cURLing in FileMaker 16

Women's curling

Team USA curling at the Vancouver Olympics. Photo: Jon Oropeza – Wikimedia Commons

At LuminFire, we’re very excited about enhanced support for cURL in FileMaker 16. And no, we’re not talking about curling the sport, though it is very popular here in Minnesota and we recommend you try it too if you never have. We’re talking about cURL the free and open source project consisting of two products, a command line utility called curl and a portable library called libcurl, designed for transferring data with URLs. cURL stands for “Client for URLs” or “Client for URL Request Library” and it includes the URL spelled in uppercase to emphasize it deals with URLs. Swiss Army KnifePractically speaking, cURL is a swiss army knife of tools used by programmers to exchange information between systems using dozens of supported protocols. The project name is conveniently/appropriately pronounced “see URL” while the command line utility name is pronounced just like the sport. cURL is the most popular file transfer library on the planet–it is used by billions of devices every day. Enhanced cURL options in FileMaker 16 make it much easier for FileMaker solutions to interact with other systems, opening doors for what is possible within FileMaker.

In order to appreciate the new cURL support in FileMaker 16, it is important to understand a little bit about the anatomy of a HTTP request. In other words, what happens when you type a URL into a web browser?

What happens when you type a URL into a web browser?

  • URL is resolved to an IP address using Domain Name System
  • TCP connection initiated
  • Security stuff
  • HTTP request sent. It includes:
    • http method
    • url
    • http headers
    • http body
    • accept header
    • (content negotiation)
    • user agent
  • Server handles request. Replies with:
    • status code
      • 1xx: not done yet, but still here
      • 2xx: success!
      • 3xx: go look somewhere else
      • 4xx: error, your fault
      • 5xx: error, server’s fault
    • headers
    • body
    • content length
    • content type
  • Browser receives response, renders body

As you can see, there’s actually a lot going on even with a basic webpage (HTTP) request. When you’re simply typing a URL into a web browser, the browser handles everything else for you behind the scenes. Now as programmer you can see that a lot more can be gained by understanding and exploiting components of HTTP requests above and beyond just the URL itself. In fact as you start to interact with a variety of web services in FileMaker scripts, doing so becomes a necessity. For example, many APIs require custom headers to be sent such as API key(s), language preference, or content type. Additionally, when scripting in FileMaker, you won’t have a browser to elegantly handle 500 Internal Server or other errors, doing so will be your responsibility. cURL provides everything you need to configure requests of almost all imaginable types.

 

cURL in FileMaker 16

FileMaker 16 supports only a fraction of the protocols and options included with cURL. FileMaker 16 gets rid of the somewhat unconventional httppost/httpspost protocol that exists in earlier versions and now supports http, https, ftp, ftps, and file protocols. It has been possible to use cURL in versions of FileMaker prior to 16 with the help of plugins like MBS and BaseElements, and you may still need to look to these plugins in 16 for advanced use cases requiring options that aren’t supported natively. Additionally, rudimentary cURL has been possible natively with Insert From URL script step since it was introduced in FileMaker 12. There are two big changes in version 16 that really increase its capabilities:

1. Variables. It now possible to set the response of a URL request to variable. Previously, “Insert From URL” only allowed a field to be set which so often required defining unnecessary schema and user interface manipulation for something that really should just happen in a script. Allowing a variable to be defined and within a single “Insert From URL” script will reduce overhead while improving efficiency, readability, and interoperability. Variables can also be used to refer to files stored in container fields or filesystems–more on that in a bit.

The following example is a subscript I use all the time that attempts to determine device location but when that fails (i.e. on Desktop) it looks up approximate location using cURL and two web services, one to fetch the user’s public IP address and the other to geocode it. You can see in this example just how convenient and clean it is to use Insert From URL with variables.
Example:

# Purpose: Use device location or IP geocoding to determine current location
# Returns: e.g. {"latitude":45.1578,"longitude":-93.3205}

# Try iOS device location first
Set Variable [ $location; Value:LocationValues ( 9 ; 5 ) ]

If [ IsEmpty ( $location ) ]
# No location found? (i.e. using desktop) Geocode IP address instead

Insert from URL [ $ip; "http://ipecho.net/plain" ; Do not automatically encode URL; Select; No dialog ]
Insert from URL [ $res; "http://freegeoip.net/json/" & $ip ; Do not automatically encode URL; Select; No dialog ]

Set Variable [ $location; Value:List ( JSONGetElement ( $res ; "latitude" ) ; JSONGetElement ( $res ; "longitude" ) ) ]
End If

# Build JSON object to return
Set Variable [ $res; Value:JSONSetElement ( "{}" ; ["latitude" ; GetValue ( $location ; 1 ) ; JSONNumber ] ; ["longitude" ; GetValue ( $location ; 2 ) ; JSONNumber ] )]
Exit Script [ Result: $res ]

2. cURL options. The last parameter supplied to the new and improved Insert From URL, Specify cURL options, is where the magic happens. If you’re familiar with cURL on the command line you’ll quickly grasp how this works but if you’re new to cURL there’s a bit of a learning curve. In short, Specify cURL options allows you to supply a string of options (and sometimes values) that provide instructions as to how to construct a URL request, what to include in the data payload, and how to handle results and errors. Unfortunately FileMaker supports only a subset of libcurl options so be sure to refer to FileMaker’s Supported cURL options help page for details (unsupported options are ignored). Several cURL options worth noting:

  • –FM-text-encoding. A huge improvement in 16 is that cURL options can be encoded in character sets other than UTF-8 using the –FM-text-encoding option.
  • –data. Instead of using the somewhat obscure httppost protocol data for POST, requests can simply be supplied using the –data or -d option set to key-value pairs as text or set to a container field whose content is a text file containing key-value pairs. Read more about POST vs GET requests.
  • –user. It is now possible to supply a username and password for server authentication using this option. The username and password are split on the first colon, which makes it impossible to use a colon in the username; however, the password still can.
  • –header. Extra header(s) can now be included when sending HTTP requests. Many APIs do not allow incoming requests that lack headers, such as API key or data type, so this option allows FileMaker to communicate natively with countless new web services.
  • –upload-file $file and –form file=@$file. Variables can now be used to reference a file in a container field or file system and the variables can be included within cURL option strings to allow uploading to ftp servers, posting to http forms, etc..

