delivered due to a local server/Internet outage when using the regular Webhooks

For some customers the ability to check a number before sending an SMS or MMS message is important as it allows you to verify that the number you are about to send a message to is indeed a mobile number. For example you might have a list of Customers and associated phone numbers, but you aren’t sure if the number is a landline number or a mobile number. Using the Twilio Lookup API you can make a request to verify a number and receive information about the carrier and optionally (where supported) the caller name, allowing you to confirm the veracity of the number.

fmSMS includes the necessary PHP files to receive incoming messages to your Twilio number and have these pushed automatically to your FileMaker Server, but there may be times when your server or Internet connection is offline but you would still like to download any missed messages into your FileMaker solution. We’ve helped customers add the ability to “poll” the Twilio Messages API for any incoming messages to their Twilio number that they might have missed during a planned or unscheduled outage.

We’ve put together a simple demonstration video showing these in action – you can watch the video inline below or directly on YouTube:

fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) and Unit Price Rounding in Xero

By default the Xero API accepts unit prices (UnitAmount) to two decimals places – this means that if you were entering a line item on an Invoice and entered ‘1.795’ for the Unit Price it would be rounded to $1.80 in Xero. For most customers 2 decimal places is sufficient for the line item unit price, however there are some customers that do require greater precision. Xero offer a way to opt-in to 4 decimal places by adding a parameter to your API request.

For example if you wanted to create an Invoice and include 4 decimal places on the unit price for the line items you would change the URL from:

https://api.xero.com/api.xro/2.0/Invoices

to:

https://api.xero.com/api.xro/2.0/Invoices?unitdp=4

Unfortunately it wasn’t as simple as changing the URL in the appropriate fmAccounting Link scripts – even after changing the URL and including unit prices on the line items with 4 decimal places they were still being rounded to two decimals places when uploaded to Xero. We’ve come up with a solution to this to allow you to specify unit prices with 4 decimal places – you’ll need to simply install an updated version of the BaseElements plug-in (v3.3.8) and make sure you change your request URL to include the additional querystring parameter.

If you need to specify unit prices with 4 decimal places please get in touch and we’ll send you the new version of the BaseElements plug-in to use. You can get more information on the Xero developer website here:

https://developer.xero.com/documentation/api-guides/rounding-in-xero