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.

FileMaker Go Must Have Documentation + Free Toolkit

Ipadshowingfmgo_180w If you are using or creating a FileMaker database and want to provide a satisfying experience via FileMaker Go, you will need the best information available about how FileMaker Go differs from FileMaker Pro.

You will need advice about changes you can make to your current FileMaker database to make it data-safe and touch-friendly to iPhone and iPad users.

Make sure you've got these three resources, handy:

FileMaker Go Development Guide, FMI

FileMaker Go Tech Brief, Scott Love, Soliant

FileMaker Go Training Tool, Richard Carlton Consulting

There is some overlap between the three, but beggars can't be choosers at this preliminary phase of the FileMaker Go learning curve.

Toolkit_Screenshot-320

Soliant's free FileMaker Go Toolkit is a must have compliment to Scott's above listed Tech Brief. The brief takes its examples from the Toolkit. This iPhone screenshot is an iPhone layout in the toolkit. You get lots of great graphic parts too. You can peruse some scripts. This free toolkit will help you build your first FileMaker Go layouts and look good while doing it!

There are other blog posts and resources out there. These are the top four. As I discover other essential resources, I will post them on FileMaker Fever.

Updated: November 24

FileMaker 11: Discoveries

FileMaker_11_box_large
 

Recommended Resources on the Web:

Mighty Data is doing 11 Filemaker 11 video tutorials in 11 days. The first one is on charting and is a little over 7 minutes long. The second one is on the Inspector. Highly recommended.

Matt Petrowsky has a 10 minute video on FileMaker 11 New Features for the FileMaker Developer.

Secret Weapons Lab has a 2-part in depth review of FileMaker 11 from a developer's perspective.

BillonFileMaker by Bill Doerrfeld has more good FM11 commentary from a developer perspective.

More of My Tips and Comments on FileMaker 11:

As I begin using and testing FileMaker Pro 11, I'm finding little tidbits worth sharing. Here are some of the highlights:

Quick Find is a big win. You don't have to use the Find command so much anymore. Users will quickly learn to try Quick Find before bothering with the Find command. It works in Browse mode which is the normal operating mode in FileMaker. It is really fast unless searching on unindexed fields or related fields where it might slow down a bit or a lot depending on the circumstances (how many records etc.).

Tip: Enable Quick Find Selectively in any existing database. When opened in FileMaker 11, every layout is enabled for Quick Find. So…, if there are places Quick Find makes no sense, you should turn it off in Layout Setup. Also, all fields, including merge fields, on your layouts start their lives as enabled for Quick Find. In Layout Mode, you'll see teeny, tiny yellow magnifying glasses in the lower right corner of some fields. Those are the unindexed and related fields like those in portals that may slow down your Quick Finds. I would turn all those off unless you can think of a reason not to. Then, as time goes by, you can always turn one or two back on if and when the need becomes apparent.

Charting is Awesome. Charts have a way of capturing our attention that numbers don't. It is as easy to do charting in FileMaker as it is in Excel so this doesn't require rocket science or expensive rocket scientists (like yours truly) to start using. I've learned how to use Charting so far from FileMaker 11's online help examples – 4 of them to show different ways to use it. Then, I learned more by watching MightyData's free 7 minute Charting tutorial. Get the tutorial and free demo file here. There are twenty gorgeous color schemes to choose from with the option to specify your own colors if you like. You can hover over a bar or pie slice to see the exact numbers reflected.

Portal Filtering. The Portal Set-up dialog box has a new checkbox called Filter Portal Records. Let's say you have a portal in your clients entry screen that shows invoices for that client, but you would also like to see just the unpaid invoices and just use the full history of all invoices for reference as needed. What I would do is make my portal just a bit smaller and then create a tab control with 2 tabs. The first tab would be Unpaid Invoices and the second would be entitled Invoice History. I would cut the current portal and portal fields and paste them onto each of the 2 tabs. Then in my first Unpaid Invoices tab, I would double-click the portal to bring up portal setup and check the new Filter Portal checkbox. There I would enter Unpaid Balance > 0. And click OK to save it. That's it. A 5 minute project.

