Updated 7-2015 to include some new options
Quite often we want to take much of the data included in a FileMaker database and make it available to a large public audience without the need for them to own the FileMaker application and have it installed on their computer. To do this, we can utilize custom web publishing to make the information available to any person with an internet connection and web browser like FireFox, Safari, Chrome, or Internet Explorer. FileMaker can talk to the web.
There are several ways to build customized web solutions based on FileMaker Pro:
- WebDirect (formerly IWP or Instant Web Publishing)
- Connect the web site directly to the FileMaker database as a backend via the FileMaker API for PHP (Application Programming Interface for the PHP language)
- Connect to an existing web site database like MySQL or Microsoft SQL Server via ESS (External SQL Sources) and synchronize the data.
- Misc Other Methods
Option 1: WebDirect (formerly IWP or Instant Web Publishing)
WebDirect was released with FileMaker 13 and replaced IWP. We almost never recommended IWP. In versions of FileMaker before version 13, it converted FileMaker layouts automatically to web site pages on the fly. Although it is interesting technology, it was not easily scalable to many users and limited in its functionality and reliability.
WebDirect has the advantages of providing a user experience similar to FileMaker client without requiring an application to be installed (using only the browser). With FileMaker 14 it has been further optimized and can be used on some Android mobile devices. No traditional web developing skills are required. WebDirect is resource intensive for the server and not scalable to as many users as some of the other options.
Option 2: FileMaker API for PHP
The first FileMaker PHP interface was a product called fx.php. It is no longer used as much. The officially supported product for custom web publishing today is known as the “FileMaker API for PHP”. It can be a good option…and here we include a listing of some resources that will assist in learning more about the API.
Option 3: ESS – External SQL Sources
Connecting to an existing web site database via ESS is a great option especially if you need to scale your web site to thousands of users or the web site already exists. It also allows for division of development labor. One developer can be responsible for the front end user facing web site and another developer can work on the back-end administrative FileMaker database with lots of reporting features for use in the office.
We build custom web sites with WordPress and integrate them with FileMaker. It offloads the processing of the website completely to the web server and an associated MySQL database that we synchronize with the FileMaker solution. It makes use of the strengths of both platforms effectively.
Option 4: Miscellaneous
There are some other options for publishing FileMaker information to the web. These are basically wrappers for the FileMaker API for PHP:
- FMEasyWeb – From Tim Dietrich
- FileMaker WebSite – From Inner File Software
- RestFM from Goya uses PHP code to turn your FileMaker Server into a RESTful Web Service so you can access your FileMaker Server databases via HTTP using a common REST architecture with easy to understand API calls.
The longterm viability of these methods and ongoing support of these technologies remains to be seen.
Here follow some resources for Learning and Utilizing the FileMaker API for PHP:
- Official FileMaker API Documentation.
- Or find the official FileMaker API docs on your local FileMaker server at… http://SERVERNAMEORIPADDRESS:16000/docs/PHP%20API%20Documentation/index.html
or find your FileMaker Server installation folder and go to
./FileMaker Server/Examples/PHP, and
./FileMaker Server/Documentation/PHP API Documentation/.
- FileMaker Server Custom Web Publishing with PHP white paper from FileMaker.
- Web Publishing with PHP and FileMaker 9 by Jonathan Stark. Also available for Kindle to save some money and ink. The book is still relevent despite the FileMaker 9 in the title.
- FileMaker API for PHP Documentation Quick Reference from Jonathan Stark.
- Jonathan Stark’s FileMaker for PHP Developers article from PHP Architect Magazine part 1 and part 2.
- FileMaker API for PHP eBook by Todd Duell from Formulations Pro
- FileMaker Web Publishing: A Complete Guide to Using the API for PHP by Allyson Olm, Stephen Knight, and Michael Petrov.
- fmWebSchool also has an application plug-in for DreamWeaver that assists in writing the code called fmStudio.
- API for FileMaker PDF Cheat Sheet 1 and Cheat Sheet 2.
- Geoff Coffey’s FileMaker PHP API Tutorial.
- Quick Web Solutions Tutorial.
- Soliant Consulting has developed a lightweight PHP layer called SimpleFM.
- U of MN FileMaker Custom Web Publishing Tutorial
- VTC FileMaker and PHP Foundations video course by Lance Hallberg
- Intro to CWP by David Nahodyl
- FMWebFrame an open source extension the the FileMaker API
General PHP learning resources: