Our clients appreciate how easy it is to integrate email distributions within their FileMaker workflows. But, they almost always want to send HTML formatted email messages. This makes perfect sense because who among us has sent plain text email messages in the last fifteen years? Almost everyone includes some sort of signature or other fancy elements in their emails. Up until now we would just lower our eyes and tell our customers that they can't do that natively in FileMaker. We would further explain that they would need to buy a plugin in order to format their email messages in HTML. This would then elicit disbelief, disappointment and ultimately consternation from our bewildered customers. Well, those days are in the past when you upgrade to FileMaker Pro 18 Advanced. FileMaker, Inc. has given us the tools to tell our clients that they can send HTML-formatted email natively within their FileMaker application! How exactly are we going to make this happen for our customers? Well, I'll walk through how to do just that.
The Support Group Blog
I love it when FileMaker, Inc. releases new versions of their database tools! And, now that FileMaker Pro 18 Advanced is available, I'm still feelin' that love. There are so many new tools in 18 that allow us developers at The Support Group to enhance our customers' applications — I love exploring what can we can do and this time is no exception.
With this version, FileMaker, Inc. more than doubled the file-based script steps so now developers have 21 script steps instead of 10. All of the new steps allow us to create, read and write to and from, and manage external files. Granted, all of the functionality was available before using third-party tools (such as Troi File Plugin and the invaluable Monkey Bread Software MBS plugin), but now we can do this directly – natively – within FileMaker. Note that these new steps are probably the most complex of the new functions in FileMaker 18. Below is a list of the new steps.
You’ve been driving your car and it’s acting funny. You keep hearing a strange noise under the hood. You take the car to your mechanic and tell him all about it. However, when you try to show him, the noise is gone. We’ve all been there. Luckily, most modern cars now have the ability to plug in and dump diagnostic logs for the mechanic to review.
As a FileMaker developer, you've probably experienced similar scenarios. Your client calls you up and tells you there’s something wrong with the application. However, they can't seem to reproduce the problem when you're looking. Don’t you wish you could just plug in and see what was going on? Say hello to the Set Error Logging script step in FileMaker 18!
As technology changes, mechanisms to protect our data resources must also evolve. The FileMaker 18 Platform includes a variety of security enhancements that I’m sure the FileMaker community has been waiting for! At The Support Group, we're pretty particular about security. Drum roll. Some of the new security features you'll appreciate in FileMaker Pro 18 Advanced are:
- User interface enhancements
- New user privilege set
- Updates to file access
- Digitally signed plug-in notifications
If you had a specific situation where you needed to perform loops within a calculation, you were resigned to recursions. But now FileMaker 18 allows for While calculation functions so you can avoid those cumbersome recursive functions. No custom function necessary, no having a function call itself, no worrying about being sucked into a wormhole – maybe that last one is just me.
FileMaker's import process has not changed in a long time and so it's ripe for an update. FileMaker, Inc. has shown it a lot of love in FileMaker 18!
FileMaker’s importing capabilities are pretty extensive but they're not always intuitive. The new import dialog interface features a mix of graphics and text so it should be very easy for both new and seasoned developers to choose the most appropriate actions. Let's explore the new import features and functions.
Repeating fields have a long and somewhat controversial history in FileMaker. If you want to start a heated discussion with another FileMaker developer, start one about repeating fields! Some developers love them, some hate them and then there are some like me, who appreciate them as another tool in the belt to be used to accomplish functions that would be hard to do without them.
If you started building FileMaker applications from scratch in more recent versions of the product you may not be very familiar with repeating fields and probably have never used them. You may even have an understanding of what they are but have never found a need to use them. If you've been using FileMaker for a long time or have taken over a legacy solution, chances are you've had to deal with them.
When you get more than three FileMaker developers in the same room, it’s inevitable that at some point in the conversation they will start reminiscing about “the good ol’ days” of FileMaker and trying to one-up each other with how long they’ve been using FileMaker (since 2.1 in my case).
As we anticipate the release of FileMaker 18, I've gotten a little nostalgic about the FileMaker application and naturally, about some of the major milestones of The Support Group.
Every year, usually during the summer, FileMaker hosts a massive global conference for their developers. Like most customer/user conferences, the goal is to experience the product in different ways and explore new product features, in a supportive and fun environment. But leave it to technology to create a common developer dilemma – to go or not to go to DevCon. FileMaker, Inc. will eventually share most, if not all, of the session materials – including videos – within the FileMaker Community. So why not save the registration and travel expenses and wait until the materials become public?
Well, The Support Group has participated in DevCon in different capacities since the very first event in 1996. Yes, it's been that long and we can certainly tell you that it's worth it every year! We even share some of our own DevCon experiences during and after the conference; check out our FileMaker Developer Conference 2018 in review artcle. I cannot adequately capture the essence of why we go to DevCon, but I will try to capture a few of the main benefits.
The FileMaker Platform gives you plenty of options for exporting data out of your app. You can export files as text or even a separate FileMaker file but in our experience, the most common export format is Excel. It's pretty easy to export data out of FileMaker into Excel; the tricky part is customizing the headers of the exported data.
Why would you want to customize the headers? You may want to customize headers so that they're easy for the user to understand or to make them consistent with field names in other systems. For example, some of our developers like to group the "name" fields in a contact database by having them all start with the text "name" – nameFirst and nameLast instead of First Name and Last Name. So when we export that data natively from FileMaker, the column header will be nameFirst, not First Name. I won't get into why we do that here; that's a whole other blog post about field FileMaker naming conventions.