Featuring Amelia Earhart in my Knowledger Project

Updated July 2. This is my Knowledger Filemaker Go 13 app as a work in progress. The final version will be simpler and more elegant but I haven’t had the time yet (- Mark Twain). But will do a little explaining about some of what I like here.

Knowledger Entry Screen Annotated

Knowledger is about collecting knowledge by entering topics – people, places or things and occasionally related information such as which groups (organizations, schools, businesses a person or thing is or was in. My groups file contains The Beatles, Harvard, Apple, Google, Danger and many more. Knowledge professionals and enthusiasts have projects and ideas that benefit from on-going attention. Knowledger is a means to carry your obsessions around with you and continuously learn about them and collect new ones.

Since FileMaker is customizable and scriptable and can open powerful URLs, it is a good place to build an app that can run on iOS, Mac, Windows or the web. Knowledger can then call on other native apps via the Open URL command to enhance its capabilities and become a very personal and personalized tool. I’ll list a few things I’ve done here to serve my knowledge work.

1. Creating and Storing Wikipedia PDFs for any topic with a few clicks. The lower left quadrant of this iPad entry screen shows a FileMaker web viewer pointed at the appropriate wikipedia page.

  • As you flip through your collection of people here, the appropriate wikipedia page is displayed.
  • Along the top of the web viewer are native FM buttons on the left that allow you to control the web viewer back, forward, reset and reload.
  • Along the top on the right is the button to send a wikipedia URL to Readdle’s PDF Converter app, addressing it as it likes with “pdf” preceding “http://”.
  • Click and you see your topic URL displayed in PDF Converter’s builtin web browser. One more click creates a PDF.
  • Then a click on Open in… allows you to select FileMaker and send that PDF to FileMaker’s directory returning to FileMaker where the PDF+ button at the top right of the screen will create a new record in Files for this person (Person# 135) and
  • Store that File# 1730 in this person record so that the big photo here is ready for an insert file from FileMaker Go by tapping the big picture frame. All of this could be automated further by connecting some steps with more advance URL schemes. I’m working on that.

2. This wonderful old photo of Amelia in all her flying regalia is added more quickly because of FileMaker’s direct relationship with the camera roll.

  • I use the Google button shown beneath the thumbnails to search for images of Amelia Earhart in Safari and just save the good ones to the camera roll.
  • Then click the Add Image button at the top of the screen to add it to Amelia’s files.

3. The 6 Thumbnails control which photo or file icon is enlarged for a better view.

  • Tap a thumbnail its set field button sets its associated file number as the selected file.
  • Files are stored in a separate FileMaker file with one table for all the photos, PDFs, Word docs, Excel files or whatever else you want to add.
  • That way Knowledger stays trim and can be backed up quickly and the files can be backed up less frequently. I haven’t started storing video or audio yet but that’s certainly a possibility.

4. The 3 Other App buttons: Wikipanion, IMDB and Terminology.

  • Any app that supports a URL scheme can be opened from within FileMaker Go.
  • I send my person, place or thing name over to the other app to get additional services.
  • These are great apps.
  • Terminology is one of the very powerful apps that has a huge variety of actions it can take on whatever text you send its way and that’s why it is here even though one usually doesn’t send people’s names to a dictionary. This dictionary can do back flips and is worth checking out and using.
  • It’s counterpart from the same maker, Agile Tortoise, Drafts, is similarly in powerful.
  • Launch Center Pro is another savvy app that might assist Knowledger in its mission.

5. Send Notes to Day One. Another App in play here is the superb journaling app: Day One. When you click the Day1 label to the left of the notes field, you send your note about the person, place or thing as an entry to Day One.

This app is getting to be really fun to use but still is my personal — as time permits — project. I’ve found that building a little app with the purpose of stretching FileMaker and FileMaker Go to their limits while serving my own personal interests is really working. I often discover things in this work that applies to my *real* Studio Manager product and to client projects.

I hope this little piece of FileMaker makes it out the door as a real product soon. Maybe seeing this screenshot gives you a few ideas of your own…

Converting Web Pages to PDFs in FileMaker Go 13

This is the update post to my original post last summer using FileMaker Go 12. Things have improved greatly in FileMaker Go 13. Updated June 22, 2014.

Use Open In… to put PDFs in your FileMaker directory on iOS

As I predicted, you can now capture PDFs into your FileMaker Go 13 directory. Whenever you encounter a PDF on your iPhone or iPad, you can use Open In… and select FileMaker Go 13. That will put a copy of the PDF in your FileMaker directory. Now just tap on your container field on your layout and grab the PDF out of your FileMaker directory.

