fmEcommerce Link (WooCommerce Edition) Now Runs Natively on FileMaker 16 Platform

When we first released fmEcommerce Link (WooCommerce Edition) back in 2016 the functionality required to integrate with the WooCommerce REST API did not exist in the current version of FileMaker Pro, therefore we had to use a FileMaker Pro plug-in to handle the API requests, set HTTP Headers, encode JSON and parse the JSON response. This allowed fmEcommerce Link (WooCommerce Edition) to run under FileMaker Pro v12 and later, as well as under FileMaker Server with the plug-in installed, however it prevented it from running on FileMaker Go which does not currently support plug-ins (except via the iOS App SDK).

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’re pleased to announce that v1.5 of fmEcommerce Link (WooCommerce 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).

We’ve updated all the requests for downloading and uploading to the WooCommerce 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) – we’ve also included an example for using Perform Script on Server to have FileMaker Server handle uploading a Product to WooCommerce.

In working on this update (which was a much bigger update than we anticipated and took much longer than we planned!) we tried to avoid making too many unnecessary schema changes. 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.

You can get all the details on our version history page – we’re busy working on adding native FileMaker 16 support to our other products, as well as some further updates to fmEcommerce Link (WooCommerce Edition) including support for uploading Orders from FileMaker to WooCommerce.

fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) and the Xero API TLS 1.0 Deprecation

Xero have recently announced that they will be deprecating support for TLS (Transport Layer Security) 1.0 from 30 June 2018. TLS is used to secure communication between partner apps like fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) and the Xero API. The Xero API will now require partners apps to use TLS 1.1 as a minimum and recommend upgrading to TLS 1.2.

Xero have recently made available a test URL for partner app developers to test their apps to ensure they will continue to work after 30 June 2018. Databuzz is pleased to report that after performing a series of tests using fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) with the test URL we encountered no issues and were able to authenticate the private application, request data from Xero and upload data to Xero successfully.

fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) is also already using TLS 1.2 which will most likely become the mandatory minimum version at some point in the future – many of the other APIs that we work with at Databuzz have already made TLS 1.2 the minimum version.

If you have any questions about fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) and the Xero API TLS 1.0 Deprecation please contact us.

fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) and AccountRight 2018.1.1

We’ve been testing fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) with AccountRight 2018.1.1 that was released this week and have not found any issues in our testing so far. We’ve been able to download data from AccountRight and upload data to AccountRight successfully so we don’t anticipate any issues with AccountRight 2018.1.1, but please let us know if you encounter any issues when working with AccountRight 2018.1.1.

MYOB have also recently added a new beta API endpoint for Quotes that will allow you to read, create, update and delete sales quotes via the API. This will work in a similar way to Invoices and Orders, and will be available for all quote layouts including Item, Miscellaneous, Professional, Service and Time Billing. Once the Quotes API endpoint is out of beta and available to all users we will add examples for working with Quotes to the fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) solution as a free update for all existing customers.

Gravity Forms Integration with FileMaker

Gravity Forms is a popular Form plugin for the WordPress platform, allowing you to create simple or advanced forms to capture data on your WordPress website. Over the years we’ve helped many customers with retrieving data from their Gravity Forms using a variety of methods, including:

  • simple CSV file download from Gravity Forms then import that CSV file into FileMaker
  • using the FileMaker PHP API to have Gravity Forms data automatically ‘pushed’ to their FileMaker solution each time an entry is submitted
  • using the External SQL Data Source feature to view the Gravity Forms data live from within FileMaker and create FileMaker scripts to download data

Each of these methods have their pros and cons: for some users the FileMaker PHP API integration is not an option, and for others they aren’t able to connect remotely to the SQL database as this is blocked by their web host. Downloading CSV files each day/week is also time consuming and cumbersome. Fortunately there is another method to use that has many advantages over these methods: the Gravity Forms Web API.

Using the Gravity Forms Web API we can dynamically query Gravity Forms from within FileMaker to check for new form entries and download those directly into our FileMaker solution, all within a few seconds. If you’re using FileMaker Pro v16 you can also use the new native JSON and cURL features to do this without requiring any FileMaker plug-ins – for older versions of FileMaker a plug-in is required to handle the API requests and cryptographic requirements. You can also setup schedules using FileMaker Server to have new form entries downloaded automatically (hourly, daily etc).