Let’s take a look at how we use cURL options. National Renewable Energy Labs provides an API that returns a list of pv solar installation costs and counts by state. The API requires a key to be sent via custom header and parameters to be sent specifying which state and county you’re interested in. Here’s how we build a working “Insert from URL” script step from its defaults to integrate with this API:

  1. Determine if SSL (https) is required and check “Verify SSL Certificates” accordingly. If so, decide if you want to verify the certificate and present warning to user in cases where verification fails. Read more in FileMaker 16 Help – Insert from URL.
  2. Leave “Select entire contents” checked unless you want to concatenate or insert response into existing data/value(s).
  3. Check “Target:” and Specify $Response… You can use a field or variable. Important nuance here is that if the variable doesn’t exist, this script step creates it.
  4. Specify URL “https://developer.nrel.gov/api/solar/open_pv/installs/rankings
    • If issuing a request of type GET, include parameters as a string on the url like this: “https://developer.nrel.gov/api/solar/open_pv/installs/rankings?state=TN&county=Hamilton
    • If issuing a POST request, eliminate the ? and everything after it in the url and include the parameters as part of the cURL options using –data like this: “–data state=TN&county=Hamilton” or “-d state=TN -d county=Hamilton” or using @$postdata where the $postdata is set to key-value pairs as text or set to a container field whose content is a text file containing key-value pairs.
  1. Specify cURL options. Here we need to build a string of all the options we need separated by spaces. Options take the form of double hyphens followed by complete words or single hyphen followed by letter abbreviation. Values, where required must be quoted using \” or Quote(). The options –show-error and –dump-header $variable are good to include on every request–they are essential to debugging. The string we would need for this request, if it supported POST and our data was stored in fields, might look like this:

"-H \"X-Api-Key:" & prefs:api_key & "\" --data state=" & table:state & "&county=" & table:county & " --show-error --dump-header $dump"

The complete Insert from URL script steps:

For GET:
Insert from URL [ Select ; With dialog: Off ; $Response ; https://developer.nrel.gov/api/solar/open_pv/installs/rankings?state=MN&county=Aitkin ; cURL options: -H "X-Api-Key: RzPZJyKOZs1e7xw689Obhv9SVc6MvZItTkvhGFxt" --show-error --dump-header $dump]

For POST:
Insert from URL [ Select ; With dialog: Off ; $Response ; https://developer.nrel.gov/api/solar/open_pv/installs/rankings ; cURL options: -H "X-Api-Key: RzPZJyKOZs1e7xw689Obhv9SVc6MvZItTkvhGFxt" --data state=MN&county=Aitkin --show-error --dump-header $dump]

 

Transferring files

We’ve covered GET and POST but another powerful feature supported is PUT or the transferring of files. There are a multitude of ways that files can be transferred, typically dictated by the receiving end, that can be a bit confusing. “Insert from URL” can issue a POST request containing a file option just like countless forms on the web do, e.g. upload a resume when filling out a job application, attach a profile picture when signing up for a new account, etc. Mike Duncan describes this method in detail in this blog post so I won’t go into it here. FTP and FTPS work differently and admittedly took me a while to figure out. I was originally mislead by Example 4, in FileMaker’s Insert from URL help page which states “The filename on the server will be the same as the filename in the container field.” This applies only to HTTP PUT requests, not FTP. For FTP it is essential that the destination filename be included on the end of the url or the request will fail. DLPTest.com provides an FTP site that can be used for testing, files are stored for 30 minutes, then deleted. Here’s a working FTP PUT request, again note the power of using variables within an options string to indicate the file to be transferred directly from a container field:
Set Variable [ $file ; Value: Request::File ]

Insert from URL [ Select ; With dialog: Off ; $Response ; ftp://ftp.dlptest.com/Lego.png ; cURL options: --upload-file $file -H "Content-type: image/png" --show-error --dump-header $dump --user dlpuser@dlptest.com:KZhfl2N53lsZM7E8]

 

Try it Yourself

We’ve only scratched the surface of what you can do with the new native cURL functionality in FileMaker 16. Provided is a demo file that is completely unlocked that you can download and use to demo and learn how to build cURL request. Each record represents a single request and the user interface allows you to easily build/manipulate options, send requests, and explore headers/results. It is preloading with examples, but you can use it to explore APIs you work with to extend your FileMaker solutions. It supports GET, POST, and PUT methods in the user interface; however, others (e.g. DELETE) are possible once you get into using cURL options. Look under the hood at the scripts for details. Feel free to post any questions or comments about cURL in FileMaker 16 or the demo file… and happy cURLing!

Download LuminFire_FileMaker_cURL_Demo.fmp12

cURLing in FileMaker 16

Apple’s WWDC 2017 Keynote Recap

Today kicked off the Apple World-Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) for 2017. This year’s conference takes place June 5-9, 2017 at the McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California, USA. It’s a place for app developers to gather and learn about the latest innovations in Apple’s operating systems, Swift programming techniques, and have access to Apple engineers. WWDC is usually a developer-focused event, with few consumer-focused announcements. This year was an exception. The keynote address was nearly 2.5 hours long and was packed full of both technical previews and product announcements. If you missed the live stream and want to watch the entire keynote, is available here: Apple Special Event: June 5, 2017 Live Stream Archive.

Introduction

As usual, Apple kicked it off with a fun video. Keep making apps or there may be an apocalypse! Then Tim Cook bounced onto the stage.

He shared some updates specific to WWDC and developers:

  • There are 16 million registered developers (up 3 million from last year).
  • 5300 attendees from 75 countries at WWDC 2017.
  • 10 year old developer in attendance – she has 5 apps on the App Store.
  • 82 year old developer in attendance – her first app was published this year.
  • They will present updates on all 4 platforms: tvOS, watchOS, macOS, and iOS.
  • Since there is so much content to get through, Tim is skipping the usual updates, and only says, “Apple is doing great. Moving on…”
  • They have six categories for announcements today…

1. tvOS

The TV app on tvOS and iOS now has over 50 partners, but there has been one noticeable absence: Amazon Prime video is coming to the Apple TV in the TV app and a tvOS app.

2. watchOS 4

Updates coming to watchOS 4 include the following highlights:

  • Watch faces
    • New Siri watch face
      • Displays most relevant info
    • Kaleidoscope face
    • More characters: Woody, Jessi, and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story
  • Activity app
    • More personalized notifications
    • Monthly challenges
    • New animations for closing the rings
    • More workouts
    • You can have a playlist automatically start with your workout
    • Music controls integrated in the workout app
  • Music app
    • Multiple playlists
    • Better AirPods integration
  • New Dock
  • Flashlight and blinking safety light
  • Native core Bluetooth support

The Developer Preview is available today and will be a free update to the public this fall.

3. Mac

The Mac is the heart and soul of Apple. We have both software and hardware updates in this category. With every new version of macOS comes a new name. Apple has been focusing on locations in their home state of California for the last several updates. Well, their crack marketing team is at it again… the new name is macOS High Sierra. Then Craig Federighi made a joke about it being “fully baked!” 🙄

Highlights

  • Safari
    • Worlds fastest desktop browser
    • Modern JavaScript performance 80% faster than Chrome
    • Auto play blocking!
    • Privacy: Intelligent Tracking Prevention (so you won’t see adds for the stuff you were just shopping for – trying to eliminate that creepy feeling of the web)
      • Using machine learning to detect tracking
  • Mail
    • Search is now using Spotlight
    • Split view for your compose window in full screen
    • 30% less disk space for storing your mail
  • Photos
    • Improved facial recognition
    • Tags sync across devices
    • Editing controls: Curves, Selective color
    • Better integration with 3rd party editors
    • 3rd party printed books and other products
  • Technology
    • Data
      • New file system: Apple File System APFS
      • 64 bit
      • Crash protection
      • Native encryption
      • Zero copy snapshots
    • Video
      • H.264 was the old standard
      • H.265 or HEVC is the new standard
      • 40% better compression
      • Hardware acceleration in latest Macs
    • Graphics
      • GPU performance
      • Metal 2
      • Up to 10x improvements – now 100x over OpenGL
      • Better debugging and analysis
      • Mac Window Server is now on Metal
      • Also using Metal for machine learning
      • Metal for external graphics
      • Metal for VR
      • Updating FinalCut for VR
      • Steam VR SDK coming to Mac
      • Unity Unreal SDK coming to Mac

The Developer beta is available today. A public beta will be available later this month, for the adventurous non-developers. The final release will be a free update this fall on all systems that support Sierra. Nice to see them holding the system requirements in place (for now).

