As promised, we want to unpack some of our learnings and experiences during DevCon 2018. FileMaker, Inc. has begun to share the session materials online. Yup, there's a lot to take in. But, don't feel overwhelmed by all of the materials. We're here to guide you with some recommendations on the sessions you might find particularly helpful.
The command line tool cURL is at the heart of the new capabilities within the “Insert from URL” script step so learning to master its myriad of options is key to unlocking its power. If we're going to integrate our FileMaker apps with the outside world of data, we're going to have to learn the tricks of the FileMaker Platform's implementation of cURL. Salvatore Conangelo gently takes us through the more challenging and less intuitive aspects of this tool while sharing a bunch of likely snares that could otherwise lead to hours of frustration and grief. One of the best parts of this presentation was the discussion of JSON Web Tokens. It's a challenging subject that many of us face when it comes time to authenticate with the likes of Google and Amazon. This is definitely a session I will have bookmarked for future reference and study!
With the arrival of Filemaker 17 came the first version of the official FileMaker Data API. If you're not familiar with what the Data API is or how to use it, this session is for you. Steve Winter is an integration master and patient teacher who has hosted dozens of DevCon presentations on web-related technologies and how they interact with the FileMaker Platform. Steve starts with the basics of what a REST-based data service is (the Data API is REST-based) and then goes on to flesh out how to authenticate, send and receive data from FileMaker Server using a nifty free tool called Postman. This session is for anyone — from the brand new FileMaker developer to the wizened veteran of the web because unlocking the potential of this new avenue to data could open up a whole new world of information for us and our users.
The Data Migration Tool is probably the most exciting and potentially most powerful tool FileMaker, Inc. has given us in a long time. This simple tool gives us the power to move mountains of data, buckets of business logic and oodles of user infused elements from one app to another with a few keystrokes. This function can spare us days of tedious and disruptive work if we can get past the intimidating blinking cursor of a command line prompt. Well have no fear friends, our white knight is here to save us from the empty black screen and his name is Clay Maeckel. Clay has a long history with FileMaker, dating back to the mid-80’s. And although he no longer sports "big hair," he has loads of knowledge about the Data Migration Tool and its uses because he built the darn thing. Clay shows us what this simple tool is and isn't and how to use it.
Sync functions are difficult but often unavoidable. We have all built apps that transparently transfer data back and forth between a FileMaker client and a FileMaker Server over a static network connection. These apps work seamlessly because the FileMaker Platform does all the heavy lifting of keeping the data synced between the local cached copy and the server’s hosted version. But if we roll out the app to say an iPad using FileMaker Go and that iPad isn’t always connected to the FileMaker Server over the Internet, then developers are responsible for syncing the data. Trying to reinvent the FileMaker magic of data syncing is no easy task. Dawn Heady presents a few options starting with the basic requirements to successfully implement a homegrown syncing solution. She includes some tried and true third-party alternatives that have been around since the challenge of sync first reared its head. And finally, she discusses the latest and arguably the most interesting tactic — use of the Data API. This session is important for anyone whose solution must work offline.
Last but not least, shout out to Wim Decorte’s session on the Internet of Things integration with FileMaker Server’s Data API. Back in the days of yore (20 yrs ago?) our own Rich Coulombre got Billy Bass (ask your parents, kids) to talk to an astonished DevCon crowd using FileMaker Pro, some fancy wiring and a very long cord. Fast-forward a few decades and Wim essentially does the same thing when he presents his 2018 session wirelessly over the Internet from some undisclosed location in Canada to the stage in Dallas. Needless to say, this type of technology opens our eyes to the possibilities of integrating the FileMaker Platform with a whole host of sensors that enable our users to have FileMaker solutions that interact with a broad network of data collecting devices. This could be a thermostat on a refrigeration unit that displays its output on a FileMaker dashboard or a button in a solution that turns on and off a lighting array. Wim delivers all this with his signature laid-back wit and exhaustive technical chops.
That's all for now. Feel free to share your comments and thoughts about DevCon 2018 with us. And keep up with the latest FileMaker Platform developments by joining our mailing list.
This article is also posted on FileMakerProGurus.com.