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.


FileMaker 16 Certified Developer

Databuzz is pleased to announce that Andrew Duncan recently passed the Developer Essentials for FileMaker 16 Certification Exam and is now FileMaker Certified in v8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. FileMaker 16 Certification is the official credential offered by FileMaker, Inc.

FileMaker Certification is your validation that you are hiring an experienced FileMaker professional who has technical knowledge of the complete FileMaker product line and has passed the “Developer Essentials for FileMaker” certification exam. Being a certified developer demonstrates to clients, peers and management that you’ve achieved an essential level of knowledge, experience and skills in developing FileMaker solutions.

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.

FileMaker Cloud Joins the FileMaker 16 Platform

FileMaker, Inc. today announced availability of the latest version of FileMaker Cloud, its cloud platform for managing and running custom apps that runs on the Amazon Web Services Cloud. With this release (, FileMaker Cloud joins the FileMaker 16 Platform and it is available in the US, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia.

This release of FileMaker Cloud requires FileMaker 16.0 clients at a minimum – if you’re using FileMaker v15 clients you will need to upgrade to v16 in order to access hosted solutions on FileMaker Cloud You can read the full release notes here.

The new release includes a number of integration, security and development features:

  • FileMaker Data API trial: Use FileMaker data in other popular apps and services with the REST-based FileMaker Data API in FileMaker Cloud during the trial period.
  • Tableau Web Data Connector for FileMaker: Better visualize FileMaker data with the Tableau Web Data Connector for FileMaker. The connector uses the FileMaker Data API trial to provide integration with Tableau Desktop.
  • FileMaker Admin API trial: Help manage and administer custom apps with the REST-based FileMaker Admin API trial in FileMaker Cloud. Create messages and script schedules, open and close apps, and more.
  • OAuth 2.0 support for accounts: Simplify credential management with OAuth 2.0 using third-party authentication providers. Use existing Amazon, Google or Microsoft Azure account credentials to log in to FileMaker custom apps.
  • PDF support: Generate PDFs of layouts and data from FileMaker WebDirect. Save and print PDFs of invoices, labels, badges and more, just like with FileMaker Pro.

For more information on the differences between FileMaker Cloud and FileMaker Server check out our previous article on FileMaker Cloud as well as FileMaker Inc’s comparison between the two products. This release of FileMaker Cloud brings the ability to schedule scripts via the new FileMaker Admin API trial which was one of the missing gaps when compared to FileMaker Server. FileMaker Cloud does not support Custom Web Publishing with PHP and XML and FileMaker Inc. have stated that this will not be supported by FileMaker Cloud in the future – the FileMaker Data API will be the focus as far as API integrations are concerned so developers should focus their efforts here.

Easier PDF Creation using PHP with FileMaker Server 16

If you’ve been doing Custom Web Publishing with the FileMaker PHP API and needed to generate a PDF report you haven’t had many simple options. You can use one of the available PHP PDF classes such as TCPDF or FPDF which require specifying x and y coordinates, fonts and text to output in certain positions on the page, or setup a “robot” FileMaker Pro client that runs in a loop looking for new jobs to process.

Developers have been requesting the ability to generate PDF files server-side for many years, and from my conversations with FileMaker, Inc. engineers it was the number one feature request. FileMaker, Inc. were finally able to deliver on this with the release of the FileMaker 16 platform earlier this year, which included the following new features related to PDF and printing from FileMaker Server:

  • the Print script step now allows you to create PDFs in web browsers with FileMaker WebDirect
  • the Print Setup script step now allows you to specify PDF options for the Print script step and Save Records As PDF script step on FileMaker Server and FileMaker WebDirect
  • the Save Records as PDF script step now allows you to save PDFs with FileMaker Server and FileMaker WebDirect

If you look at the documentation for the Save Records as PDF script step you will see that is only compatible with FileMaker Server and FileMaker WebDirect  and not compatible with Custom Web Publishing (CWP), which is used by the PHP API when running FileMaker scripts. At this point you might be inclined to assume that there is nothing helpful in these changes for CWP/PHP developers, but there is a way to leverage the Save Records as PDF support under FileMaker Server from a PHP page.

