Andrew Duncan finally found time to sit for the FileMaker 9 Certification exam today and we’re pleased to announce that he passed with flying colours. We aim to maintain our certification with each new version of FileMaker that is released. FileMaker Certification lets our customers know that we’re experts in the FileMaker industry and is the only credential sponsored by FileMaker Inc.
We’ve just released our latest eNews for October 2008. You can read it online at:
I didn’t mention this in my DevCon 2008 recap but one of the other new tools that was previewed in the foyer and hallways of DevCon was the new FMTouch. Think of FMTouch as FileMaker Mobile for the Apple iPhone or iTouch, but much better. The relational capabilities of FMTouch is something long time FileMaker Mobile (now discontinued) users have been wanting for years. FMTouch, whilst limited to the Apple iPhone and iTouch, does a great job in transferring data between your iPhone and your copy of FileMaker on your desktop computer. Like FileMaker Mobile the data is not live but synced on demand – the iPhone just needs to be on your local network using the built in WiFi or you can setup port forwarding to sync remotely.
It works via a plugin and does require the use of FileMaker Pro Advanced to create the Database Design Report that gets downloaded to the iPhone to create the database structure on the iPhone. Databuzz can help you if you don’t have a copy of FileMaker Pro Advanced but need to create the DDR to get FMTouch up and running.
Databuzz is working on some web based solutions for handheld users that need live access to their data, using the FileMaker API for PHP and FileMaker Server 9. We can create smaller versions of the main layouts with navigation between them and on a 3G connection the performance is generally more than adequate. This will work on all handheld web browsers and provides live access to your FileMaker database, which is becoming more and more of a necessity for many of our customers when on the road with only their mobile/smartphones.
It’s been a few weeks now since I returned from the FileMaker 2008 Developer Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a whirlwind trip this time – there and back in 6 days with lots of jetlag and not much sleep, no thanks to Qantas for cancelling my return flight and delaying my departure. I’ve finally settled back in and can report on some of the highlights from the conference and the product showcase. I spent most of my time attending any PHP related sessions and learnt a lot about the power of PHP in conjunction with the FileMaker PHP API. I’m currently working on a project that is an upgrade from a CDML/FileMaker Unlimited 5 database driven site to a FileMaker Server 9/PHP driven site. There’s lots of new stuff to learn and I’m impressed with the capabilities of PHP compared to CDML. I particularly enjoyed Lance Hallberg’s sessions on the PHP API fundamentals and the advanced features.
The two sessions on using the Web Viewer to interact with your FileMaker tables and as a dynamic interface were both well attended. Both highlighted the power of the MBS plugin and the Fusion Reactor plugin – the amazing Fusion Reactor also won the FileMaker Excellence award for Solution of the Year. Congratulations to Craig and the gang at Digital Fusion for their amazing plugin which is one of the most truly innovative plugins to be released in the last few years.
In the product showcase I ended up buying some new tools and upgrades:
BaseElements 2 – Goya have released their update to v2 of their DDR Analysis tool BaseElements. This is almost a must have for the professional FileMaker Developer. I’m still using both Inspector and BaseElements as each have their strengths but spend most of my time with BaseElements. SixFriedRice were demoing an early released of a web hosted service – FM Lumen – which they promise will provide deeper and faster analysis of the FileMaker DDR. I can’t wait to give that one a try.
ClipManager – My FM Butler have released a beta of v3.0 of their handy tool Clip Manager which allows you to store and manipulate the contents of the FileMaker clipboard. It’s also at present one of the only ways to copy custom functions and you can use it to build up a library of fields, scripts, layouts and other elements that you can quickly add to your solutions. v3.0 is also the first release that runs on Windows as well as the Macintosh.
Web Services Plugin – I already have a developer licence for the amazing Web Services plugin from FM Nexus. This was featured in the opening keynote and FM Nexus released a beta of v2 which makes it easier to load functions on the fly by storing the WSDL file inside a field in your database.
I also bought the VTC PHP Training CD so I can totally immerse myself in the FileMaker API for PHP. I look forward to attending the next DevCon in 2009 in San Francisco – finally a new city and new new hotel!
Update: we’ve released a new product – fmSMS – that allows you to send/receive SMS/TXT messages from FileMaker Pro. See the website at www.fmsms.com for full details.
We’ve been integrating FileMaker solutions into SMS/TXT message gateways for many years. We sent our first SMS from a FileMaker database in 1999 (back then it involved lots of integration with third party software and modems etc). In 2002 we integrated a CRM solution into one of Australia’s largest SMS Gateway providers using one plugin – simply type your message in your FileMaker database, click a button and within seconds the SMS was sent and received on the recipient’s handset.
SMS messages are an effective communication tool for many users – you can use them to send appointment reminders, alerts (e.g new pricing specials), internal office messages and promotional material to your customers. At around 8c each they are also much cheaper than phone calls and letters (around 40c each) and when used appropriately can save you and your business money on wasted phone calls and mailouts. You are generally limited to 160 characters so you need to keep your messages short and to the point. There’s also none of the hassle with mass email mailings and dealing with anti spam software/filtering and limits on how many messages you can send at once. You know within seconds whether your message was sent successfully.
Databuzz has now partnered with the world’s leading SMS Gateway provider – Clickatell – to bring integrated SMS/TXT message sending into any FileMaker Pro solution. Using the Clickatell SMS Gateway we can send messages to over 700 different mobile networks in over 200 different countries, usually within seconds. We can also offer delayed SMS sending (send a message for future delivery for up to 7 days in advance) and message verification to ensure your message was received by the recipient’s mobile handset.