Hardware Updates

  • iMac
    • Screen now has 500 nits of brightness (that’s a lot of nits!) – 43% brighter than the previous version
    • 10bit dithering – can produce one billion colors
    • 7th generation Intel Kaby Lake processors
    • 10-bit HEVC
    • Up to 32GB or 64GB RAM for the 21.5″ and 27” models, respectively
    • The Fusion Drive is now standard
    • 50% faster SSD options, up to 2TB
    • 2 USB-C connectors with Thunderbolt 3
    • Can drive one external 5K display, or two 4K displays
    • Next gen graphics
      • Entry level model gets Intel Iris Plus 640 – 80% faster than previous generation.
      • Radeon Pro 555 & 560 with up to 4GB VRAM in the 4K 21.5” iMac – 3x faster
      • Radeon Pro 570, 575, 580 with up to 8GB VRAM in the 27″ 5K models – up to 5.5 teraflops half precision (which, apparently is a lot of teraflops)
    • John Knoll from ILM led a StarWars VR demo.
    • The 4K iMac now starting at $1299
  • MacBook and MacBook Pro
    • Also moving to Kaby Lake processors
    • Faster SSD on MacBook
    • Faster dedicated graphics on 15” MBP
    • 13” MBP now starting at $1299

All of the above new Macs are shipping today.

iMac Pro

Then Apple offered a sneak peek of a new high-end model: the iMac Pro!

  • It’s black! OK, it’s “space gray” – but that’s still cool!
  • 8-core Xeon Processor to start, with options up to 18-Cores!
  • AMD Radeon Vega graphics
  • Up to 22 teraflops half precision (for those keeping score at home, that’s 4x the teraflops of the regular high-end iMac)
  • Up to 128GB ECC memory
  • Up to 4TB 3GB/s SSD
  • 4x Thunderbolt 3 port
  • The first Mac with built-in 10GB Ethernet
  • Can drive 2 external 5K displays
  • A new wireless extended (with numeric keypad) Magic Keyboard, also in space gray, and a choice of Magic Mouse 2 or Magic Trackpad 2 in space gray.
  • Starting at $4999
  • Available in December

Tim Cook actually used the words “bad ass” on stage to describe the iMac Pro. Even if I can’t afford the iMac Pro, I want those space gray accessories. It is interesting that the new Magic Keyboard does not appear have a TouchBar, like the MacBook Pro.

5. iOS

Turn it up to eleven for iOS 11.

Highlights

  • Messages
    • Redesigned App Drawer
    • Messages in iCloud – all conversations are synchronized.
    • Only recent messages cached on device
  • ApplePay
    • 50% of retailers by the end of the year
    • Person to person payments
    • iMessage app
    • ApplePay cash – use for purchases or transfer to your bank.
  • Siri
    • New, natural voices for Siri
    • Follow-up questions
    • Translation in beta: English, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian
    • Siri Kit
    • Siri intelligence – context
      • On-device learning
      • Syncs across all devices – encrypted end-to-end
  • Camera
    • 1 Trillion photos per year
    • H.265 HEVC 2x better compression
    • Replacing JPEG with HEIF – 2x better compression, still shareable
    • New Depth API for developers
  • Photos
    • Memories identifies events, activities, kids, pets, etc.
    • Vertical memory videos
    • Trim live photos and mark any part the key photo
    • Loop or bounce live photos
    • Long exposure effect from live photos
  • New control center
  • New Lock Screen and Notification center
  • News recommendations based on your experiences
  • Your dictionary can update based on these as well
  • Maps
    • Let’s go to the mall! Indoor mapping in malls and airports
    • Speed limits are shown in turn-by-turn directions
    • Lane guidance
    • Do not disturb while driving
      • You can allow some people to reply “urgent” to get through
  • HomeKit
    • Speakers category
    • AirPlay 2 protocol – multi-room audio
    • Shared up next
    • AirPlay 2 API for developers
  • Apple Music
    • 27 million subscribers
    • See what your friends are listening to
    • MusicKit for Apple Music
  • App Store
    • 500 million weekly visitors
    • 180 billion apps downloaded
    • $70 billion paid out to developers
    • Faster app review times – under 24 hours, many in 1-2 hours
    • Phased releases
    • Complete redesign
      • Today tab
      • Games tab
        • In-app purchases can be seen in the App Store
      • Apps tab
  • Metal 2 (missed opportunity to be named “Heavy Metal”)
  • HEVC video
  • Machine learning – Core ML
    • Very fast on-device processing
  • AR (Augmented Reality)
    • ARKit – will be the largest AR platform instantly when it ships
    • Lego, Pokémon, Wingnut AR demos
  • QR Code support in the camera

iPad Pro

Then they took a break from talking about software to announce the new iPad Pro.

  • iPad Pro now in 10.5” retina display
  • 20% larger screen, but smaller border, so the overall size is not much larger than the standard iPad
  • Still weighs just 1 pound
  • Full-sized on-screen keyboard or smart keyboard
    • More than 30 languages of smart keyboard at launch
  • 600nits of brightness (this is also a lot of nits)
  • HDR video
  • ProMotion
    • 120Hz display refresh rate
    • Smoother motion – buttery smooth scrolling
    • Better Apple Pencil experience 20ms latency
    • Dynamically adjust refresh rate for better battery life
  • A10X Fusion chip – 6 cores: 3 high performance, 3 high efficiency
  • 30% faster CPU, 40% faster graphics
  • Affinity Photo editor demo
  • 12MP rear and 7MP front cameras
  • USB 3 transfer speeds
  • Fast charging, up to 2x faster than before
  • New smart covers and a sleeve with built-in storage for the Apple Pencil
  • Starting at 64GB storage for all iPad Pro models, up to 512GB
  • Starting at $649 for 10.5”, $799 for the 12.9”

Just when you thought they were done talking about iOS 11… they came back with more updates, specifically for iPad. These will solve a lot of the productivity issues that have prevented some people from doing all of their work on an iPad.

  • Dock all the things! Larger dock for common apps
  • Dock is available with a swipe up from the bottom in any app to switch apps
  • Pull an app out to be a sidebar app
  • New App Switcher – preserves app pairings
  • Drag and drop
  • Files app
    • Supports iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, Box, Adobe Creative Cloud, Baidu, and more
  • Select multiple files to drag and drop
  • File tagging
  • Mark-up with Create PDF option
  • Instantly mark-up screen shots
  • Handwriting becomes searchable text
  • Notes has a built-in document scanner
    • Crops pages, corrects perspective, and removes glare
    • Scan and sign documents with Apple Pencil
  • Tap the lock screen with the pencil to get into Notes
  • Flick keyboard allows you to enter numbers and symbols more easily

Developer preview today, with a free upgrade in the fall.

