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eXcelisys

Hierarchical Portal Filtering Incorporating Drag-n-Drop Technique

By Andy Persons

This is part three of a three-part series on hierarchical portals in FileMaker Pro. You can find part one here and part two hereDemonstrating how to provide drag-and-drop rearranging and arbitrary sorting of hierarchical items.

Standard Interface

A common request when implementing hierarchical portal filtering is the ability to drag an item exactly where you want it to go. If you want it inside another element, just drag it on top. If you want it between two elements, just drag it in between them.

It’s a standard interface element in other areas, such as the Finder in MacOS, Explorer in Windows, and on some websites. However, the intuitive simplicity conceals quite a bit of complexity.

  • It needs to be able to clearly indicate when an item will be dropped “inside” another and when it will be “inserted” between two items.
  • It needs to elegantly handle the edge case when a user drags an item between the last child of parent and the parent’s “sibling”. Does it become the last child of that parent or the next sibling of the parent?
  • It needs to maintain the hierarchical structure at all times while providing arbitrary sort order.

Concealed Complexity

Here’s the overview:

  • This technique uses the drag-and-drop method demonstrated in this file, along with drop-target CSS to provide the visual indicators.
  • Each portal row has three container fields as drop targets. The top field will sort the dragged item above it (indicated by a line on its top border) and the bottom one will sort it below it (indicated by a line on its bottom border). The third field will make the dragged item a child of that record. Its drop target CSS is set to change the entire background color.
  • Sorting is accomplished by loading a dictionary of each related record’s id and sort number into a global variable at record load. The sort_path field uses this to calculate the sort number of each ancestor record into a single decimal number. To maintain the correct hierarchical sorting, the sort is padded with zeroes at the beginning and end. If the limits of four integer and six decimal digits are exceeded, it will automatically re-serialize the siblings.

These features could also be combined with the sorting from Part 2, if desired.

Enjoy!

•• HierarchyRevisited part 3.fmp12 ••

screen shot filemaker pro hierarchical portal filtering Part3


**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post [FMP Tip-n-Trick] FileMaker Pro Hierarchical Portal Filtering 2.3 Using Drag-n-Drop appeared first on eXcelisys.

 

View the full article

 

eXcelisys

Ziptastic Revisited

By: Doug West

**Requires FileMaker Pro 16

Lookup the city and state for any ZIP Code quickly and easily using JSON data from the Ziptastic web service API with FileMaker Pro 16.

Ziptastic is a simple web service for accessing geolocation data associated with postal codes. The API provided at getziptastic.com supports postal codes in 70 countries. By sending a US-based ZIP Code in a URL, we can quickly and easily get the associated city, county, and state. This service replaces the hassle of creating and updating an offline reference for postal codes.

We first provided the Ziptastic tip file for this web service roughly four years ago as a demonstration of the Insert From URL script step that was introduced in FileMaker Pro 12. Enhancements in FileMaker Pro 16 now allow us to simplify this process even more. Let’s take a look at the fundamental differences:

OLD Way (FileMaker Pro 12+)

  • Insert From URL script step returns JSON results to a global field
  • Separate script is called to parse field values out of the JSON data object

NEW Way (FileMaker Pro 16+)

  • Insert From URL script step returns JSON results to a global variable
  • JSONGetElement function is called to parse field values out of the JSON data object

Net Result
We have eliminated the script for the JSON parsing and the global field we were using to store the response from the Ziptastic API. Adding this feature to a solution now requires only one script and no additional fields. The script can be triggered when the user exists the ZIP Code field, and the city and state will be looked up so the user doesn’t have to enter them manually.

The Ziptastic service continues to be free for up to 100 requests per day, but now offers premium service levels for higher usage. The revenue generated by the subscriptions allows them to update the data monthly instead of only twice a year. Additional details for this web service can be found at getziptastic.com, but the concepts described in this tip are relevant to any web service using JSON as the data interchange format.

•• Download FREE FileMaker Pro demo file ••

screen shot of demo using FileMaker Pro and JSON with ziptastic web service


**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post [FMP Tip-n-Trick] Ziptastic Revisited Using FileMaker Pro 16 appeared first on eXcelisys.

