FileMaker 17 Platform Compatibility Update

The FileMaker 17 Platform was released today and we’re pleased to report that all Databuzz products are compatible with the FileMaker 17 Platform. We haven’t encountered any issues with the following products in our testing with the FileMaker 17 Platform:

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) – we have been able to authenticate, download from WooCommerce to FileMaker and upload from FileMaker to WooCommerce successfully

fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) – we have been able to authenticate, download from Shopify to FileMaker and upload from FileMaker to Shopify 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 17 Platform please let us know. We’ll be writing more articles about some of the new features in the FileMaker 17 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

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.

FM Starting Point Custom Integrations

Over the past few years we’ve performed a number of customisations for customers using the popular FM Starting Point template from Richard Carlton Consulting. FM Starting Point is a free FileMaker CRM template designed for use with the latest version of FileMaker Pro, and is focused on small businesses, work groups, and non-profit organisations. FM Starting Point manages business contacts , accounts, products, projects, and more – since it’s first release 5 years ago it has been downloaded over 490,000 times.

Over the past 5 years we’ve performed the following customisations of FM Starting Point for our customers:

  • added the ability to send single/bulk SMS messages and receive incoming SMS messages (fmSMS integration)
  • integrated our fmAccounting Link (Xero Edition) solution so you can upload Contacts, Invoices, Bills, Payments and more from FM Starting Point to Xero
  • added the ability to send single and bulk HTML emails
  • integrated our fmEcommerce Link (WooCommerce Edition) solution so you can push Products from FM Starting Point to WooCommerce and download Orders from WooCommerce to FM Starting Point
  • integrated our fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) solution so you can push Products from FM Starting Point to Shopify and download Orders from Shopify to FM Starting Point
  • integrated our fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) solution so you can upload Contacts, Invoices, Bills, Payments and more from FM Starting Point to MYOB AccountRight

If you would like to discuss customising your version of FM Starting Point please get in touch for a free initial consultation to discuss your requirements.

 

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.

fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) and Metafields

Metafields in Shopify are like custom fields – they allow you to attach additional metadata or information about a particular Shopify store resource, such as a Product or Product Variant. For example you might need to store information about washing instructions for clothing that you sell or you would like to store a manufacturer and supplier SKU for each Product Variant.

In our fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) solution we support the downloading and uploading of Metafields for Products and Product Variants (the Shopify API allows you to attach Metafields to a number of resources – see here for the full list). Shopify unfortunately does not have an interface for store owners to view or edit the Metafields for your store – it is considered a developer/designer feature so you will need to use a Shopify App to create, edit or delete Metafields in the Shopify Admin page.

Here’s some screenshots showing the Metafields for a Product:

and a Product Variant:

Using fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) you can add, edit and delete these Metafields and using a Shopify app you can also view them. Here’s a screenshot showing the Metafields using the Metafields Editor app:

Here’s some links for learning more about working with Shopify Metafields:

If you would like us to add support for Metafields elsewhere in the fmEcommerce Link (Shopify Edition) solution please let us know.

fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition) Updated for Bills

We’ve just released an update to fmAccounting Link (MYOB AccountRight Edition), our FileMaker solution for integrating with MYOB AccountRight in Australia and New Zealand, with examples for working with Bills in MYOB. With v1.25 of fmAccounting Link you can now use FileMaker to:

  • download Bills from AccountRight to FileMaker (either all Bills or filtered by Bill Date)
  • create Bills in FileMaker and upload them to MYOB
  • convert a Purchase Order to a Bill in FileMaker and upload the converted Bill to MYOB

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

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.

 

Databuzz Turns 10 🎂

January 2018 marks the 10 year anniversary for Databuzz – we first opened our doors for business back in January, 2008. As it turned out 2008 wasn’t a particularly great year to start a new business. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, more than 60 percent of small businesses cease operating within the first three years of starting, and with a global financial crisis that same year I probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to start a new business.

Here I am 10 years later and happy to have come out the other side of the GFC, with many customers from our first year still with us today (and some still with us after 20 years).

When I started planning to return to the world of FileMaker Consulting as an independent developer after spending many happy years with Complete Data (which is still going strong today) I knew that I wanted to have a different name to my previous company name – Splash IT Consulting Pty Ltd – as that was no longer an accurate reflection of the business and work that we would perform.

I had first registered the name Splash IT Consulting back on January 5, 1999 when I first went solo and needed a business name to operate under as a sole trader. Having worked at Apple for many years, both in Australia and the UK, I was more of a generalist back then and offered a number of IT services, including:

  • FileMaker Pro development (I had just joined the FileMaker Solutions Alliance as it was known back then)
  • Mac OS X Server installation/configuation (sadly Apple has just announced that it has deprecated most of the macOS Server services)
  • Sherlock Plugins for Mac OS 8.5 – who remembers those!
  • Palm Pilot solutions
  • CD Burning

Here I am almost 20 years later and FileMaker Pro development is now the only service Databuzz offers and most of the other services no longer exist. Back then FileMaker Pro v5 was the latest version – FileMaker, Inc. had only recently come into existence to replace Claris Corporation. I no longer have any of the original website files for Splash IT Consulting but thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine I managed to find an archive from September, 2000 (missing the main graphic):

Back in 1999 the options for searching for business names and registering them online were very limited and you had to complete the registration in person at the local Consumer Affairs registry office. I wanted to have the word ‘data’ in my name somewhere and had compiled a list of my top 3 names which I believed were available and most importantly also had the matching domain name available. I had also learnt the lesson of never having a hyphen in a domain name if you can avoid it (too many typos from customers when reading your your email address on the phone etc), as well as unfortunate emphasis some customers placed on the “sh-it” part of the name when pronouncing it.

I headed off to the local registry off knowing that if my first option was rejected then I at least had 2 other names to fall back on that I was happy with. For reasons that I can no longer recall all my names were rejected and I was left standing at the counter with a big queue of customers behind me frantically trying other names – and that’s how Databuzz was born. It was the first name I could come up with on the spot that didn’t get rejected!

I decided to keep things simple and use Databuzz as a trading name and keep Splash IT Consulting Pty Ltd as the official company name. The first Databuzz website was also a very simple 5 page static site:

which had an associated blog that ran on a platform called WordPress, which itself was only a few years old at the time. I’ve since replaced the static website with WordPress which now runs the website, blog and online shops for the Databuzz and fmSMS shops. Back in 2008 FileMaker Pro v9 was the current shipping version and FileMaker Go was still three years away from being released – FileMaker Mobile, the previous FileMaker mobile solution for the Palm OS and Pocket PC, had recently been discontinued. The original iPhone had been released in June, 2007 but was not available in Australia – it wasn’t until the iPhone 3G was released in July, 2008 that you could buy an iPhone in Australia.

It’s amazing how much change there has been in the IT industry in the past 10 years, and no doubt there will be even more change in the next 10 years as the pace of change only gets faster. Looking back there have been a number of highlights and milestones that stand out, including:

We’re continuing to update these solutions with new features based on suggestions from our customers and our own product roadmap, as well as work on some exciting new products that we hope to release some time later in 2018. I’d like to thank our customers for their support over the past 10 years (and a special mention to PEDro who we have worked with since 1999) and I look forward to working with you all again in the future and cannot wait to see what the next 10 years brings.