fmSMS Now Supports Guni SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support the Guni SMS Gateway based in Australia.

The Guni SMS Gateway delivers SMS messages to Australian mobile numbers – their 2000+ customers are increasing sales, improving customer engagement, simplifying customer support and reducing no-shows with Guni’s easy-to-use SMS Gateway & MMS Gateway, 2-way messages, appointment reminders and API integration.

Guni also support sending MMS messages and fmMMS, our FileMaker solution that lets you send and receive MMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has also been updated to include support for the Guni MMS Gateway.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the Guni SMS Gateway from the from the Databuzz website. You can signup for a free trial and receive 30 free SMS credits to start testing (no credit card required). More information on using the Guni Gateway with fmSMS is available on our support site.

fmSMS Now Supports Sending WhatsApp Messages with the Vonage Messages API

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support sending messages to WhatsApp users via the Vonage Messages API. This is the second SMS Gateway that you can use to send and receive WhatsApp messages with fmSMS – we previously added support for sending WhatsApp message using the Twilio Gateway back in 2019.

More than 2 billion people in over 180 countries use WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and family and with WhatsApp Business you can communicate directly with your customers. You can send notifications, customer service messages, and essential information your customers need on WhatsApp.

fmSMS also supports testing using the Vonage Messages API Sandbox – this allows you to test sending WhatsApp messages for free whilst you are developing an integration with WhatsApp. It also works with free trial version of fmSMS.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the Vonage Messages API from the Databuzz website. More information on sending WhatsApp message with the Vonage Messages API and fmSMS is available on our support site.

fmSMS Now Supports Tall Bob SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support the Tall Bob SMS Gateway based in Australia.

Tall Bob provide a complete mobile messaging platform, delivered with clever functionality, rich interactivity and unprecedented insights. Tall Bob also support sending MMS messages and we’ll be releasing an update to fmMMS with support for the Tall Bob Gateway shortly.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the Tall Bob SMS Gateway from the Databuzz website. More information on using the Tall Bob Gateway with fmSMS is available on our support site.

fmSMS Now Supports TextAnywhere SMS Gateway

fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending and receiving SMS messages from the Claris FileMaker Platform, has been updated to support the TextAnywhere SMS Gateway based in the UK.

TextAnywhere are one of the UKs leading SMS providers, supporting businesses of all sizes. fmSMS had previously supported the Mediaburst, Clockwork SMS and FastSMS Gateways which have since merged with TextAnywhere.

You can download a trial version of fmSMS to test with the TextAnywhere SMS Gateway from the Databuzz website.

Twilio Now Supports Message Scheduling for SMS and MMS

When we first released fmSMS one of our favourite features was the ability to submit an SMS to a Gateway and have them deliver the message at a future date and time. This was great if you wanted a message to be delivered to the recipient at a specified date and time, not at the time you sent the message to the Gateway.

For example you might want send appointment reminders the evening before the appointment to remind the customer about the appointment tomorrow. For appointment reminders for a Monday appointment you would have to send the messages on a Sunday or have some server schedule setup to create and send these messages. Message Scheduling allows you to introduce more sophistication to your messages based on business requirements, such as scheduling them to be sent before, during or after business hours depending on the nature of your messages to promote customer engagement. It also eliminates the need for complex server schedules to be running each day.

Twilio, one of our recommended Gateways that we have partnered with for many years, has never supported message scheduling for SMS and MMS as well as WhatsApp messages. Based on developer feedback over the years they introduced Message Scheduling as a Public Beta earlier this year and as of August 24, 2022 Message Scheduling is now globally available.

We’ve just released updates to both fmSMS and fmMMS to support messaging scheduling when using the Twilio Gateway for both regular SMS/MMS messages as well as WhatsApp messages. fmSMS v4.2.11 and fmMMS v 1.18 now support scheduling messages. If you’re not already using Messaging Services with your Twilio account you will first need to create a new Messaging Service as you need to include a Messaging Service SID when sending a request which includes the message scheduling parameters.

