Archive for category FileMaker Tips

Connect WordPress Ninja Forms to Claris FileMaker Pro

We recently saw a posting on a FaceBook group requesting some help with sending WordPress form data from Ninja Forms to Claris FileMaker Pro thru the Data API without the need for the paid add-on Ninja Forms Webhook plugin. Even with the Ninja Forms Webhook plugin, you’d still need server-side code that would take the form data and convert it into a format that could be used with the Data API.

Soliant Consulting has an article with code for FileMaker 17 but the poster had issue getting it to work with FileMaker 19.

FileMaker Webhooks

We’ve built FileMaker webhooks for a varity of needs in the past and have found that creating a generic table to accept data is an easy way to add future functionality without having to change a lot of PHP code. Processing of the data is then handled inside of FileMaker with common scripting.

We created a github project for this free Ninja Forms plugin in hopes that it will benefit other FileMaker Pro users.

This project consists of two parts – the first is a WordPress plugin that you modify for your FileMaker Server host, and then upload to your web server. The second part is a FileMaker database that accepts the submitted form data. Please consult the readme file that is included with the download for a walkthru of configuring the plugin.

Our Approach

In order to simplify submission of multiple forms, we take an approach where we use a simple table that has two basic fields – the form name, and the form data as JSON.

Sample form data

There is then a script, Process Webhook, that gets invoked and that can be used to parse out the data for other needs. For example, if the form_title value is “Contact Me” then the script could create an entry in a “To Do” database for a salesperson so that they make contact with the person who submitted the form. Using a common table also allows for business logic in the processing script – for example, you don’t want create duplicate records in your CRM or you may want to add some filtering for invalid data.

If you’re interested in hearing more about how NRG can help connect your FileMaker database with WordPress, please contact our sales department.

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Here’s how to create FileMaker server-side Snapshot Links

Have you tried to create Snapshot Links in your server scripts but they fail when users try to open them? When creating Snapshot Links with server-side scripts, the IP of the host is used to create them which leads to invalid Snapshot Links for clients running outside the local network. Often, the host IP is an internal IP number which is not accessible to the outside world. When these Snapshot Links are emailed to users, they throw an error when they try to open them. Snapshot Links created using the FileMaker Pro application don’t have this issue because the links are built using the host used to access the database file, which should be a fully-qualified domain name (FQDN) if you’re using best practices.

Snippet from a Snapshot Link file showing the internal IP numbers

Using the Data File script steps that have been available since FileMaker 18, you can easily read in the Snapshot Link file, replace the IP number for 127.0.0.1, and then send the Snapshot Link in an email from a server script.

In the sample script below, we first go to the proper layout, record and sort order that we want the user to be on when they open the Snapshot Link. We then save the Snapshot Link. Once saved, we open the file and read the contents. The contents then have a simple subsitute to replace 127.0.0.1 with the valid FQDN of the host. We then write the file back to disk and send it out as an email attachment. Problem solved!

Using FileMaker Data File script steps to fix the Snapshot Link file

NRG Software has utilized Snapshot Links to automate server-side reminders for common business needs like Reorder Emails, CRM follow-ups, etc. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss adding server-side automation to your FileMaker Pro solution.

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Updating FileMaker data with Zebra mobile devices

We were recently working on a project where we needed to verify order fulfillment and staging prior to pickup by the shipping carriers.

In most instances, we’d use FileMaker Go on an iPod Touch or iPad for mobile users, but this project required that we scan barcodes quickly for optimum performance.

As a proof of concept, we created a simple FileMaker Web Direct interface so that staff could scan boxes as they were packed, and before they were put onto a pallet. The Zebra TC20 is an Android 8.1 device that accesses Web Direct with it’s Chrome browser thru a wireless connection. The TC20 is ruggedized and features a built-in barode scanner which is perfect for use in a warehouse environment.

In the video below, you can see how this streamlined interface works. The user can choose from two scanning modes – one to verify packing and the other to mark which pallet the package is on awaiting pickup. We used just a single field for barcode scanning to reduce the overall complexity.