The solution to this requires the Perform Script On Server script step (PSoS) which is CWP compatible. At this point it’s important to mention that PSoS does require the fmapp extended privilege to be enabled for your PHP/CWP users and their associated Privilege Sets. If your PHP users don’t normally access the database using a FileMaker Pro client then you may need to make some changes to your OnFirstWindowOpen script to limit their access (e.g. lock and hide the toolbar, navigate to a blank layout etc).

With some planning you can implement a solution that works like this:

  1. you have a PHP script – e.g. printReport.php – which includes a Print PDF Report button
  2. when a user clicks this button it performs a FileMaker script using the PHP API newPerformScriptCommand method. Let’s call this script Create PDF Report on Server
  3. the Create PDF Report on Server script is run as a CWP script (remember this script cannot create a PDF on its own). It includes a Perform Script On Server step which performs another script running under FileMaker Server which handles the Print Setup/Save Records as PDF steps and generates the PDF file and stores it in a container field (or passes the PDF back as Base64 encoded text using the Base64Encode function). Let’s call this script Save PDF
  4. the Create PDF Report on Server receives the script result from the Save PDF script – if you’re passing the PDF as Base64 encoded data you can set a container field using the Base64Decode function. Now that you have the PDF in a regular container field you can exit the FileMaker script and your printReport.php can use the getContainerData method to retrieve the PDF and either display this in the browser or download it

This might look complicated but I was able to implement this in a couple of hours for a client that needed to generate PDFs for a PHP/CWP solution. Before implementing this I would recommend you first become familiar with the server side printing/PDF changes in FileMaker Server 16 – a great place to start is the found in the App Innovations space of the FileMaker Community. Download the 05_Server side PDF file which is part of DemoKit16 – a collection of tools aimed at helping demonstrate and explore new features of the FileMaker 16 Platform (brought to you by the World Wide Solutions Consulting team at FileMaker, Inc.). Upload this file to your FileMaker v16 Server and run through the examples and see how the Print Setup and Save Records as PDF script steps work under FileMaker Server 16. I ended up using these scripts:

  • [btn] How – Inventory Report – request report from server
  • [sbr] How – Inventory Report – get report as PDF (PSoS)

as the basis for my CWP scripts with only a few minor modifications, such as setting and retrieving various script parameters related to the records I was creating a PDF for.

The PHP code for this looks like this:

$scriptName = 'Request Invoice PDF'; 
$scriptParams = $orderID;  
$scriptObject = $fm->newPerformScriptCommand('WebOrders', $scriptName, $scriptParams); 
$scriptResult = $scriptObject->execute(); 
if(FileMaker::isError($scriptResult)) { $scriptError = 'Perform Script Error: '. $scriptResult->getMessage() . ' (' . $scriptResult->code . ')'; 
} else { 
$scriptError = ''; $record = $fm->getRecordById('WebOrders', $recid); 
$url = urlencode($record->getField('zv_Container_gr')); 
$fileName =  $orderID. ' Order Invoice.pdf'; 
$downloadLink = 'downloadFile.php?fileName='.$fileName.'&path='.$url; 

The downloadFile.php script simply retrieves the container data (PDF in this example) and does a force download of the PDF file to the user’s downloads folder. You could also change this to display the PDF in either the current tab or in a new tab as required.

Here’s a screenshot of the Request Invoice PDF script (have simplified this to show just the relevant steps for this technique):

and here’s the screenshot of the (simplified once again) Create Invoice PDF script that runs as the PSoS script:

I’m setting the generated PDF into a global container field in the Create Invoice PDF script as I don’t need to store the PDF file permanently in the database as this can be generated at any time, however you could also store the PDF in a regular container field in a new record etc as required and avoid having to Base64Decode/Encode the PDF data. It’s also worth remembering that you can’t use the PSoS script to set the PDF into a global field, as global fields are unique to each clients “session” so the CWP script and the PSoS script are each running in their own session, which is why you need to use the Base64Decode/Encode functions.