You can get all the details on the fmSMS Twilio Gateway page and the fmMMS Twilio Gateway page. Scheduling a new message is a simple as selecting the required date and time you wish to send a message:

fmSMS Now Moving to Databuzz Website

Back in 2008 when we released our first FileMaker solution – fmSMS – we decided to launch a new website just for this product. We didn’t have any fancy eCommerce sites back then – we just used PayPal to handle the payment processing and we manually processed all the orders and emailed the files to the customer. Over time we added new functionality to the website and introduced WooCommerce to handle online orders and automatic fulfilment.

What we didn’t anticipate at the time was that fmSMS would not remain our only commercial FileMaker solution that we sell – today we have 9 FileMaker solutions that we sell and support, and plan to release a few more in the next 12 months. It no longer makes sense to maintain 2 online stores for our products, where fmSMS has it’s own site and all the other products are on the main Databuzz website.

Today we are decommissioning the standalone fmSMS website and moving the content into the main Databuzz website where it will sit alongside all our other products. We’ve also been hard at work over the past few months updating our Support site for fmSMS where you will now find a list of FAQs and our Getting Started Guides. Each SMS Gateway will now get a dedicated article in our Knowledgeable covering details specific to each Gateway, such as setting up Webhooks.

We haven’t migrated all the Orders from the backend across, but existing customers can always contact us if they need to redownload fmSMS again or the Webhooks files.

Send and Receive MMS messages to WhatsApp users using fmMMS

With over 2 billion people in more than 180 countries using WhatsApp to communicate with friends, family and businesses WhatsApp is a communications platform that you can’t ignore. What started as an alternative to SMS now supports sending and receiving a variety of media including text, photos, videos, and documents.

The WhatsApp Business Platform allows companies to message their customers directly within the WhatsApp messaging platform. For example companies can send appointment reminders, shipping alerts, order notifications, product demonstration videos, verification codes, boarding passes, and more. Millions of businesses around the world are now using the WhatsApp Business platform to communicate with their customers. Using the WhatsApp Business API you can respond to customer initiated messages or initiate messages to customers once you have secured their opt-in using customisable message templates which can be text or media-based.

When we released v4 of fmSMS (our solution for sending and receiving SMS messages using the Claris FileMaker Platform) back in 2019 we included support for sending SMS messages to WhatsApp users using the WhatsApp Business API with Twilio. Twilio was one of the first SMS Gateways that fmSMS supported so it made sense to extend support to WhatsApp users using the Twilio API – you can see a short video demonstrating this here.

When we were developing fmMMS – our solution for sending and receiving MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) Messages using the Claris FileMaker Platform – we also wanted to include support for sending MMS messages to WhatsApp users using Twilio. Here’s a screenshot from fmMMS showing an outgoing message with a single media file attachment:

Here’s how that message appears in the WhatsApp app on an iPhone (also showing a message sent in reply):

We’ve put together a short video demonstrating sending and receiving MMS messages between FileMaker and WhatsApp in action (you can also watch this directly on YouTube here):

If you would like to discuss sending SMS or MMS messages to WhatsApp users from your FileMaker solution please get in touch for a free initial consultation to discuss your requirements.

Slack Notifications for Incoming SMS Messages

In Part 1 of our series on generating notifications to users for incoming SMS messages we discussed how we’ve been tackling this issue over the past 20 years and demonstrated an option we’ve been exploring that uses AppleScript to generate macOS notifications like this:

Like all the other methods we’ve used over the years there are a number of disadvantages to this approach, not least of which is that it uses AppleScript so it’s limited to macOS users. Another option we’ve deployed for some customers recently who are also using Slack (the popular collaboration tool which organises conversations into channels) involves pushing notifications to a nominated Slack channel when new incoming SMS messages are received. Depending on the expected volume of incoming messages this could be a dedicated channel or an existing channel that is monitored by the staff in the organisation that need to react to incoming messages.