6. Home Music

Apple wants to reinvent home music with a “breakthrough home speaker” and they call it the HomePod. They described the world where you can either have a nice, expensive speaker, or a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo or the Google Home. Apple’s answer is a larger, better speaker, that has Siri built-in.

  • 7 beam-forming tweeter array with directional control
  • Big woofer
  • Apple A8 chip
  • Multi-channel echo cancellation
  • Spacial Awareness
    • Detects the space around it to adjust the audio
    • Detects center vocals
    • Ambient audio – can bounce it off the walls around it
    • Full, rich mix to fill your room
  • 2 can work together
  • Works with Apple Music subscription
  • 6 microphone array
  • Smarter Siri music commands
  • Privacy – anonymous Siri ID is sent to Apple for processing
  • Available in December for $349
  • White or Space Gray

In concluding the event, Tim Cook recapped today’s announcements, encouraged the press to visit the hands-on area to see the new products, and announced that former First Lady Michelle Obama will be at tomorrow morning’s fireside chat to discuss empowering all people to make a difference.

FileMaker as a CRM and ERP – Software Integration

Two software important industry buzzwords today are CRM (customer relationship management) and ERP (enterprise resource planning). Both CRM and ERP software help you to run a business better by managing a business’s operations, customer relations, and financials. They provide access to data, analysis, and reports that can help you make smarter business decisions.

FileMaker is the #1 Rapid Application Development platform in the world. It allows you to create custom software solutions that provide your business with a competitive advantage. A FileMaker solution can provide the functions of a CRM and ERP together and manage your business…but since FileMaker is a platform for building software (vs. off-the-shelf) you need to purchase or build the application that actually does the work for you. One way you can jumpstart the build out of a FileMaker solution is with a pre-built business application like fmIgnite.

One popular example of off-the-shelf CRM/ERP software is NetSuite. We can compare FileMaker to NetSuite at a high level using independent reviews on G2Crowd, NetSuite gets 2.9 out of 5 stars. A common review theme from users of Netsuite is that it has a lot of capabilities in a single cloud solution but it doesn’t do any of them in an easy to use and consistent manner. On the other hand, FileMaker gets positive reviews and 4.3 out of 5 stars overall. The common theme here is that when it is the right fit for an organization, users are very pleased with the power, flexibility, cost, and speed of development of a custom FileMaker system that can function as their CRM/ERP.

Comparing CRMs or ERPs like NetSuite to FileMaker is challenging because they are off-the-shelf apps but FileMaker is a tool that lets you create your own app. In addition, there are thousands of features that can be present that need to be compared. Even so, from the ratings we often see users are more satisfied with a solution that provides the ability to customize it exactly for their business and workflow. SAAS solutions are someone else’s idea of how to run your business and can be overly complex for what you need.

Not a Data Island – No App Lives Alone
If an organization uses FileMaker, it shouldn’t be a data island. Combining FileMaker with other powerful SAAS (Software as a Service) applications or even using it to supplement missing features in an existing system is a great way to build a complete business solution. We’re always looking for the best ROI (Return on Investment) for technology spending. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel unless we know we’re making a better one. If there is an off-the-shelf SAAS app that works well, we can take advantage of that and use FileMaker where customization is required.

In most small to medium businesses and even within departments in large corporations, FileMaker can act as a digital information hub or data warehouse. We can take advantage of FileMaker’s ability to quickly create reports, view, search, and consolidate data in many ways. Through custom integration FileMaker can share information with nearly any other system that exists. So in the universe of software out there FileMaker is an important star…that can have many planets orbiting around it.

In 2013 the Gartner Group coined the term “postmodern ERP” and described a strategy where legacy apps and highly customized ERP suites could be replaced by a mixture of both cloud-based and on-premise applications, which are more loosely coupled and can be easily exchanged if needed. Here they recommend specialized software to extend a core ERP utilizing best-of-breed software to supplement it. This provides speed and flexibility when reacting to unexpected changes in business processes. FileMaker is uniquely positioned to be a valuable software platform to make this happen.

In the following diagram we show how FileMaker can be the digital hub at the center of many sources of information and workflows.
FileMaker as a CRM and ERP - Software Integration

For example, at LuminFire we use best-of-breed tools internally to make our work the most effective, productive, and profitable it can be. We selected Basecamp to assist us in better communication regarding our projects because it effectively organizes To Do items and our conversations around them while integrating easily with our email workflow. It does a lot of things that we could do with FileMaker or a custom built web app, but would take us a lot of time to build on our own. Basecamp is the best way we’ve found to work for our team of engineers, clients, or other people that do not have direct access to FileMaker client.

However, we use FileMaker as the project management tool of choice for many things that Basecamp doesn’t do as well or in the way we need to fit our core business. For example, we use FileMaker (and fmIgnite) as our master CRM and ERP. FileMaker also allows us to track time, create estimates, produce invoices, etc.

There are many other apps that we use internally at LuminFire in addition to FileMaker and Basecamp to make our work very efficient. For example here are a few of the custom integrations that we’ve created for ourselves at LuminFire:

  • We send direct messages to our team members directly from FileMaker with Slack.
  • We push invoices and transaction info from FileMaker to QuickBooks for producing financial and tax reports.
  • We create email lists from FileMaker contacts for use in MailChimp.
  • We send trackable html emails via Sparkpost.
  • FileMaker generates custom PDF agreements and invoices that get sent via email with links to web payment forms using Gravity Forms and Stripe.
  • Forms from our WordPress website generate new sales records and contacts in FileMaker through BrilliantSync.
  • We send individual contacts from FileMaker to iCloud accounts for syncing to iPhones and other iOS devices.
  • We connect client data folders on Google Drive and individual documents and agreements to contacts in FileMaker.
  • We display contacts on maps and visualize where our work is coming from with GIS.

Integration – Making Software Talk
The process of making software talk to other software is called integration. Some of these integrations are easier to use than others. Most integration takes development that is a step up from basic FileMaker programming because you need to know advanced techniques to program or talk to the external system. So how do we make FileMaker talk to these other apps?

There are many options and techniques available to integrate FileMaker with other software:
(1) Email – Sending an email from FileMaker is directly accessible via a script step. It’s one of the simplest integrations in FileMaker. To take it further and do html emails or track the emails to be sure they arrive and are not considered spam requires more work with a custom plug-in or connection to a mail sending service.

(2) ODBC/JDBC – Open Database Connectivity and Java Database Connectivity are technologies that allow FileMaker to talk to other databases through a common data language.

(3) Plug-ins – FileMaker has access to many 3rd party plug-ins for specific purposes. Some plug-ins facilitate integration with other software. They frequently require an additional license fee. An example might be a plug-in that talks specifically to Microsoft Outlook or QuickBooks.

(4) ESS – External SQL Sources is powerful technology that allows FileMaker to talk to nearly any other database including MySQL, MS SQL Server, and Oracle. Since FileMaker 15, a new architecture for ESS Adapters allows access to even more external database systems including PostgresSQL and IBM DB2. FileMaker is great for creating reports and accessing information offline. Now makes sense in many more scenarios.