Limitations of the New Portal Filtering Checkbox. Apparently, the Go To Related Records command ignores the filter. So that means, to use my same example above, when you click the button to the left of an Unpaid Invoice, you'll go to that Invoice but the found set will most likely be all the invoices for this client, not the nicer subset of unpaid invoices. Up till now we've had to get into the relationships graph and create new calculated fields or use custom functions to get a portal to filter. Now portal filtering is not so arduous. In my product, I'll probably do it the old-fashioned way so my found set behavior is consistent. But sometimes this limitation won't be a problem and the quick and dirty way will serve just fine. It is always helpful to have a quick way to try out a new feature. If it is a as valuable as you think it is going to be, you can implement it the more robust way on the relationships graph when time permits.

Layout Object Badges. Now that layout objects can do all sorts of back flips, it is helpful to see which ones have special features. There are really nice new colored badge icons to show: Conditional Formatting, Quick Find, Script Triggers and Tooltips. For instance, the Quick Find magnifying glass icons mentioned above come in green or yellow depending on whether the find is going to be fast or slow.

More on Manage Layouts. I mentioned in Tuesday's post that you can create layout groups with the new much improved Manage Layouts window. Besides that, you can leave it open and return to browse mode. This is one more case where more than one tool can be kept available one click away. You can switch to different screens and use the layouts groups after you've checked out a few of those layouts with funny names.

You Don't need to use the little up-down widget to move items in Manage Scripts and Manage Layouts. Now you can drag anywhere on a script name or layout name and move it easily with excellent visual feedback as you do so.

The Text Engine has Changed (Again). In my Studio Manager product, a lot of the buttons are underlined text. All of these links looked cramped when opened in FileMaker 11. With a little experimentation, I found that if I increased the vertical height of those link-styled buttons by 1 pixel, the underscores would move down a bit and look better.

Layout Inspectors. Floating palettes are all rage on the Mac these days and FileMaker Layouts are now the beneficiaries of this trend. In FileMaker 11, you can open 1 Inspector. It has 3 tabs that cover just about any possible layout characteristic. And, you can apply those characteristics to multiple objects at once. Very handy. Even handier you can close the triangles on characteristic groups you don't use often to shorten the palette. Handier yet, you can open multiple Inspectors and show 1 tab on each if you like. This is a killer feature for FIleMaker 11 for the developer who spends more time than he or she might like on layout details and polishing.

Editing Scripts from the Button Setup Screen. This is definitely a developer feature. It is ideal for debugging and for fixing. Here's the deal. Before you would double-click a button that wasn't working right. Then you would click to see what the name of the script was that it was running and scroll up and down the list to see where in the scripts list the script was. Then you would open Manage Scripts, find the script, open it, check it out and fix it if necessary. Now, once you see the script that the button uses, you can edit the script directly from there.

I'll be posting again soon I hope the next batch of things I've found in the new FIleMaker 11.

FileMaker 11 is Out Today and Looking Fabulous

FM11_shot_1
I've got Filemaker Pro 11 Advanced running on my Macbook Air right now
. It came out this morning and ever since I've been working to understand its new features and begin to write about them. I saw a preview at the FileMaker Developer's Conference last summer, but there's nothing like the real thing, released and usable now!

Before you get too excited, you need Leopard 10.5.7 or higher to run FileMaker 11. And Snow Leopard is recommended.

Linear Chat and CNET says FileMaker 11 is Cocoa-based on Mac. I'm still researching this, but apparently the reason FileMaker 11 looks so good on my Snow Leopard Mac today is that is Cocoa-based.

Yay! FileMaker 11 has end-user charting and, of course, developer charting as well so canned charts that show important information can be set to pop-up with a click. The charts look really good and have a lot of functionality and tweakability without scripting or head-scratching.

Layout Groups will be appreciated by just about any firm using FileMaker to cleanup the layouts menu. Now you can put all those junky layouts that may never be used again in a Folder or two and get them out of the way. For my Studio Manager product with 250+ layouts, it sure will be a faster scroll once layouts are organized into folders. There's also layout search built-in, just start typing.

Learn More. FileMaker.com's FileMaker Pro 11 New Features page is a good place to start to see the new features and watch little videos to learn more. You might also find FileMaker's Features page helpful as a list of key things in each release of filemaker starting with what's new in FM11.

Keep an eye on FileMaker Fever for more details in this post and others to follow.

I've got a brief post on FileMaker 11 on my Studio Manager Story blog for Studio Manager customers. Don't miss it, if you are a customer.