One of the advantages of posting notifications to a Slack channel is that it doesn’t interupt the user’s FileMaker session – if they are in the middle of modifying a record they won’t notice any scripts running on hidden windows etc. In fact the user doesn’t even need to have FileMaker Pro open – using the Slack API messages are pushed by a FileMaker Server script that is performed when the incoming messages is received and processed via a webhook. Unlike the AppleScript option you can also customise the content of the message and include a part of the message body that was received (or the whole message if appropriate) and you can also include an fmp url link so users can click a link and be taken directly to the FileMaker record to view the full details of the incoming SMS.

If you’re using Slack in your organisation we think this is a great solution to generate notifications to users when incoming messages are received. As well as the Slack channel notification you can also get a notification from your operating system (e.g. macOS or iOS) when the message is posted to the Slack channel.

Here’s a screenshot showing an example of a Slack notification generated by FileMaker Server and pushed via a Slack App/bot to a Slack channel:

Here’s a short video we recorded showing this in action as a new incoming message is received (you can also watch this on YouTube here):

If you would like to discuss adding Slack notifications for your incoming SMS messages please get in touch for a free initial consultation to discuss your requirements.

Notifications for Incoming SMS Messages

Databuzz pioneered the sending of SMS messages directly from the FileMaker Platform 20 years ago and fmSMS, our FileMaker solution for sending/receiving SMS messages, has been used since then to send and receive millions of SMS messages by organisations all around the world.

When Claris released the FileMaker API for PHP with FileMaker Server v9 we knew we finally had a reliable way to receive incoming SMS messages as soon as they were sent using webhooks. Essentially the SMS Gateway (e.g. Twilio) would be configured to sent via an HTTP POST a notification to a PHP file containing the details of the incoming message when it was received (sender number, message body, timestamp etc). The php file would then convert that data into a record in a FileMaker table using the FileMaker API for PHP. To users this looked like magic – incoming messages would automatically appear within seconds of being sent and be linked to a Contact record so you could see the history of all sent and received messages.

The only downside of having incoming messages automatically pushed to a FileMaker solution is that it happened in the background, and unless someone was monitoring the Messages/Replies table to see if new messages had been received they might not be aware of these.

Over time customers have been asking for ways to be notified when a new incoming message has been received. We’ve come up with a number of options over the years, each of which have their pros and cons. Some of the options we’ve deployed over the years include:

  • simple email notifications for new messages. These emails could include an fmp url link which users could click to open the FileMaker file and navigate to the new incoming message record. The downside of this is that a lot of emails could be generated if you received a high volume of replies or incoming messages.
  • a calculation field on a layout that is frequently accessed showing a total of messages in the replies table that were not flagged as ‘dealt with’. This also relied on users to frequent the layout and notice this new field (many customers would make this field bold/red etc to stand out)
  • using a dedicated window to show Replies sorted in descending order. This window could get lost amongst the various application and FileMaker windows that users could have open
  • we developed a Chat View that shows messages in style similar to Apple’s iOS Messages app. This was limited to showing the conversation between a single Contact, though it could be modified to just showing incoming messages. It also required a refresh to update the Web Viewer to see if new messages had been received, which was typically done using the Install OnTimer Script which was set to run periodically. The downside of using the Install OnTimer Script is that it can interrupt the user’s workflow (e.g. if they are in the middle of typing in another FileMaker window) and is inefficient as it has to run regardless of whether any new incoming messages have been received
  • for some customers we’ve deployed the technique that can trigger a script on multiple FileMaker Pro clients using the OnRecordLoad Script Trigger when a record is deleted that results in a found set of zero records. This can call a script that shows a new popup style window alerting the user to a new incoming message. Unfortunately this can also interrupt users when they are in the middle of something in another FileMaker window when suddenly a new window appears. It’s also not suitable to sites that receive large numbers of incoming messages.

