Category Archives: FileMaker Tips

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. ┬áNormally, 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 Kernels

I’ve written a few brief blurbs in my twitter stream of late that I thought you should know about. I’ve provided a bit more detail here since I’ve got plenty of room. The 140 character limit on twitter forces brevity.

Feel free to follow me on twitter. I’m tokerud. My posts tend heavily towards personal technology. If you use an iPhone or iPod touch, you gotta use Tweetie. At $2.99, it is a great little app.

Here you go:

Download Twitter Data to FileMaker. At tweetake.com, It is a snap to download all your followers, people you follow and all the tweets in your twitter stream plus the last 1000 of your own tweets. Select *Everything* and then click the *Get ’em!* button.

FileMaker Developer Cards. Color laminated 8.5×11. Color highlights for which version of FM. $14.95. Available at cardsfm.comYou get two, two-sided cards. Way cool. Really well done!

FileMaker Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. August 13-16. I’m local – a ferry ride away in Tiburon so will be commuting. Hope to see you there.

Please, No More Fake tabs. I used native tabs in my FileMaker product 2 yrs ago because they look cool and are simple to use and change. With FM10 script triggers attached to tab controls, tabs can fulfill their rightful destiny.

Cramped Screens? Most definitely. The user interface of FileMaker 10 is now more friendly and flexible with a customizable status toolbar on top. But, entry screens built in previous versions of FileMaker, will seem cramped on the left without a status area there. Make your screens shorter and wider to compensate. FileMaker 10 is well worth the effort!

How to Do Finds Inside your Big Scripts

This is a quick one. When you have a 4 page script like the one I’m working on right now, you need a way to quickly see if you’ve referenced a variable or not.

The reason I needed this is that I discovered I was using $_JobID and $_Job_ID in different places in my large script. I went around and standardized on $_Job_ID and wanted to delete my set variable for $_JobID. That’s when I needed the find in script feature to make sure I had eliminated all references to $_JobID first.

Here’s how:

Print your script except don’t print just save it as a PDF. Now search inside your PDF to your heart’s content!

FileMaker Development Tip: Going Mobile

Iphone_script_pdf

Yesterday when I was away from my Mac(s), I had an idea for something I wanted to do in FileMaker. All I had was my iPhone. I wished for a Back-to-My-Mac for iPhone so I could run FileMaker, but that’s not here yet. Will it be announced tomorrow?

Meanwhile, I decided to print my field definitions and key scripts to PDFs and make them available to me for reference from my iPhone and iPod touch via Evernote. I did say Evernote rocks as I recall.

It is working like a charm. Here I am the next day solving probems at my local coffee (with free wi-fi) hang out (Caffe Acri). I’m able to look at a script as a PDF on my iPod touch. I can see exactly what to do to offer a new Studio Manager feature.

My apologies for this photo. I tried grabbing a screenshot using Capture on my iPod touch. Had trouble syncing that screenshot to my Mac. So we have here a photo of my iPhone. Take my word for it, the screen is pristine, extremely bright and absolutely crystal clear.

The biggest win I’m going to get is probably when doing email and phone tech support. I can just look at scripts and field definitions as PDFs and a few entry screen screenshots for reference.

I already have Evernote notebooks for Studio Manager and FileMaker. You can find inside your notes in a single notebook or all notebooks. Tagging helps too.

Even when Back-to-My-Mac becomes available, it will often be much faster to refer to PDFs in Evernote. By the way, it is quite possible Evernote is working on a native iPhone version of Evernote. It might even be announced tomorrow! Dare we hope?

FileMaker Help Trick + Cool New Mac Evernote

Textedit_filemaker_help

I pasted a page from FileMaker 9’s online help into a TextEdit document because I wanted to have it handy for a project I’m working on. I had not tried clicking on the links in TextEdit but was pleasantly surprised today when I did. The link worked.

When you click on a link from a TextEdit document that contains an excerpt from FileMaker help in it, it links you to and brings up an html document on your computer in TextEdit for that particular topic you linked to. Very cool. At that point, you seem to be able to cruise around without using the Macintosh Help application.

By the way, I then tried copying and pasting some of the help into my FileMaker Notes Evernote notebook (Evernote is now available for Mac as a Beta). Unfortunately, the html links to my local machine were lost in the paste. Hopefully that will be fixed.

Evernote

Because I think Evernote is a cool note-taking tool for FileMaker developers, I’ll mention a few more things. You can see a bunch of instructional videos about Evernote. One reason Evernote is so cool is that you can access your data from any of your machines or from the web or from your iPhone or other mobile phone. The iPhone version of Evernote came out today! One of the things you can do is photograph things like your handwritten notes and diagrams in notebooks or on cocktail napkins. Your iSight camera will work too. Evernote does handwriting recognition on the photos automatically.