(5) Scripting Languages such as AppleScript, DDE, and Visual Basic offer ways of connecting software tools.

(6) REST APIs, JSON, and cURL – These technologies provide powerful ways to integrate FileMaker with other services. With the recent release of FileMaker 16 these technologies are now built into the core FileMaker system.
API – Application Program Interface is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications.
JSON – JavaScript Object Notation is a data interchange format that is easy for humans to read and write as well as for computers to parse and generate.
REST – (Representational state transfer) is the de facto standard for communication between services and apps. Along with JSON, REST is critical for making applications talk to each other.
cURL – is a tool for requesting or sending data or files using the URL syntax.

Any application or service that has an API or is based on a database can talk to FileMaker and exchange information. You can perform basic REST in native FileMaker using the Insert from URL script step. To take this REST integration to the next level and work with more complex APIs such as those offered by YouTube, FaceBook, Twitter, Google Apps and Vimeo, you can use the BaseElements plugin that allows full access to any web service using the cURL library behind the scenes.

Common FileMaker Integrations
For reference, we list some common FileMaker integrations here…

Inputs and Data Entry:

  • iPads/iPhones/iOS with FileMaker Go
  • macOS and Windows desktop workstations with FileMaker client
  • Web site or Android devices via WebDirect or WordPress
  • Barcodes, iBeacons, etc.

Outputs and Reports:

  • PDF files or paper reports
  • Excel spreadsheets
  • Web sites
  • Tableau (now more easily accessible with FileMaker 16)

Exchange/Sync Info:

  • Box / Dropbox / G-Drive – Cloud-based data filing and sharing systems
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) S3 storage for container data. Placing this info on S3 takes care of backup redundancy, offloads data from the FileMaker server, and makes it easily available to the web as well.
  • QuickBooks / AccountEdge – QuickBooks and AccountEdge are popular accounting package that when integrated with FileMaker (on the Mac or Windows) can offload a ton of accounting functionality that doesn’t need to be recreated in FileMaker. Your accountant is likely also familiar with one or the o and can get any report required.
  • WordPress – Bringing in data to FileMaker from forms filled out on the web. Pushing critical information managed in FileMaker to the web content management system for public display.
  • GIS (Geographic Information Systems) – Producing complex interactive maps and visualization of information geographically using FileMaker data.
  • HIPAA Security – Integrating secure services for the purposes of storing or transferring medical information ePHI (electronic Personal Health Information).
  • WooCommerce Ecommerce – Pushing product information from FileMaker to a web site and pulling new orders taken online and many other integrations points.
  • MailChimp / Constant Contact – Syncing contact lists and email campaigns from FileMaker data to the email service.
  • Mandril, MailGun, SparkPost – Sending trackable html emails reliably.
  • Twilio – Sending instant text messages.
  • Slack – Pushing internal company instant messages from FileMaker as reminders or notices.
  • iCloud – Pushing contacts and calendar entries from FileMaker to iCloud so that they can be viewed on an iPhone.
  • Basecamp – Project management

Nearly all of these integrations make use of the key technologies we’ve discussed above. As we at LuminFire have already completed these integrations either internally or for use on other projects, we can provide them to our clients…and do so at a more economical rate than a developer that needs to build the code to do so from scratch. Many integrations are included out-of-the-box in our FileMaker custom app framework fmIgnite in combination with BrilliantSync.

The key to effectively using FileMaker today is determining where it is the best fit tool. When will using it maximize your ROI? When does it make sense to use another off-the-shelf software package instead? When does it make sense to invest in making them talk to each other via software integration?

Every business situation is unique and the answers to these questions will depend on many factors. It makes sense to complete an analysis of existing systems and design a future solution that is the right fit taking advantage of the best-of-breed software available so that you get the ERP/CRM system you need. Our blueprint process can help by designing the solution or offering second opinion for your own analysis based on our experience with hundreds of projects.

The software world is not simple. You can’t just buy one software package and expect to run your entire business with it and be as effective, productive, and profitable as possible. With FileMaker in your toolbox operating as a digital information hub at the center of your software solution you get the advantages of owning all your data, being able to connect to nearly any other software tool, customizing your workflow however you want, and doing so cost effectively across platforms including macOS, Windows, web, and mobile.

FileMaker Star Rating and Favorite Control

FileMaker does not have a native star, rating, or favorites control similar to common apps we see like iTunes for rating favorite songs. It’s a simple way to select your favorite and see it displayed visually.

FileMaker Star Rating and Favorite Control 2

After a Google search I was unable to find any simple or up-to-date solutions for this type control. Some attempts had been made long ago but they were overly complex with the features that exist in the latest versions of FileMaker.

It’s possible to create one using the Button Bar that has many desirable characteristics:

  • It’s one object that can be copied and pasted easily into another solution.
  • The object automatically displays the star rating using conditional formatting.
  • It’s easy to restyle for different colors.
  • No special fonts, graphics, or container fields are required.
  • It works across platforms with native star images that already exist in FileMaker.
  • The rating value is stored in one simple number field that contains a number from 1-5.
  • No calculation fields or scripts are required.
  • The stars can be set to zero or none by toggling the first star.
  • Lists can be sorted by the Rating field.
  • Each star has 1 script step that sets the Rating field to a number 1-5. The script on the first star toggles the Rating field between 1 and blank.

Here’s a little detail on how it was built.

First, we created the Rating field as a Number. Then we created a Button Bar with 5 segments.

We set each button in the button bar to the built-in star icon at 24 pt size. Then we formatted the button bar so there were no lines or dividers. We set one script step attached to each icon sets the value of the Rating field to blank/1, 2, 3, 4, or 5.FileMaker Star Rating and Favorite Control 3 We set the main color of the In Focus icons to grey.

FileMaker Star Rating and Favorite Control 4

Then we selected each star icon and set conditional formatting to turn the icon red depending on the value of the Ratings field.

FileMaker Star Rating and Favorite Control

That’s it. The control can be easily copied and pasted into your solution if the Table name matches (can be changed in the sample file) and the connected numeric field named “Rating” exists in your table.

Download the free example file here so you can incorporate it into your own FileMaker solutions. Enjoy!

FileMaker Star Rating and Favorite Control 1

Mac Laptop and iPhone Travel and Photo Accessories – Mini’app’les User Group

The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota is fortunate to have a vibrant and active tech community. One such group is the Mini’app’les User Group. It’s a group of of Apple users interested in sharing knowledge and experience with other Apple users and owners. Members vary from beginners, to consultants and developers of any age. The common bond is an interest and a desire to learn more about the Apple experience, regardless of focus. You can get notifications of meetings conveniently held once a month at the LuminFire offices in Minneapolis via Meetup.