Recently we’ve been exploring a variation of the last approach for the macOS platform that uses the Notifications feature and AppleScript to display a Notification when a new incoming messages has been received. The notification generated looks like this:

This uses the same OnRecordLoad Script Trigger that is attached to a hidden window that is generated when the FileMaker solution is first opened that only ever contains either 1 or 0 records. Each time a new incoming message is received by FileMaker Server it calls a FileMaker script that updates the table to either add a new record or delete the single record. This then triggers the OnRecordLoad script on any clients that have this hidden window configured. Users then receive a standard macOS notification that displays for a few seconds. The advantage of this approach is that a new FileMaker window isn’t required and if the user is away from their computer they can still see these in their Notification Centre along with all their other macOS Notifications. You can also control through a User Preferences table which users need to receive these notifications so you’re not sending notifications to all users unnecessarily. The FileMaker script to generate the AppleScript only requires a few script steps so can perform quickly – for details on how to create macOS Notifications from FileMaker using AppleScript check out this article from HomeBase Software.

Like all the other methods there are some downsides to this approach, including:

  • it uses AppleScript so it’s limited to macOS users
  • it does require the fmextscriptaccess extended privilege to be enabled for the required Privilege Sets
  • there’s no way to customise the action that is performed when the users clicks the Notification in the Notification Centre. I couldn’t find a way to include an fmp URL that would take the user to the particular record directly – currently it just opens the FileMaker Pro application

Here’s a short video we recorded showing this in action as a new incoming message is received (you can also watch this on YouTube here):

If you have come up with any alternative options for displaying alerts to users please let us know in the comments below. In our next article we’ll look at integrating FileMaker with Slack to generate notifications in a Slack channel when incoming messages are received.

The Benefits of MMS Messaging

I’ve been talking to a lot of customers recently about whether to go with SMS or MMS messaging when it comes to integrating with their Claris FileMaker business apps. I received the following notification a few days ago from a business that I was hiring a tuxedo from which served as a timely reminder about the benefits of using MMS messaging:

This type of message is much more engaging than the usual “Hi your garment is ready to be collected …” type text message that you’ve most likely received many times over.

We’ve been helping customers integrate their FileMaker solutions with SMS messaging for over 20 years now using our fmSMS solution. There are a number of benefits to using SMS messaging, including:

  • they are perfect for appointment reminders, phone messages, segmented marketing, school absence alerts
  • they can be used to reduce cancellations and no-shows for appointment based businesses
  • reduces the amount of time spent playing “telephone tag”
  • higher open rates (98% vs 20% email)
  • higher click rate (29% vs 2.5% email)
  • you can integrate 2 way messaging into your FileMaker app: send and receive SMS messages all from FileMaker

MMS messaging gives you all the benefits of SMS messaging and more, including:

  • you can include multimedia messages (pictures, video, audio, gifs, QR codes etc)
  • you’re not limited to 160 characters per message segment – you can have up to 5000 characters
  • you can also include message subjects which act as a headline to your message
  • higher click through rate than SMS which leads to even higher engagement
  • a picture tells a thousand words (the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text)

I’m always keen to find out from our customers how they intend to use our fmMMS solution and was talking with a customer recently and they explained that they work with a chain of stores in outback Queensland, Australia and farmers and graziers are wanting to take a photo of a piece of clothing (hat, trousers etc) and send that to the store with a message (e.g. needing to get a replacement for some trousers). Using fmMMS they can receive these directly from their customers and have them linked to their account and also send backup mockups of embroidery for approval.

MessageMedia have a useful best practice MMS messaging guide which includes 10 common templates you can use for inspiration to creating your own MMS templates. They recommend using MMS for:

  • Brand-led messaging that draws customers in with visuals of products, locations or events (think Instagram)
  • Sending QR codes, tickets, check-ins or maps to customers
  • You just want more variety and dynamic options

If you would like to discuss integrating SMS or MMS messaging with your FileMaker business app please get in touch for a free initial consultation to discuss your requirements. Free trial versions of fmSMS and fmMMS are also available from our website.