Here’s a short video demonstrating how we can download Gravity Forms entries directly into a FileMaker solution (you can also view it directly on YouTube):

If you would like to discuss integrating Gravity Forms with your FileMaker solution please get in touch for a free initial consultation to discuss your requirements.

Connecting FileMaker Pro to FileMaker Server with the FileMaker Data API

FileMaker Server 16 (and FileMaker Cloud 1.16.0) included a new trial feature called the FileMaker Data API (application programming interface), which allows web services or applications to access data in hosted FileMaker solutions without needing any FileMaker client software to be installed. This is similar to the current XML and PHP APIs which have been around for over 10 years, however the Data API is a REST (Representational State Transfer) API which means you don’t need to use any particular programming language to work with the Data API.

In their Product Roadmaps over the past couple of years FileMaker Inc. have indicated that they will be investing in the Data API in future releases of FileMaker platform. Whilst they have not included the XML and PHP APIs in their list of deprecated features their focus will be on the Data API which opens up the FileMaker platform to an almost unlimited number of external apps and services.

We’ve been working with REST APIs for many years – sending SMS messages, integrating with Accounting platforms and eCommerce platforms – so we were pleased to see FileMaker Server (and now FileMaker Cloud) include a REST API as this now opens up many possibilities for integration by external web services and applications, as they don’t need to know “FileMaker” in order to make requests with the Data API. If you’re familiar with making HTTP requests (GET, POST, PUT, DELETE) and working with JSON data formats then you will have no issues working with the FileMaker Data API.

As the FileMaker Data API is a trial feature – the trial expires on September 27, 2018 and the Data API will cease to operate – we normally wouldn’t recommend our clients use this feature in any live systems as it is likely to change and you will have to upgrade to the latest version of the FileMaker platform before the trial expires in order to keep using it (after making any necessary changes to ensure compatibility with the final release of the Data API). There is also the issue of licensing – the Data API is currently free to use in the trial period, but FileMaker plan to have a licensing model in place before the end of the trial. Without knowing what the final licensing model will be makes it hard for clients to commit to using the Data API at this stage.

During a recent project we had encountered a challenging issue that turns out was perfect for the Data API. This project has a FileMaker Server v16 hosted solution with a Custom Web Publishing/PHP interface. All users access the solution using a web browser – for security reasons installing FileMaker Pro was not an option. One requirement of the project was to allow printing of labels with barcodes and picking lists – we solved this by generating PDF files via the new support for generating PDF files on FileMaker Server as well as Excel files (see our blog post from last year on how we did this). We still ended up using a local FileMaker file to import the Excel file containing the data for the shipping labels and to create the barcodes.

This process was working smoothly but was more suitable for doing large bulk shipments and involved a number of steps that you normally wouldn’t have to perform in a purely FileMaker Pro interface:

  • users would first have to find the records via the web interface that they wished to generate labels for
  • they would then click a button to call the server side script to create the PDF or Excel file
  • they would then have to download this Excel or PDF file to their local machine
  • for PDF files they would simply open them and print as needed, and for the Excel files they would open the local FileMaker file and click a button to import the Excel file which then generated the labels and barcodes

As you can see there’s a number of steps involved, whereas with a pure FileMaker Pro interface there would typically be only 2 steps:

  • find the records to print
  • click a button to print the shipping labels or picking lists

The process was also the same regardless of whether you wished to print a single shipping label or 100 labels. We had been discussing ways to streamline and improve this process, knowing that we couldn’t connect to the solution using a live FileMaker Pro connection. We were leaning towards building a integration using either the XML or PHP APIs, or using a product like RESTfm when we realised that the Data API might be another option worth considering, knowing that it was a trial feature and would stop working in September but would be a better long term investment. Now that FileMaker Pro v16 supports cURL and JSON natively it started to make even more sense, even though using FileMaker Pro to integrate with FileMaker Server via the Data API doesn’t make too much sense at first.