Relationship Graph Post-it Notes Pay Off

Sm8 Relationships Graph 480-1

It took me a while, but now I am a believer. I just posted 2 notes into the relationships graph for Studio Manager 8. One note is a legend that shows what all my abbreviations mean and the other note is a general guide to how I have set-up and organized the relationships graph. I now see that these two notes should be a standard practice for any FileMaker database these days. Nice.

You can pick your colors for the post-its from the color wheel, so have at it!

Technorati Tags:

Duplicate Record with AppleScript Trick

I received a request to tie my Studio Manager product to iCal yesterday. This is not the first time I have received the request. I am just recovering from a brief illness today and with that excuse thought I would see how hard it would be to AppleScript between FileMaker and iCal.

I have two books that should help me: AppleScript: The Missing Manual and AppleScript: The Definitive Guide. I looked at their tables of contents but didn’t see any reference to iCal. So, I then typed "AppleScript+FileMaker+iCal" into Google. I got plenty of hits to investigate.

One of my first hits lead me to reading a comment about speed. And Bruce Robertson had a tip. He said if you run the following two line Applescript in FileMaker you can instantaneously duplicate a record and all of its children records.

So I decided to try it myself.

I created a FileMaker database called AppleScript_Playground and added three tables Contacts, Jobs and Tasks. These are tables in Studio Manager. I put in a few fields in each table. I figured eventually I would get to trying to import a set of tasks for a job into AppleScript.

But for now I wanted to try the trick.

So I created a layout in Jobs with a few fields and a portal to tasks. I entered some tasks. See illustration below.

Applescript_example

Bruce said you should not have any calculated fields on the layout if you want the trick to work. I have no idea why, but he was right. Until I removed the last calculation field from the layout, it wouldn’t work. You also need to have the ability to create the child records turned on and don’t have the auto-enter serial number on the screen.

Anyway, if you have an auto-enter serial number for Jobs and that serial number is part of the key that links tasks to jobs, you are in business.

Here’s my applescript compliments of Bruce:

Set sourceRec to (get current record)
Create new record with data sourceRec

There’s only one script step in the script: Perform Applescript.

Bruce says it should be instantaneous with up to 50 related records.

At the moment this small triumph encourages me to continue my quest. Maybe this AppleScript stuff is worth looking into. I know a lot of FileMaker buffs swear by AppleScript…

UPDATE: I just tried it with Job Specs, a second related table. The duplicate as is above duplicated the original record plus the related records in both portals on the screen instantly! Try this out as a 20 minute project if you aren’t already an AppleScripter who knows this stuff backwards and forwards.

Documented Issues in FileMaker 8 v1 and v2

Fm8 Adv Box

According to FileMaker Inc., there are some significant issues in both FileMaker 8 v1 and v2. The company is working to release v3 soon which is expected to resolve the new issues introduced in v2. There is a good summary of the issues at the FileMaker Knowledge Base. It looks to me that you might be better off with the v1 release for the time being. If you are using FileMaker 8 or just about to start using it, you should read this yourself

There is one corruption issue in each of the versions which is my main concern. In v1, some batch operations and schema changes can corrupt indexes. Fortunately, those indexes can be easily rebuilt by turning the indexing on and off for that particular field with index problems. In v2, recovering a file corrupts the variable names in calculations. If you are using lots of variables, a new FileMaker 8 feature, you would want to check your variable names if you have to recover the file.

Developers might want to have a copy of both FileMaker 8 v1 and FileMaker 8 v2 around in case they want to switch between the two. For example, if you need to recover your file and you use variables a lot, you’ll want to be recovering with v1.

Anyone with more real world information about this is welcome to share it here in the comments. We will revisit this topic with an update when additional information is available or when v3 is released whichever comes first.

On a personal basis, I recommend Studio Manager customers use FileMaker 8 v1 until v3 is available. Neither of the two issues identified in v1 should present problems in Studio Manager. If you are customizing Studio Manager extensively, you should keep these issues in mind, however.

Knowledge Base article #5907 says this about the issues in v1:

  • Some calculations that require local client information (such as Get(WindowHeight)) are incorrectly calculated on the server. There are no known workarounds in this version.
  • Certain batch operations and schema changes might cause indexes to become corrupt. These indexes can be rebuilt via the Define Fields dialog box by turning the index off, and then on again.

Knowledge Base article #5907 says that “while FileMaker 8.0v2 addressed key problems in 8.0v1, it introduced some new issues”:

  • When using a FileMaker 8.0v2 product (Pro/Pro Advanced or Server/Server Advanced) as a host with clients prior to 8.0v2, performing find requests on unstored calculations result in all records being found. This is particularly dangerous when used in scripts that perform operations across the found set, such as replacing data or deleting records. To avoid this, make sure that all clients are using FileMaker Pro 8.0v2 or FileMaker Pro 8.0v2 Advanced. You may utilize the Get(ApplicationVersion) function to check the client version.
  • When using a FileMaker 8.0v2 product (Pro or Server) as a host, unstored calculations are always processed by the client application. In some network scenarios, this creates a significant decrease in performance, particularly when searching on these fields.
  • When printing from Windows based clients, layouts that use fixed margins will experience a shifting of the image by several pixels.
  • Recovering a file corrupts variable names in calculations.