Mac Laptop and iPhone Travel and Photo Accessories - Mini'app'les User Group

At our most recent meetings we discussed many accessories that can be added to your travel bag to make it easier to use your iPhone and MacBook when on the road. We also looked at many iPhone apps that can assist. Below you’ll find some gems.

iPhone Travel Apps

  • GoodReader – Super-robust PDF reader app
  • PDF Expert – Fast, robust, and beautiful PDF editor
  • Infuse – A beautiful way to watch almost any video format on your iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
  • Currency Converter HD – Exchange Rate Calculator
  • Mobile Passport – Speeds you through U.S. Customs and Border Protection at over 20 major U.S. airports.
  • TripIt: Travel Organizer – Instantly organizes all your travel plans in one place.
  • Google Translate – Assistance with language translation
  • Flightradar24 – Show flight information in real time wherever you are
  • SeatGuru – Help with selecting the best airplane seating

Mac Laptop and iPhone Travel and Photo Accessories - Mini'app'les User Group 1 
Hardware for Travel

Photography Travel Accessories

The book 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You was also mentioned at the meeting as an interesting read.

It’s great to actually see these products in use at the meeting and get reviews from actual users on how well they hold up in the field.

Thanks to Tim Drenk (Mini’app’les President) and Peter Bockenhauer (Mini’app’les Secretary & Webmaster) for compiling and sharing this information.

If you have other ideas for useful accessories feel free to add to the comments below.

FileMaker 16 Makes Apps Faster and More Powerful!

Today is the release of FileMaker 16 with many welcome new features. We’ve had a chance to preview the software and we’re very excited about all the new changes and many that we’ve been waiting for with anticipation for a long time.

FileMaker 16 Makes Apps Faster and More Powerful!

First, here is a summary of FileMaker 16 new features as described by FileMaker:

  • Mobility: Animations and transitions, enhanced signature capture, region-monitoring script. custom paper sizes
  • Development: Layout Objects windows, cards, PDF support in FileMaker Server and WebDirect, new UI on Windows OS, copy/paste value lists, variables in FileMaker data source references, enhanced Data Viewer
  • Integration: Enhanced cURL options, JSON functions, FileMaker Data API trial, Tableau Web Data Connector for FileMaker, external script steps
  • Security: OAuth 2.0 support for accounts, clickable security lock icons, field-level text encryption
  • Scalability: FileMaker WebDirect up to 500 users

FileMaker 16 Makes Apps Faster and More Powerful! 1

As we see it at LuminFire, here are some of the biggest wins in FileMaker 16:

  1. For Windows users…FileMaker 16 makes it possible to really use multiple windows!
  2. Native integration ability with JSON and cURL support making it possible to more easily connect FileMaker to other applications
  3. New print/PDF engine that works on WebDirect
  4. Security enhancements to keep FileMaker data well protected
  5. iOS mobile enhancements to give FileMaker Go more capabilities on the iPhone or iPad
  6. Layout objects window so a developer can more easily access and edit any item on a layout
  7. WebDirect scalability up to 500 users
  8. New Plugin architecture allows adding script steps and use on FileMaker Go
  9. FileMaker Data API (trial) – The future of connecting to FileMaker from the outside world

We are going to have a series of blog posts detailing many of the new features of FileMaker 16 in the next few weeks so stay tuned to this channel! If you can’t wait and want to get started right away, we’ve consolidated some of the best resources (articles, white papers, and videos) from around the interwebs regarding FileMaker 16 right here.

Over the next few months we will be upgrading our clients to FileMaker 16, including clients and servers as we test each solution carefully for compatibility. Although there is not a native file format change with FileMaker 16, our recommendations are to test your apps where there are a lot of changes…especially on the Windows platform and with printing, since the entire print engine was rewritten in this version. Once you verify that your app works better than ever with FileMaker 16, or you make any changes necessary to make sure it does, then you can plan your upgrade. Waiting a month or two will also allow time for any quick bug fixes to be released.

We look forward to seeing many of you at DevCon this year in Phoenix. Our team will be there to answer any of your questions about FileMaker 16 at our booth as well as demonstrate exciting new ways to connect FileMaker to other apps at our Brilliant FileMaker Integration Solutions session on Wednesday, July 26 at 9 am in the Grand Canyon 4 room.

FileMaker 16 Resources

First, check out the Scoop.it FileMaker News for the latest updated articles on FileMaker.

Summary of RCC’s FileMaker 16 Top 10 New Features:

  1. No need to convert old files as FileMaker 16 still uses .fmp12 file format
  2. Windows version FileMaker 16 in no longer constrained to one Window
  3. The layout object window – Find any object on a layout no matter where it is buried or hidden
  4. PDF generation from FileMaker Server for WebDirect and Go users
  5. Card Style Windows
  6. Data Viewer live interaction as you change your formula
  7. Variables can be targets for insert script steps and as source for external data source
  8. REST API connectivity – Allow your database interact with other services
  9. oAuth authorization from Google, Amazon Web Services, and Azure
  10. Improvements to FileMaker Go: Signature Handling, Layout transitions and animations, iBeacon/Geofence support, AV player support

General FileMaker 16 announcement posts…

A Custom FileMaker App that Performs Magic Tricks

Computers are amazing technology. Very few people understand how they actually work and even when you do…it’s still amazing. Futurist and writer Arthur C Clarke said that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s true even though we often take that magic for granted today as everyone carries a supercomputer around with them in the form of a smartphone in their pocket.

When it comes to magical illusions or tricks…things that are difficult or impossible for our mind to understand…there is a special wonder and feeling for a moment that we had often as a child when we realize that we don’t know how something is accomplished. Magicians today continue to amaze us even in a world filled with movie special effects and wizardry.

The type of magic a computer can perform is very limited. Although it could simulate many card tricks, there would be no skill involved and the computer could always cheat by “looking at your card”. That limits the type of “pick a card” trick to those where you choose the card (or number) in your head and the computer determines the card you chose by “magic…a kind of computer telepathy. ” So mostly the computer can do tricks where it “reads your mind” through clever programming.

The First Apple II Computer Magic Tricks

The idea of a computer performing magic started on the Apple II by Tim Cimbura around 1982. Included here are screen shots showing the original version of the 21 card trick which was the first magic trick to be programmed into a computer. It was included as a demo application for “ApexText” the Apple II Extended Text system. It was written in AppleSoft BASIC with calls to 6502 assembly language to make the graphics work.

ApexText was one of the first applications that allowed upper and lower case letters, graphics, multiple fonts, and characters in italic, bold, colors, large, tall, wide, etc. to be used on a personal computer. The graphics at that time were a bit crude but not that bad. Then it was leading edge technology and now it’s a basic capability of every operating system.
FileMaker-A Custom App that Performs Magic Tricks
Updated for HyperCard
In November 1992, these tricks were re-written in HyperCard and several more were added. They were available as a free download from America Online called “Computer Magician”.

FileMaker-A Custom App that Performs Magic Tricks 1
Enter FileMaker
FileMaker is the #1 rapid application development platform in the world. It’s been around for 30 years and provided the tools required to make the next iteration of this app in 2007 that runs on Windows, macOS or iOS. It took quite a lot of programming trickery to get a database to do magic.

fmMagic requires FileMaker to run. If you don’t have FileMaker Pro already, you can download a free trial for your workstation. On the iPad, download the free FileMaker Go app.