One option we considered was using FileMaker Go on an iPod Touch or iPad. We decided not to go this route for a variety of reasons:

  • Scanning barcodes is trickier with multiple appearing on the package. We wanted to reduce the chance of false-scans using the camera on the mobile device
  • External barcode scanners on iOS can be clunky to use. With the Zebra it’s one device to manage.
  • Using the the iPod Touch or iPad would require a ruggedized case
  • There’s greater chance of loss of device with an iPod Touch or iPad with seasonal staff
  • Using a iPod Touch sled like the Linea Pro adds considerable cost and requires the use of custom plugins along with the iOS App SDK.

Another alternative to using Web Direct is building a native web app that communicates with the FileMaker backend using the Data API to update order status.

Please contact our Sales Department for further information if you’d like help creating a mobile warehouse solution.

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Who uses serial scales?

I was recently on a west coast virtual meetup event and there was a discussion about plugins and someone chimed in asking “who uses serial scales?” (or something like that…) With 20+ years of experience working with Claris FileMaker Pro customers in a warehouse, it’s fairly common for us to interface with these devices.

First off, scales used on a shop floor are very industrial and expensive. The Mettler Toledo PS60 looks to be bomb-proof and costs over $500. While current PS60’s have a USB interface, older models rely on the trusty serial protocol. We recently did a shipping integration where a customer had a flashy new dimensionalizer (that cost thousands of dollars) with a serial interface.

Mettler Toledo PS60

Talking to Serial Scales from FileMaker Pro

Interfacing with a serial scale from FileMaker Pro is easiest with a plugin like MBS or Troi Serial. Both work equally well for this use case. In the scripts below we go thru a simple process – we open a serial port, we then send some data to the device (based on device spec, some require a CR/LF or some other characters), then we receive a response back. Some scales return fractional values so we then apply a modifier as needed to get a proper weight in pounds.

Capturing the weight with MBS
Capturing the weight with Troi Serial

Note that on the Mac, you need to have an adapter for a serial scale. The preferred Tripp-Lite/Keyspan USA19-HS adapter requires drivers which will not work with macOS Big Sur. There are some serial to Bluetooth adapters which will provide connectivity for macOS.

The Keyspan USA19-HS Adapter

But what if you don’t like plugins? If you’re in the mood for a science project, you could build a microservice with a Raspberry Pi that communicates with a serial or USB scale, but then exposes it to FileMaker thru CURL. But why waste time when using a plugin is so simple?

If you don’t like science, another alternative is PrintNode, a paid service that installs on your desktop and provides an interface to scales (and printers) thru HTTP requests. PrintNode requires a bit of setup and configuration but is very powerul. One benefit of PrintNode is you can then capture weights using your app with FileMaker Go or FileMaker WebDirect. This opens a whole new world to mobile warehousing.

Alternatives to Serial Scales

Some USB scales are simply serial devices with a USB adapter. When you look at them from the operating system, they require a driver and show as a COM port or some variant. Other USB scales act as HID devices and require special applications to communicate with them using a USB vendor and product ID. We’ve found that dimensionalizers have the ability to communicate over IP using simple HTTP requests.

NRGship solutions for FileMaker have the ability to communicate with scales using serial, HID, PrintNode or IP. NRGship allows you to quickly integrate UPS, FedEx, USPS and LTL validation, rating and shipping into your app.

Please contact our Sales Department for further information if you need help communicating with scales from your own FileMaker Pro app.

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FileMaker Pro Image Magnifier

We were recently working on a project where a container field contained a detailed image and thought it would be useful if the user could zoom in on some areas.

With a FileMaker web viewer you can make use of JavaScript to add funtionality in FileMaker that doesn’t exist. With a quick Google Search we found a library that allowed magnification of images. We then created a test HTML document that magnified an image. That text was copied into a global template field and we replaced the image URLs with slugs. We then created a calc field in FileMaker to replace the slugs with container data encoded as Base64. In the video below, you can see how we went thru the process of adding the calculation. You can download our sample file here.

7/6/2021 – Sample file has been updated so that the image is scaled to fit the webviewer size in the calc field.

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