We built a basic prototype in a few hours to authenticate and make simple requests to get single and bulk shipping labels and picking lists and were impressed by the speed of the responses, so decided to press ahead and incorporate this functionality into the existing local FileMaker solution that users were already using to import the Excel files and print labels and barcodes. We were further able to link the web interface with this local FileMaker file through the use of FMP URLs by adding buttons on the web interface that called scripts in the local FileMaker file and passed in parameters, so the updated process to print labels and packing lists is now down to 2 steps:

  • find the records to print
  • click a button to print the shipping labels or picking lists

If you’re thinking about using FileMaker Pro as a client for the FileMaker Data API here’s some tips and tricks we learnt along the way:

  • the FileMaker Data API Reference can be found on your FileMaker Server at this URL – https://localhost/fmi/rest/apidoc/ – and contains examples for the requests and responses you can expect when authenticating, working with records and performing finds. The FileMaker 16 Data API Guide is the other main reference to working with the Data API. I recommend having both of these resources open in separate tabs when working with the Data API for the first time
  • we recommend using tools like Postman when working with the Data API to learn how to structure your requests. You can convert your working requests to cURL using the Generate Code Snippets feature which you can then copy and paste into your FileMaker Insert From URL script step and format for use with FileMaker Pro. See our previous article about about using Postman environments with the REST API.
  • the Data API is not currently a complete replacement for the XML or PHP APIs. For example you cannot insert container data or run FileMaker scripts with the Data API, or retrieve metadata about your FileMaker solution such as layout schema. The Data API does not currently return data such as the number of found records like the getFoundSetCount() method does in the PHP API, so you need to use workarounds for these.
  • date formats appear to work in a similar way to the PHP API in that you need to specify them in MM/DD/YYYY format regardless of your date formats on your server or FileMaker solution. Dates are also returned in the same MM/DD/YYYY format (e.g. 11/30/2017 for November 30th, 2017).
  • when performing a find query the fields you are searching for don’t need to be on the layout you specified in your URL, but only fields on the specified layout are returned in the response.
  • when performing a find query that results in no records found the use of the –show-error cURL option determines whether the Insert From URL script step returns an error (1631) or not. This is documented in the Supported cURL options page help page under the Handling errors heading.
  • one issue that caused us grief is an apparent bug with the use of the JSONSetElement function with spaces when used in a particular way the the cURL options. We have now standardised on specifying the JSON for each Data API request using the –data @$data syntax instead of the alternative methods
  • to help with debugging we recommend using the –trace and –dump-header options with every request

The final cURL options generally look like this for a typical request (assuming you have already authenticated and stored the access token somewhere):

"--request POST" & 
" --header " & Quote( "Content-type" & ": " & "application/json" ) & 
" --header " & Quote( "FM-data-token" & ": " & $$restAPIAccessToken ) & 
" --data @$json" & 
" --trace $$cURLTrace" & 
" --dump-header $responseHeaders"

Using FileMaker Pro as a client for the FileMaker Data API has us thinking about new ways we can leverage the Data API from an offline FileMaker Pro or FileMaker Go client, such as syncing records when using FileMaker Go on an iPhone or iPad and removing the overhead of having to have a live connection to your FileMaker Server. The Data API is perfect for uploading or downloading small changes from an offline file and once the shipping version of the Data API is available in the next version of the FileMaker platform (and the licensing model revealed) we expect to see more widespread use of the Data API, particularly for offline files running under FileMaker Go.

 

Using Postman Environments and Tests with the FileMaker Data API

One of the new features of FileMaker Server 16 and FileMaker Cloud 1.16.0 is the FileMaker Data API – currently in trial mode which expires on September 27, 2018. The FileMaker Data API is an application programming interface (API) that allows web services to access data in hosted FileMaker solutions and conforms to Representational State Transfer (REST) architecture, making the FileMaker Data API a REST API.

You can use the Data API to integrate your FileMaker solutions with other applications and services – REST APIs are the current standard for integration and the Data API will be the replacement for the current XML and PHP APIs.

Your web service or application calls the FileMaker Data API to obtain an authentication token for access to a hosted solution, then uses that token in subsequent calls to create records, update records, delete records, and perform find requests.The FileMaker Data API returns data in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), another standard that is used with REST APIs for data formatting (and is also supported by FileMaker Pro v16).

A great tool to use when testing REST calls with the Data API is Postman, a free app for macOS, Windows and Linux (paid versions are also available). Postman allows you to make requests (GET, POST, PUT etc) to a REST API like the FileMaker Data API and inspect the response, including the headers. You can quickly make changes to the requests and headers that you send and compare the results – when working with REST APIs a tool like Postman is indispensable.