PDF Converter

I’m still happily using PDF Converter from Readdle to convert web pages to PDFs. PDF Converter will also convert images or anything in your clipboard to PDF. If you are just creating a PDF on the fly and in a web browser like Safari, you just need to insert “PDF in front of the already there HTTP:// in the URL in your browser to send it to PDF Converter. From there, click convert and open in… to send that file to your favorite app.

Editing PDFs

You can now use Open In… from your FileMaker Go Container field to edit PDFs in your favorite PDF app. I like Readdle’s PDF Expert 5 a lot and regard it as your best option. Very slick. Annotate your PDF there and then open it back up in FileMaker Go. And insert it back into the container.

Generating Wikipedia PDFs with a Button

In my Knowledger product in development, I have a button for each kind of thing you are learning about called Create Wikipedia PDF. The button uses the Open URL script step to send the wikipedia URL plus the person, place or thing direct to PDF Converter and drops you there. Then you can inspect the wikipedia screen to see you go what you wanted and if so, click the convert button there. In a couple seconds depending on the length of the PDF, you’ll see your PDF with an Open In… action icon. That gives you the option of going to your favorite PDF annotation program if you are in the mood to annotate that PDF or to Open in… in Filemaker Go 13 to put it in FileMaker’s directory. You can then add the PDF to your knowledge record for later offline use and reference should you need it.

Where does FileMaker Go Go from Here?

The recently announced Extensions capability in iOS 8 announced at WWDC will allow FileMaker Go to work a lot better and more easily with other apps. This could be a big leap forward for those of us who like being able to customize what our iOS devices can do. If you want to see details on creating PDFs, go back to my original post for some scripting action.

Using Google Maps and Google Earth Apps from FileMaker Go on iPhone and iPad

HelsinkiOnGoogleEarthIf you have been reading along in this series I’m doing on inter application communications from FileMaker Go, you know that this stuff is far from rocket science. I would love it if readers contribute their ideas and knowledge on communicating with other interesting iOS apps. Here’s part 3. I am already in love with the capacity to deploy Google Earth in my Knowledger database.

Example: my People table in Knowledger mostly contains people I want to know more about like famous people in history and current luminaries of interest. Today I added Marko Ahtisaari who has been the lead designer at Nokia.

Google Earth

When I added Marko, I also entered his birthplace which happens to be one of the design capitals of the world: Helsinki, Finland. It was obvious that there should be a way to quickly get more information about Helsinki.

I just recently saw this week that the Google Earth app on iPad and iPhone shows Wikipedia entries for whatever place it is showing. That did it. I needed to add Google Earth as an app resource to Filemaker Go. I researched URL Schemes for Google Earth on iOS and  I found  documentation that said all you can do is open the app, you can’t send it parameters to tell it what to search for. Not impressive but I created a script that copies the birthplace to the clipboard and then opens the Google Earth app with Open URL:

CopyandOpenGoogleEarthScript

That means I can paste in the birthplace once I am in Google Earth and can avoid typing.

Google Maps

But Google Maps, takes search parameters in its URL Scheme and it happens to have a link to Google Earth in its menu on iPad and iPhone. So this is a better option for my needs I think.

A single Open URL button step gets you there without the copy paste:

“comgooglemaps://google.com/?q=” & People::Birthplace

There you have it.

Converting Web Pages to PDFs in FileMaker Go

URLs Screen In FileMaker Go On iPadFileMaker Go has great PDF functionality. Since the iPad came out, I’ve been liking PDFs more than ever because you can do so much with them. You can annotate them and sign them. It’s great.

Update: Some of my predictions here have come true in FileMaker Go 13.

As I mentioned in my last post, the FileMaker Go app I’m working on has a URLs table. In that previous post I explain how to invoke the Chrome app on your iOS device to open URLs. Here I want to show you how to user PDFConverter to convert a URL to a PDF. All this for the $3.99 price of the PDFConverter app for iPad or $2.99 for the iPhone app if you don’t already have one or the other or both. PDFConverter will also convert lots of other things to PDF format.

What I like best is to be able to convert a web page to a PDF so I can annotate and store that PDF locally. Then I can read at my leisure even if offline.

The PDFConverter App

Here we go. Once PDFConverter is installed on your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, you can type in “pdf” in front of the http url on the webpage you are on in Safari to invoke PDFConverter.

Creating your PDF Converter Button with Open URL Script Step

To run this with a button in FileMaker Go, you just do like I showed you last week. Use the Substitute command like this in your Open URL script step you assign to a button:

Substitute ( URLs::URL ; “http” ; “pdfhttp” )

Here it is in Button Setup:

"FileMaker Button setup dialog"

“FileMaker Button setup dialog”

Anyone with FileMaker Pro 12 can do this. When you click the button, you get this:

PDFConverterter_Before_URL_Convert

Click the Convert button at the top right to create the PDF. Then open your shiny new PDF in your PDF app of choice. I’m fond of PDF Expert myself.