Clickatell also offer great pricing – messages cost around AUD $0.06-0.08 cents and there are discounts if you purchase in bulk. You can get more information about Clickatell and their coverage/pricing by clicking on the link below:
If you need to integrate SMS/TXT message functionality into your FileMaker Pro 7, 8, 8.5 or 9.0 solution contact us for an obligation free quote. We can setup SMS sending for one/multiple recipients, allow you to use merge fields and templates and tracking the delivey of sent messages. If you’re using FileMaker Server 9 we can also leverage it’s script scheduling feature to have it send the messages after hours to free up workstations.
Anyone who has had to deal with exchanging data between a FileMaker Pro database and data stored in other database systems (MySQL, SQL Server, Oracle etc) will be familar with handling characters that FileMaker doesn’t appear to handle all that well. This is especially true when retrieving data via the web, e.g. an HTTP POST response back into a FileMaker field. Many of you for example are familar with the strange square box character that appears. If you’re working with ESS tables you more than likely going to have to come up with a way of dealing with these characters, which are generally ASCII characters that you normally don’t see in FileMaker, such as Line Feed, Vertical Tab and Carriage Return.
Here’s an example that we came across. If you fill out our Contact form on our website you might enter something like this:
Note the returns in the Comments field. This form data is being stored in a MySQL database which we access using the great ESS feature of FileMaker Pro 9 (no more laborious copy/paste of data from an email or trying to parse the email form into the different FileMaker Pro fields!). When you view the ESS table and this field it now (at least on Windows with FileMaker Pro Advanced 9.0v3) looks like this:
Notice the square box characters that appear – it’s obviously not ideal to display these to your FileMaker users. There are a number of ways to deal with this but the way we’ve approached it in this case is to create a supplemental field in our ESS shadow table (remember you’re limited to calculation and summary fields when adding supplemental fields to an ESS table) and take advantage of a great new function that’s part of the Troi File v4.0 plugin: TrFile_AsciiValueToText function. As you’ll see shortly this makes easy work of dealing with special or invisible ASCII characters. We simply created a new calculation field with a text result using this formula:
Substitute ( comments; TrFile_AsciiValueToText( “-Unused” ; 10 ) ; “” )
Now if you look at the original MySQL field on the left and the new FileMaker supplemental calculation field on the right you’ll see the difference:
In the past we have tried to use the native Substitute function in FileMaker to handle these characters with mixed results. We tried copying the square box character to the clipboard and pasting into the calculation dialog:
So far so good. Now click OK to save the formula:
You can’t see the box anymore but it looks like something’s still there – let’s go back in to the calculation and check it:
Hmmm that’s interesting the square box character has gone. Once you get to this point and do some replacements using the Substitute function you don’t get very far. We also noticed some other strange visual behavour. If you have a field with this same character in it and view it at 100% zoom level in Browse mode it looks like this:
Change the zoom level to less than 100% or more than 100% and you’ll see something like this:
Our suggestion is to find a tool that can help you identify which ASCII character you are dealing with. If you’re using the Troi File plugin make sure you upgrade to v4.0 or later so you can use the TrFile_AsciiValueToText function and simply call that within a Substitute function referencing the ASCII character you wish to replace. It’s much easier and cleaner than trying to copy/paste characters which don’t survive a copy/paste, at least on Windows.
There’s more details in this article Entering Clean Text (or: avoiding unwanted characters) and if you’re a FileMaker TechNet member search the TechTalk archives for other approaches and comments. You can get more background info on ASCII characters at this WIKI entry.
FileMaker Australia have a new promotion available – purchase 10 seats of FileMaker Pro 9 at Volume License Prices (VLA) and get a free copy of FileMaker Server 9 (RRP AUD $1645.00). Education customers get an even bigger discount. This also includes 12 months of maintenance which means you will automatically receive any upgrades for FileMaker Pro 9 and FileMaker Server 9 that you would normally have to pay for. You can get further details here – this promotion runs until 26 September, 2008 which is longer than the usual quarterly promotion FileMaker Australia usually run. Similar promotions are being run in other regions so check with your local FileMaker office.
If you’re ever looking for some sample data to populate a typical FileMaker Pro contacts database here are some sources for free sample data:
- Fake Name Generator – creates single and bulk names, addresses, phone numbers etc. Has different format options for different countries
- Briandunning.com – has free downloadable .csv files for 500, 5000, 50000 and 350000 records with a US centric focus
When I get a chance I’ll put together a Australian specific one and post it online here but for now you can download either of these and modify to suit your requirements.
FileMaker Inc recently announced the details for this year’s FileMaker Developer Conference – DevCon 2008. This year DevCon moves back to Phoenix, Arizona after a few years in Orlando, Florida. For Australian attendees this is good news – connecting to Phoenix is much quicker than another long flight to Orlando from the US West Coast after 14 hours in a plane just getting to the US (even worse if you had to fly economy). It’s a shame the new V Australia flights aren’t taking off until December as finally we see some real competition on the route which Qantas and United have been sharing for years. I like the new timetable for the V Australia flights as well – Qantas seem to enjoy arriving in Los Angeles at 6am, having left Australia at 6am and if you’re like me you haven’t slept much on the way.
The conference is on from July 13 to 17 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix, Arizona and if you register by May 16 you will save US $200.00 (registration is US $1,195.00 and increases to US $1,395 after May 16). There are 3 tracks this year: Fundamentals, Advanced and Integration. You can get all the details here. FMPug also have a Scheduler formatted for handheld/mobile devices at http://www.fmpug.com/devcon.
Databuzz will once again be attending DevCon 2008 – this is our seventh straight year attending the FileMaker DevCon from memory – and we look forward to learning some new tricks and techniques which we can bring back and implement in our customer’s solutions.