As mentioned above the FileMaker Data API requires you to obtain an authentication token when first accessing a FileMaker solution – the access token is valid until you log out of a solution or for 15 minutes after the last call that specified the token. While the token is valid, each call that specifies the token resets the session timeout counter to zero. To save you from having to manually copy and paste your token with each new request you can use some features of Postman to save your from having to manually update any variables in your requests manually, including the Data API access token.

Postman lets you setup multiple “environments” that can contain multiple variables fore each environment, such as the host address URL. For example you might have a development environment and a production environment, each with their own host address and other variables. In Postman I would simply have a POST request URL like this:

https://{{server}}/fmi/rest/api/auth/Tasks

and in each Postman environment I would specify the value for the {{server}} variable. When you make your request by hitting the Send button in Postman it will insert the appropriate value for each variable you’ve specified. You can read all about setting up Postman environments and variables in the Postman docs.

As you can’t specify the Data API access token in advance you can use another great feature of Postman to dynamically create the token variable which is then used in subsequent API requests. Your initial request to authenticate/login will look like this:

{ "user":"admin", "password":"admin", "layout":"Tasks" }

and if successful the response will look like this:

{ "errorCode": "0", "layout": "Tasks", "token": "fdde29fa175eb1cc8347512ca327b191619fc32ed65efaab26d8" }

Using the Tests feature when making a Postman request you can execute some JavaScript code after the request is sent to dynamically create a token variable that you can use with your subsequent API calls without having to copy and paste the token each time. Here’s a screenshot of how you would set this up in Postman for the Data API authentication request:

The JavaScript code you can copy/paste is:

var data = JSON.parse(responseBody);
postman.setEnvironmentVariable("token", data.token)

Using Postman environments and Tests to update the token variable makes working with the FileMaker Data API much easier and should save you a lot of time.

Webhooks are coming to Xero

Earlier this year Xero announced that Webhooks would be coming to the Xero API, which was exciting news for Xero developers who have been asking for webhooks support for a long time (there is a request from 2010 in the Xero API Customer Feedback site!). Webhooks allow you to subscribe to certain events that happen in Xero: the Contacts endpoint was the first to receive webhooks support and Xero have said they will quickly move to Invoices and other high-use endpoints (hopefully including Payments which our customers would love).

The events that are currently support for the Contacts endpoint are:

  1. Create: A new contact has been created
  2. Update: An existing contact has been updated (including when contacts are archived)

When one of these events are triggered the Xero API sends a HTTPS POST to the webhook’s configured URL – you can then perform the appropriate actions based on the contents of the webhook payload, such as creating a new contact or updating an existing contact in FileMaker.

Xero started a closed beta for the Contacts webhooks which Databuzz was lucky enough to be invited to join and we’ve been working on ways to implement webhooks with our fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) solution, initially using the FileMaker PHP API. Databuzz has been working with webhooks for many years, for example adding webhooks support to our fmEcommerce Link (WooCommerce Edition) solution to allow new orders to be pushed automatically, and to fmSMS to allow incoming messages to be pushed to FileMaker without requiring users to download these manually. Adding webhooks support to our fmEcommerce Link solution was fairly straightforward – we created a PHP file that uses the FileMaker PHP API and processes the webhook payload to update the existing contact or create a new Contact as required.

We still need to polish these off but we wanted to demonstrate how you could use Contacts webhooks (and Invoices and other endpoints that are supported in the future) with our fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) solution. If Contacts are created or updated directly in Xero and you need to make the same updates in your FileMaker solution web hooks will save you having to either re-enter these manually or downloads these from Xero via the Xero API.

Check out our video below (or on YouTube) that shows how you can use webhooks to have updates from Xero pushed automatically to fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) (or your FileMaker solution that you have integrated this into). If you have any questions about webhooks and Xero please post them in the comments below or contact us directly.

Update November 30, 2017: webhooks for Invoices are now available.

fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) Updated for Purchase Orders

An updated version of fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) has just been released which now includes examples for working with Purchase Orders, which has been a popular request from our customers. fmAccounting Link shows you how you can use FileMaker to:

  • download Purchase Orders from MYOB to FileMaker (all Purchase Orders or filtered by Purchase Order Date)
  • create Purchase Orders in FileMaker and upload them to MYOB
  • update a single Purchase Order from MYOB

This is a free update for all existing customers. You can view the full release notes on our version history page.