Then download the FREE fmMagic app for your entertainment fun and let it do a few tricks for you.I hope you enjoyed the magic.FileMaker-A Custom App that Performs Magic Tricks 4
CREDITS
The principles involved in these tricks have existed for years in one form or another. However, the computer code, graphics, and several additional principals that make the illusions more unique are original. Credit where it’s due:

  • Trick #1, #5, #7, and #8 are old magic standards.
  • Trick #2, was inspired by a 7 up ad available on the internet.
  • Trick #3, the symbol mind reader, was inspired by Andy Naughton’s creation also available on the internet.
  • Trick #4, the destinations trick was inspired by David Copperfield in his 1992 TV special.
  • Trick #6, with the train cars was inspired by an illusion performed by David Copperfield in his 1991 TV special.

FileMaker-A Custom App that Performs Magic Tricks 2

Why FileMaker?

In our experience with hundreds of organizations, we have found that too often teams end up spending time and effort in unproductive, inefficient activities that make it more difficult to reach their goals. Many organizations operate using paper forms, different types of files and formats, spreadsheets and applications that don’t connect with each other.

According to one survey, employees at small and mid-sized firms spend 50% of their workday engaged in unproductive but necessary activities.

Why FileMaker?Operating this way causes productivity drains on teams. Most organizations say they face three challenges:

  1. Scattered information. It’s literally everywhere—in multiple applications, in notebooks, in spreadsheets, on someone’s iPad. Teams spend time and energy trying to find the information they need. According to The Paperless Project, managers spend an average of 4 weeks a year searching for or waiting on papers that are misfiled, mislabeled, or just missing.  That is like taking one month out of the calendar and throwing it away.
  2. Inefficient or ad hoc processes. The workflow is error-prone and time consuming.  In fact, the LinkedIn Records Management Professionals Group reports that 67% of data loss is directly related to user blunders… 30 times more menacing than viruses.
  3. Difficulty finding technology that fits their needs.

The following software options exist:

  1. Off-the-shelf applications and App Store apps – These are quick to find and install, but may not meet all their needs and could be hard to customize.
  2. Traditional programming tools – Many companies hire programmers to create their own applications. They can create exactly what they want, but this process takes significant time and money.  Maintaining the solution can be expensive…up to 4-10 times the cost of a FileMaker solution.
  3. FileMaker makes it easy to create custom solutions that: Cost effectively bring together all needed information, quickly streamline business processes, and can be easily updated and deployed across different devices and platforms. This can be done quickly and efficiently—at a lower cost than other application programming environments.

FileMaker Overview…

  • An Apple subsidiary…backed by the #1 tech company in the world.
  • Platform to easily create custom solutions for iPad, iPhone, Windows, Mac, and the web.
  • 30 years of experience helping companies transform their business.
  • Over 20 million units delivered in 15 languages to organizations of all sizes.
  • Over 1.5 million downloads of FileMaker Go for iPad and iPhone.

The following video presents a strong case for FileMaker’s strengths. Utilizing FileMaker can increase collaboration, help you gain insight and take action on those things that are important to your business.

The following demo shows the creation of a simple FileMaker custom app in only a few minutes. It demonstrates effectively why FileMaker is the #1 rapid application development tool in the world.

LuminFire is a Platinum FileMaker Business Alliance partner…one of only 50 in the Americas. We are experts at making FileMaker work for your organization so it is more effective, productive, and profitable. Contact us for FileMaker licensing or a free consultation to see how FileMaker could work for you.

Overland Gallery Tracks Amazing Art With Custom FileMaker/fmIgnite App and Website

Overland Gallery has been helping its distinguished clients acquire the best in Russian Realist and Impressionist paintings for over 27 years. They are the most recognized and knowledgeable source of Russian Realist and Impressionist paintings in the United States.Overland Gallery Tracks Amazing Art With Custom FileMaker/fmIgnite App and Website

For years, Overland Gallery had been using Microsoft Access for their database, however as their business grew, they recognized that they needed a more robust solution with better support. In addition, they needed a website that would aid in their communication and connection with clients. They asked LuminFire to build a new application solution and website for them.

Overland Gallery 4

To address Overland Gallery’s application needs, LuminFire began with a blueprint process. We analyzed the existing solution, identified its weaknesses and designed a new solution to address the enhancements and features desired by Overland. As part of this work, we designed the technical architecture of the solution and drew an ERD (Entity Relationship Diagram) showing a detailed data model that would allow us to track all the business information used by Overland each day. We were also able to test the process for data migration and ensure that we would be able to move all the existing information into their new solution without any data loss whatsoever. Doing this initial discovery and design work allowed us to come up with a good estimate of what the entire project would cost and provided a decision point to determine positive ROI for the project.

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fmIgnite for Art Galleries

In this particular case, LuminFire utilized a customized version of fmIgnite® expressly designed for Art Galleries. fmIgnite is LuminFire’s business solution software…a framework and jumpstart for building a custom solution. We were able to take advantage of thousands of hours of development and testing already completed and deliver a feature rich solution faster and at a lower cost to Overland than if we had started from scratch building a custom solution. fmIgnite provided Overland a great way to track the artists, employees, clients as well as their existing inventory of paintings. The invoice module worked for selling their art pieces.

Before deciding on fmIgnite, LuminFire and Overland searched for other off-the-shelf software that might fit their needs. There were some available…even one based on FileMaker. But none offered the power, flexibility, or customer service level of fmIgnite for Art Galleries available from LuminFire. Some companies even failed to respond to basic sales calls or had products that were not designed with the latest technologies that would ensure longevity and stability of the solution. With a full-time dedicated team of professionals on staff, LuminFire was responsive from the beginning and continues to be available when new enhancements are required or questions arise.

With their previous Microsoft Access based software, Overland had to connect to the database remotely via screen sharing, making it an extremely cumbersome. fmIgnite/FileMaker offers Overland direct access via a solution hosted in the cloud along with incredible flexibility and new customized functionality. For example, fmIgnite allows Overland to be able to create groups of items (in this case used as art galleries or collections) that make up a custom-tailored selection for a specific customer.  This tool allows Overland to set up art collections tailored to the preferences of a specific customer as a marketing tool.

Many Custom Features

The application tracks Russian artists. They have long names…and middle names. Attention: Russian culture lesson follows. (START LESSON) Middle names are very important in Russian culture. People get their middle name from their father even if you are male or female. Therefore we know that Mariya Vladimirovna Savchenkova’s father was named Vladimir. Her brothers would have the middle name of Vladimirovich. If your father’s name is Mikhail, your middle name would be Mikhailovich and your sisters middle name would be Mikhailova. They also use the middle names when addressing a superior like a teacher. So you would address you teacher as Mariya Vladimirovna, not Mrs Savchenkova. It would be considered very rude to address a superior or elder person with just a first name. (END LESSON) Although this might seem like a system designed to torture 1st graders trying to learn how to write their names, it’s quite important. So the application needed long fields to track the names of artists. Other art gallery software might not even accommodate that simple feature…and it wouldn’t be something you could change. In addition, LuminFire was able create a custom field for artists’ names that allowed them to by written in Cyrillic–the Russian alphabet.