I’m looking forward to implementing this in existing CWP solutions which required complex FileMaker layouts to generate the PDF that weren’t easily created using the available PHP PDF classes. If you have any questions please leave a comment below.

FileMaker Inc. releases FileMaker 16 Platform


FileMaker Inc. today released the FileMaker 16 Platform with new versions of FileMaker Pro, Pro Advanced, Server, FileMaker Go and FileMaker WebDirect. FileMaker 16 is a big release for both customers and developers alike, especially compared to the 15 release last year. This releases marks the third annual release that started with v14 with all new versions shipping in May each year.

The FileMaker platform is all about giving developers the tools to create custom apps that work for your team on iPad, iPhone, Windows, Mac, and the web. The FileMaker 16 Platform has many new features to improve the mobility, development, integration, security, and scalability of your custom apps.

Our favourite new feature by a long way is the PDF support in FileMaker Server and FileMaker WebDirect – you can now generate PDF files (reports, agreements, contracts etc) under FileMaker Server and FileMaker WebDirect, opening up a whole new world of server side reporting options. This is something we have been requesting for many years and we’re very excited to see this ship – we can’t wait to start taking advantage of this with our existing customers (no more robots!).

As developers we’re also looking forward to taking advantage of the new Layout Objects window, Cards, native cURL and JSON functions and the enhanced Data Viewer.

Some of the other new features of the FileMaker 16 Platform include:

  • Mobility: The addition of animations and transitions with scripts provide visual cues to help orient users as they navigate through their custom apps on the FileMaker Go app. Enhanced signature capture for the FileMaker Go app allows users to sign documents on iPad and iPhone just as they would on a paper form.
  • Integration: Easily exchange data with other web services and applications using enhanced cURL options and predefined JSON functions in FileMaker Pro.
  • Development: The new Layout Objects window provides a hierarchical list of all objects in a layout. This makes it easy to make changes to an object without having to ungroup the entire set of objects.
  • Scalability: Custom apps accessed via FileMaker WebDirect now can be used by up to 500 users simultaneously, making it easier to share data with an entire team.
  • Security: Simplified credential management with OAuth 2.0 using third-party authentication providers improves security and safety of custom apps. Existing Amazon, Google or Microsoft Azure account credentials now can be used to log into FileMaker-based custom apps.

FileMaker Server 16 also includes a number of “trial features” including:

  • FileMaker Data API
  • Tableau Web Data Connector for FileMaker

that open a number of interesting integration opportunities.

We’re please to report that all Databuzz products are compatible with the FileMaker 16 Platform:

We’ll be publishing more articles over the coming months looking at some of the new features in the FileMaker 16 Platform in more depth – you can subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when they are released or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

FileMaker Pro v16 Compatibility Update

FileMaker Pro v16 was released today and we’re pleased to report that all Databuzz products are compatible with the FileMaker v16 platform. We haven’t encountered any issues with the following products in our testing with FileMaker Pro v16:

fmSMS – we have sent messages from multiple SMS Gateways, checked Account balances and checked the status of sent Messages successfully.

fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) – we have been able to authenticate, download from Xero to FileMaker and upload from FileMaker to Xero successfully

fmEcommerce Link (WooCommerce Edition) – have been able to authenticate, download from WooCommerce to FileMaker and upload from FileMaker to WooCommerce successfully

fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) – we have been able to authenticate, download from AccountRight to FileMaker and upload from FileMaker to AccountRight successfully

fmAccounting Link (MYOB Essentials Edition) – we have been able to authenticate, download from MYOB Essentials to FileMaker and upload from FileMaker to MYOB Essentials successfully

If you encounter any issues with any of our products and FileMaker Pro v16 please let us know. We’ll be writing more articles about some of the new features in the FileMaker v16 platform over the coming weeks – you can subscribe to our newsletter to be notified when they are released or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.