There is more to come in FileMaker Go. You can’t save to FileMaker Go’s directory from another iOS app — yet! And I’m hoping we’ll get a way to access PDFs on Dropbox. It must be coming because FileMaker PDFs are wonderful and need to be easy to suck directly into FileMaker Go – on the fly.

FileMaker Pro and PDFs

In the meantime, you will probably be doing some of your PDF importing from FileMaker Pro where a two-finger tap in the container field (on Mac) will give you the option to import PDF (if you’ve got your container field set as interactive). You can import a bunch of PDFs quickly this way where they will then be available on iPad and iPhone in FileMaker Go. This works really well when you’ve got your FileMaker file hosted somewhere like I do at my home (office).

Otherwise those not indulging in FileMaker Pro (an indulgence I highly recommend), you’ll need to move your new PDFs into FileMaker’s iPad or iPhone directory via iTunes. Once in the filemaker directory on your iPad or iPhone, you can import those PDFs at will from FileMaker Go.

Wikipedia Entries as PDFs

I see that the Wikipedia web site will create PDFs for you for any particular entry. They also have a book option in which you can add multiple PDFs. It takes a few seconds for the PDF to first be generated. At that point, you can download that PDF. If you are on a PC or Mac, you could then move that PDF into your FileMaker database.

Opening URLs in the Chrome App from FileMaker Go on iOS

Opening URLs with Chrome App on an iPhone screenshot

Opening URLs with Chrome App on an iPhone screenshot

I’ve been working on a knowledge app in FileMaker Pro and Go lately. I keep track of interesting and favorite people, places and things there. My favorite part is collecting interesting people. People like Thomas Jefferson, Jony Ive, or someone in the news. Whoever I am interested in. I read about Edward Snowden today and thought he would be a good person to learn more about so I added him to my app.

I also track URLs that relate to those people, places and things as I find particularly good ones. Today I had trouble opening a couple URLs I found using the Open URL command in FileMaker Go. I thought it might be because the URLs were a little unusual. One URL had an asp extension. When I had another URL not work, I started thinking.

I suspected that Safari or Chrome would open them. It’s actually hard to find the iOS URL scheme to make Safari open a URL in FileMaker. I bet I can find one, but meantime, I knew Chrome has documentation on their URL scheme since they want apps to use Chrome on iOS. So, I Googled to find the information and it was a little spotty but I was able to piece it together after a few tries.

The Open URL in Chrome Tip.  Normally, when you want FileMaker’s internal browser to Open URL, you might put in a URL like this one: http://www.filemakerfever.com. To get FileMaker to invoke Chrome app to open the URL directly instead, use the Substitute command:

Open URL [ Substitute(URLs::URL,"http","googlechrome") ]

Here are a few extra details to make sure it works for you:

  • Make sure that Chrome is installed on your iOS device
  • This won’t work on Mac/PC with Filemaker Pro – but there may be a different way for that. Install this button or put this in a script meant for FileMaker Go use.
  • In this example i have a URLs table and a field called URL which is holding a normal URL

That’s about it. If I were to release this feature in an app for sale, I would either need to:

  • Specify that the user has to have Chrome installed in the documentation or
  • Do a test to see if Chrome is installed or,
  • Create a preference that says, “I want to use Chrome to open URLs” instead of FileMaker’s browser.

All right. This is the kind of tip I love best. Short, sweet and something I can use in lots of places. That’s why it was worth spending some time a Peet’s on Father’s Day to figure it out. Probably my favorite two areas of development these days are interapplication communication and taking advantage of the plethora of good stuff on the web in some way. This tip does both!

FileMaker 11 Receives Qualified Green Light from its Makers today

More has been revealed today (July 20 2011) about how well FileMaker 11 will play with Lion. There are limitations. We now know that a FileMaker Pro 11 compatibility update is scheduled for August. There is also an update for FileMaker Server 11 scheduled to be released in October. I wrote up as much as I could about all this on my Studio Manager site but now I'm too busy playing with Lion and reading up on it to propagate all of it to this site tonight. Just click to Studio Manager to see what I've got for you.

OSX Lion + FileMaker, Not Yet

Don’t upgrade to OS X Lion until FileMaker Inc. releases a compatibility update to FileMaker 11.

FileMaker Pro 11 is the only version that FileMaker Inc. plans to certify for Lion. If you are using an earlier version of FileMaker (prior to 11), don’t upgrade to Lion unless you see enough evidence out in the world or with your own safe experiments to determine that your FileMaker database(s) will run OK in that version of FileMaker under Lion. If you do run into a problem, you’ll be on your own.