The ability to create private web galleries for clients is a team effort between FileMaker and the WordPress website that required LuminFire’s deep technical knowledge and innovation at every step.  LuminFire used BrilliantSync™ to facilitate the connection between FileMaker/fmIgnite and the new website. Galleries are assembled from extremely high resolution images of paintings hosted on a local computer.  In order to put an image on their website previously, the image had to be uploaded from their computer to their server, and then sent from their server to s3 (Amazon’s Simple Storage Service that archives data and allows websites to access it).  These huge files were being sent over the server twice, which was costly in both resources and in network traffic capacity.  LuminFire was able to set up a FileMaker client directly on the computer hosting the images, and with the click of a button, those images are uploaded directly to s3, bypassing the second upload that was happening with the old system.  The new FileMaker system is only required to store a list of filenames and s3 ID numbers, freeing up both company resources and room for mission-critical network traffic.

Overland Gallery 7 Overland Gallery 8

LuminFire took a close look at many of Overland Gallery’s processes, and identified areas where improvements could be made to increase effectiveness. Frequently, Overland Gallery will have customers that are interested in art of a specific size. LuminFire created a brilliant customized search functionality that took into account whether the measurement was in inches or centimeters, etc., converted all measurements to the same type, and made them searchable. Details such as these put the finishing touch on a robust, efficient system, making it totally customized to meet the client’s needs.

Another important part of Overland’s business is the restoration and preservation of paintings. fmIgnite job templates and activities provides tracking for these projects each step of the way and ensures that the status of each painting is known at all times. Future plans include making it easier to do complete inventories of the galleries paintings through the use of RF ID tags.

LuminFire takes care of their clients and leverages their deep technical skill set to create a customized solution that really does help make businesses more effective, profitable and productive!

Overland Gallery

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fmIgnite® and BrilliantSync™ are trademarks of LuminFire®.

AeroFab Increases Productivity with fmIgnite for Manufacturing Custom FileMaker Solution

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite for ManufacturingAeroFab is a sheet metal fabrication company with seasoned experts in laser cutting, welding, design and all aspects of the fabrication process for specialized component parts used in food processing, architectural work, and more. AeroFab had been using an existing FileMaker solution and though it served them well for many years, they recognized that their needs had outgrown its capabilities.  They approached LuminFire first to assist with maintenance and minor enhancements of their existing FileMaker solution. As we worked together and analyzed their growing needs we determined that a rebuild of the system based on fmIgnite® would take their solution to the next level with the highest ROI.

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite for Manufacturing 1

A FileMaker system is only as good as the developer that created it. Also, newer versions of FileMaker have introduced entirely new capabilities that we could take advantage of fully by completely replacing the existing system. Using our extensive experience with FileMaker we were able to implement the solution with zero data loss and minimal disruption to daily work. We developed the new solution in parallel with the old one and testing/training of key personnel was completed along the way. We worked directly with the subject matter experts (SMEs) onsite to build a system that exactly met their needs and adapted to their processes.

After development and testing was complete, we set an implementation date over a weekend. That weekend we completed the data migration moving each table and field from the old database application into a place in the new fmIgnite solution. We provided onsite assistance to ensure that the transition was smooth. Due to the amazing rapid application development capabilities of FileMaker and our expert developers, we were able to address any minor issues nearly immediately following implementation.

Since fmIgnite is a solid platform built using the latest version of FileMaker, we were able to take advantage of thousands of well-tested and modern pre-built features that were implemented much faster than if we had been required to build the solution from scratch.

fmIgnite® for Manufacturing

AeroFab uses a specialized version of LuminFire’s business management application fmIgnite called fmIgnite for Manufacturing. It is built specifically for the needs of the manufacturing industry and yet can be a fully customized solution that provides a unique competitive advantage for AeroFab.

There are off-the-shelf software systems that perform these types of functions. Clients like AeroFab have found them to be more expensive and often more complex to operate. They are not elegant right-fit solutions like fmIgnite. AeroFab chose to continue to use a FileMaker based solution because they see it as a wise investment. It can be rapidly modified and enhanced to meet changes in the industry or their processes. It allows them to take advantage of not only their desktop computers but also iPads in their production areas. Another big advantage to the system is that AeroFab owns all their data. It’s not held hostage in a system with limited export capabilities. It is completely available for producing helpful reports and insights about their business.

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite

QuickBooks Integration

AeroFab chose to utilize QuickBooks for the majority of their accounting reporting functions. fmIgnite integrates with QuickBooks so that we can take advantage of that standardized accounting platform. In this way we don’t have to reinvent the wheel by rebuilding all the common accounting functions but we also have full capabilities to customize the components that are less flexible in QuickBooks in fmIgnite. We get the best of both worlds by integrating FileMaker with QuickBooks.

AeroFab Increases Productivity with fmIgnite for Manufacturing Custom FileMaker Solution

Streamlining Operations for Return on Investment (ROI)

Each product that is completed at AeroFab goes through a series of routing operations.  These routing operations can include CAD design, laser cutting, de-burring, forming, and many others.

AeroFab Implements Improved FileMaker Solution Using fmIgnite for Manufacturing 2

AeroFab found that they were spending large amounts of time setting up these routing operations for each job. fmIgnite allows them to create job activity templates and set custom templates as favorites so a user can only see their own templates.  These changes may sound simple, but implementing them streamlined the routing operation process significantly for AeroFab by drastically reducing load times and by making the template selection process extremely quick.

In addition to streamlining the routing operations process, fmIgnite also gave AeroFab many other helpful capabilities.  AeroFab can now attach multiple people to a company record, allowing them the ability to track individual clients’ contact information, including email addresses, phone numbers and job titles that had previously been all lumped together in a single field, making them difficult to access and use. fmIgnite manages their inventory stock of raw materials and saves time doing so.  Previously, the information that had been entered for their raw materials was often mistakenly duplicated and had no standard. LuminFire created custom-designed fields for each material, streamlined the data entry process, prevented duplicate entries, and helps to speed up future data entry and reduce any future errors.

Even small details contribute to being more effective. New printed labels take the place of previously hand-written labels that were difficult to read and sometimes inaccurate.

AeroFab Increases Productivity with fmIgnite for Manufacturing Custom FileMaker Solution 1

Conclusion

The combination of fmIgnite and FileMaker is powerful. FileMaker provides the rapid application development platform and fmIgnite provides a solid structure so that development of the custom application is as fast as possible.

“It’s great to see results so quickly. Development is so responsive. The LuminFire team understands our business and how to make fmIgnite do what we need to make us more efficient.” – Paul, VP of Operations at AeroFab

“Invoicing is a lot faster so we’re saving a lot of time now. In general it’s a lot more user friendly than our old system. We’re just amazed at the possibilities of everything that fmIgnite can do. As the company grows we know the app will continue to work for us and we’ll be able to make the changes required to meet our business needs exactly.” – Samantha, Office Manager at AeroFab

ROI calculations show that AeroFab should make back their investment in this custom application within one year. All of these improvements really add up saving hundreds of hours of manual work previously completed in Excel and on paper. With the improved productivity, AeroFab is now able to process more work, more effectively, leading to increased profits.

 

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fmIgnite® is a registered trademark of LuminFire®.