Our next update will include examples for working with Bills in MYOB and FileMaker. We’re also planning an update that will be ‘plug-in free’ for FileMaker v16 users, allowing you to use the fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) solution natively under FileMaker Pro,  FileMaker Go and FileMaker WebDirect without having to install and manage plug-ins. The FileMaker v16 platform introduced some new cURL options and JSON functions which will allow us to perform the same functions as the plug-in provides when using FileMaker v16 – earlier versions of FileMaker will still need to use the plug-in functions.

If there are other features you would like to see in the core fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) file please get in touch and let us know.

fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) and Public Application Integrations

When we released fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) back in 2014 we developed it to be used with a Xero API Private Application – this made the most sense at the time and still does for most customers who are only concerned with connecting their custom FileMaker business app with their own Xero organisation. Private Applications are just one of the three different types of API Applications available for the Xero API:

  • Private – connected to a single Xero organisation, doesn’t require user authentication
  • Public -connect to multiple Xero organisations, requires user authentication, 30 minute access limit
  • Partner– connect to multiple Xero organisations, requires user authentication, long term access

One of the main advantages of a Private Application is that your FileMaker users do not need to have a Xero account, so you can allow them to perform specific functions (e.g. uploading Contacts, Invoices, Payments etc from FileMaker to Xero) without having to get them access to Xero itself – the Private Application handles the authentication with Xero for them. This means you don’t have to worry about giving access to confidential business information contained in Xero to all FileMaker users.

There may be times however when you wish to only allow Xero users to upload data from FileMaker to Xero – this would require the use of a Public or Partner application. Databuzz recently took part in Xero’s XD HAX Developer Challenge 2017 and we decided to use this opportunity to explore how a Public Application integration could work. We were focussed on integrating with FileMaker Cloud which runs on AWS and wanted to have a native solution that ran on all the FileMaker clients that FileMaker Cloud supports, including FileMaker Pro for Mac/Windows, FileMaker Go for the iPhone and iPad, and FileMaker WebDirect.

As FileMaker doesn’t have the native functions to perform the OAuth 1.0a authentication that a Private Application type uses we have used a FileMaker plug-in to handle the authentication with the Xero API. FileMaker plug-ins are only supported by the Mac/Windows FileMaker Pro client applications which means they cannot be used by FileMaker Go for iOS (though you can use the iOS SDK to create an iOS application based on FileMaker Go that can include the plug-in).

Using a Public Application type integration means we could remove the dependency on the plug-in as Public applications use the standard 3 legged OAuth process where a user can authorise your application – in Xero’s case this is for 30 minutes, at which point the access token expires.

For our XD HAX Developer Challenge entry we changed the authentication method to use a Public Application integration and took advantage of a number of native FileMaker features, such as using a Card Window to handle the Xero authentication window, and the new cURL and JSON functions to handle the encoding/decoding of data and uploading/download with the Xero API. Here’s a brief video demonstrating how a Public Application integration could work with our fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) solution:

We would love to hear if this is something that you would be interested in seeing in a future version of fmAccounting Link. We love that we can provide a native solution that runs on all FileMaker clients without a plug-in but are not sure whether customers would prefer the long term access that a private application provides and the benefit of not having to use a Xero login to authenticate.

Xero User Magazine Custom Integration Article

Issue 12 of the Xero User Magazine was released today in time for Xerocon London where Xero announced they have now surpassed a quarter of a million subscribers in the UK, contributing to the more one million subscribers in over 180 countries.

We’re pleased to report that this latest issue of XU Magazine includes an article by Andrew Duncan of Databuzz on ‘The Benefits of a Custom Xero Integration’. You can find the article on page 110 of Issue 12 – you can subscribe for free to the print and digital editions here. The article discusses the benefits of a custom Xero integration, particularly when there is no add-on in the Xero App Marketplace that meets you needs. We also mention examples of integrations we’ve done for customers over the past four years that have helped them eliminate double data entry, for both FileMaker solutions and other applications.

Earlier this year we were approached by an Australian Government agency that was using three different software applications to handle online sales, point of sale merchandise and ticket sales and needed to get the consolidated data into their internal financial accounting software. Xero was used to reconcile all financial data which was uploaded by Vend each night and we developed a custom web application which ran every 24 hours to download the Invoices from Xero and generate a custom XML file which was sent to the internal financial application. This has been running smoothly for many months now and the customer is very happy about the time saved from not having to do any manual re-entry of financial data.

If you would like to discuss a custom integration with Xero please get in touch.