Here is the word directly from one of FileMaker Inc.’s support pages:

FileMaker is excited about the powerful features in OS X Lion and iOS 5. We are committed to be compatible with the latest Apple operating systems and the shipping versions of FileMaker products will be updated to support OS X Lion and iOS 5.

Since FileMaker 8 is a PowerPC app, it will not run under OS X Lion at all due to the lack of support in Lion for Rosetta. FileMaker 8 and any earlier versions of FileMaker will not run under Lion.

FileMaker Pro 8 Get Info

Speculation:

There’s a pretty good chance that FileMaker 8.5 – 10 will work using FileMaker files on their own or as guests (with some minor bugs). There’s less of a chance that you could have a machine running Lion hosting filemaker files or older versions of FileMaker Server hosting files from a Lion machine. This is how it went with Snow Leopard anyway.

People will certainly try things with Lion and experiment if they have an irresistible Lion feature they want to use. Keep an eye out for findings. I will post what I find to this blog.

My Free Studio Manager 11 Demo Supporting iPad and iPhone is Out

I've written a longer post over on my studio-manager.com site. The main thing to know is that you can download the free demo and then try out Studio Manager on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. You'll need to fill in minimal registration details to get the demo. But then you can see what our take is on a FileMaker Go-based iPad and iPhone capability. If you have FileMaker Go, you should check it out. Let me know if you have any questions.

Adding iPad and iPhone Compatibility to your FileMaker Database, Part 1

IPhones_with_FileMaker_Go
FileMaker Inc. released FileMaker Go in July. It is powerful in its current early form and we expect it to just get better and more essential from here on out. As soon as we got the word, we immediately put iPad and iPhone compatibility at the top of our list features to add to Studio Manager.

We are just about done with Studio Manager 11 which is devoted to adding iPhone and iPad features to Studio Manager. We are learning a lot and want to start sharing what we are coming up with.

We Are Creating Dedicated Layouts for iPad and iPhone

The best tool to get you started on that is the free FileMaker Go Toolkit from Soliant. It has a lot of nice parts for your iPhone layouts especially. You'll need to quickly figure out whether you are going to support landscape and portrait on your layouts. We decided that it is too limiting at this point and are just doing portrait for iPhone entry screens and landscape for iPhone list and table views. Seems to work. For iPad, we are supporting landscape just as you would on a Mac or PC. Our use testing shows this works fine.

Size matters on these layouts as you don't have a resize script step in FileMaker Go. If you size the layout exactly to fit the iPad screen and resolution, things go really well. This was our approach and we are happy with it.

You Can Build Out Functionality Fast

If you are building iPad and iPhone layouts into an existing robust database, you already have scripts and report layouts that just need some tweaking to add logic to use your iPhone and iPad layouts as appropriate. This speed of development is a huge benefit that FileMaker Inc. has gifted us with. Thanks a lot! Creating this much compatibility in version 1 of FileMaker Go is awesome.

Naming Layouts

SM11_Layout_Menu_Left_Aligned We like to show some layouts in the Layout Pop-down Menu in Studio Manager, so we had a little bit of a challenge figuring out how and where to add iPhone and iPad layouts to the already full list of table names on that menu. We name entry screens for each table the name of the table so that it looks nice in the layout menu.

First change, we decided to keep our naming convention for layouts with one exception: we added a special character and a space before all iPhone layouts and a different special character and space before all iPad layouts. That gives you names like this for iPhone: ◊ Contacts and ◊ Jobs. And layout names like this for iPad:
 Contacts,  Jobs. You get these characters in Lucida Grande which is FileMaker's screen font by typing Option-Shift-v and Option-Shift-k. We think of the diamond as a littler screen and the Apple symbol was just too good to pass up so it was used for iPad.

We found that it helped to create a Custom Function called LayoutPlatform. It just looks at the first character in a layout name and knows you are on an iPhone layout if that character is ◊ and an iPad layout if a . The main advantage of this so far has been that we can develop and test iPad and iPhone behavior on our laptops and desktops and get the behavior we would get on the iPhone or iPad. At first our logic was limited to whether you were actually on an iPhone or iPad and that got old really fast when we wanted to be in iPad or iPhone-mode while in FileMaker Pro.

Ordering Layouts

We decided, you have the least ability to move around and perhaps are less advanced when on an iPhone so put those layouts in a group at the top of the layout menu with a heading that says IPHONE and dividers above and below. Then we grouped the iPad layouts under IPAD. Finally, the rest of the visible layouts are under DESKTOP.

I have to get back to polishing Studio Manager 11 for release on Monday. You may want to take a look at some of the blog posts I've got on the studio-manager.com site for some screenshots of the layouts themselves. Some are pretty rough, but we've been improving with experience and are liking the results we are getting.