Here is the advice from FileMaker Inc.:

During the period prior to this upcoming release, we recommend that you study the list of issues above carefully to best determine which version is right for you.

Technorati Tags: , ,

Useful FileMaker Blog for You to Check Out

Mikhail

I discovered a new FileMaker blog today that looks good. I’ll probably have some more soon as I search for what’s available these days. This FileMaker blog is called Bits and Pieces and it is written by Mikhail Edoshin who has been a FileMaker developer for about 8 years. The photo here is of Mr. Edoshin.

At first glance, Mikhail’s blog seems to mainly have explanatory posts about various FileMaker calculations. But, there are some longer articles if you go back a little ways. The post I found most useful was called FileMaker field naming conventions written on November 6, 2005. Mikhail says that he’s tried very complex naming schemes in the past but has decided that simple, natural-sounding field names like First Name are better than the coded ones. He explains why.

A couple other posts I thought looked especially interesting were Merge Expressions and Custom functions to simplify reading the current state of modifier keys.

All of this content is valuable and should be on your required reading list if you are a FileMaker developer or intermediate to advanced user. The value a developer like Mikhail can add is all the real-world, in the field detail and context that isn’t provided in the online help or user manual.

Instead of merely responding to a filemaker forum question, a FileMaker blogger is choosing among his wide experience and picking something he thinks is worth sharing with a wider audience. Generally speaking, you can expect the shared item will have value to the community whereas a forum question might apply to only a few other FileMaker folks.

These experience-based reports and explanatory articles are really valuable. At minimum, they (1) give you a different slant on something you’ve read before, (2) remind or introduce you to functions and aspects of FileMaker development that you may not have found or thought about on your own and (3) provide extra commentary based on road-testing in the real world.

Blogs can add a lot to the FileMaker community. And some FileMaker developers, who may have previously relied on static web pages are, like Mikhail, have started blogging. Blogs, comprised of chronological posts, are convenient to create and operate, tell users what is most current, have great automatic archiving features and are linkable by post rather than whole web page.

A blog is much easier to maintain, gives you more Google juice due to the metadata it provides automatically and offers the ability for users to interact via comments. While providing a great service, Mr. Edoshin also introduces himself to colleagues and prospective clients. Speaking for myself, blogging is a great way to contribute and participate in the FileMaker community and incidentally gets the word out about you and your FileMaker business.

Prior to establishing Bits and Pieces in September, Mikhail created a website in 2000 that was devoted to filemaker. Some of that material may be migrated over to the blog over time but I wasn’t clear that any has been migrated so far. If you would like to take a look a Mikhail’s previous contributions about FileMaker, check out his Onega Software: FileMaker from the other side website.

Technorati Tags: ,

You Should be Accessing Your FileMaker Database from Home

Fm8 Adv Box

If you are running FileMaker 7 or FileMaker 8, there’s no excuse for not using FileMaker’s robust and speedy remote access capability. All it takes to get it going is to have a fixed IP address for your FileMaker server (even if it is run from FileMaker Pro not FileMaker Server) and holes in your firewall for 5003, 50003 and 50006.

I’m not a networking expert, but the typical in-house IT guy or gal can handle this with a quick look at the documentation for the device on your network that is running your firewall. If you don’t already have a fixed IP address, you can either get one or use a DNS service for a small monthly fee (less than $10) that will make your dynamic IP address operate like a fixed IP address.

You don’t even need extra copies of FileMaker for home use. Just install the same copy of FileMaker that you use at work on your home machine. Since you can’t be in two places at once, you’ll never have a conflict between your identical installation codes. If you are already using a Powerbook as your main machine, run don’t walk to get this remote access going. It’s way too convenient to miss out on.

You and your employees should set-up your FileMaker database at work as a favorite host so you can easily log-in and get things done when the need arises. Most executives have days when they don’t need to be in the office except for perhaps one little thing. If you’ve got your business data in your office database, you can usually do that one little thing and avoid the commute.

Also, if you’ve got your database set up for remote access, I can log-in and fix things on the spot even if I’m at my local Starbucks having coffee and away from my office. This is an amazing safeguard and convenience. Instead of your sending me your file(s) by email, I can often do a quick fix in 5 or 10 minutes and we are done. Same day, same hour as when the need arises.

My clients are designers. They often travel for press checks, photo shoots or simply meetings with clients in other cities. With remote access set-up, you and your employees can log-in and get very good performance from any broadband connection wired or wireless. Life goes on. Nothing changes. No disruption. Just a lot more convenience.

If you are still using FileMaker 5 or 6, remote access is a good reason to seriously consider an upgrade to FileMaker 8. Already some of my clients operate one database from multiple locations. If you are one of those firms and haven’t upgraded yet, you need to check this out.

Technorati Tags: , ,