 

View the full article

 

eXcelisys

FileMaker Pro Custom App with Interactive Maps & Scheduling Grids Turn Campground & Canoe Management into a Leisure Activity

Riverview Campground Map

Located on the Rifle River in Sterling, Michigan, River View Campground & Canoe Livery hosts some 2,000 guests each weekend.

Paper-process overload is one of the top reasons organizations turn to a FileMaker Pro Custom App. In the mid-2000s, River View Campground & Canoe Livery co-owner Todd Golebiewski realized he needed a better canoe and campground management system to stay afloat. With 300 canoes, 200 kayaks and 1,500 tubes — plus 2,000 weekend campers — it was a little too much to track with River View’s old-fashioned paper-stuffed binder system.

Located two hours north of Detroit, River View has experienced a steady current of growth since opening in 1991. Golebiewski co-owns the campground with his mother, Joanne Schmid. “We are one of the Midwest’s largest canoe, tube and kayak outfitters,” said Golebiewski, whose 160-acre campground in Sterling, Michigan, includes 1.3 miles of frontage on the Rifle River. “On any given weekend we cater to about 2,000 guests.”

The Rifle River is a favorite waterway for city dwellers who want to kick back, sip some suds and soak up the sun. Likewise, the Rifle is popular with families who prefer the safety of a mellow-moving river when taking a break from their land-based lives.

Relaxing on the Rifle River

Relaxing on the Rifle River / photo courtesy of River View Campground & Canoe Livery

“Our experience here is a combination of Mardi Gras and NFL tailgate,” said Golebiewski, who also works in sports broadcasting as a field technician for SMT (formerly Sportvision). “There are loud and rowdy groups but also families who want a quieter experience. We separate them in our park by having two distinct areas for them to gather and play.”

In 2006, Golebiewski decided to bail on his paper-and-binder system but came up empty-handed in his software search. “We looked at all of the existing solutions for campground management, but there was nothing that dealt with river trip operations in quite the way that we operate, so we decided to do it ourselves. We chose to go with a  FileMaker Pro custom app. because we were familiar with Apple products, but quickly realized we could not do it all ourselves, so we sought out an experienced developer and found eXcelisys.”

Up a Creek Without a Canoe Tracker

When Golebiewski came to eXcelisys with his idea for the Canoe Tracker, he had already built the interface and basic inventory database but needed help with more complex features like generating the trip schedule and displaying the live inventory. For each day to flow smoothly, the FileMaker Pro custom app database needed to track the river inventory and the people with their ever-evolving plans.

“River View has a flood of customers every weekend from sunup to sundown,” said eXcelisys Solution Consultant Laura Vie, who completed development work on the project. “People make reservations, but they change their minds. They come running into the office in their swimsuits wanting a kayak instead of a canoe, or needing to switch departure times. It was a nightmare logistically.”

Camp Bus at Riverview Campground
Campers queue up for rides to the river drops / photo courtesy of River View

As guests modified their plans, the office workers picked up their walkie-talkies to alert the canoe operators and bus drivers, who tried to keep up by jotting down changes on their clipboards. Now, whenever there’s a scheduling or equipment change, it’s updated across the network and available on the office desktops and on iPads in the field.

Paper Schedule from Legacy System
Prior to each departure, bus drivers receive a printed copy of the updated master schedule (shown above), which tells them which group is going out, as well as which specific members of the group and how many adults (ADLT) and kids (KDS). The schedule also details the river equipment each member has rented. For example: C (canoe); DK (double kayak); SK (single kayak); DT (double tube); RT (river tube); CT (cooler tube); and KT (kiddy tube).
Scheduling Screen on iPad for iOS App

Up-to-the-minute river trip information is available for viewing on iPads or iPhones for use at remote river landings. This helps operators prepare equipment for bus arrivals and track which groups are still on the river at any given moment.

The float coordinator now has a master schedule (with up-to-the-minute changes) that is printed prior to each bus departure. This helps with managing the hordes of campers queued up to get on the river. Each weekend, some 200 to 300 people depart for the river every 30 minutes between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

“The coordinator hands the updated master sheet to the bus driver, which gives a count of the people, tells which location to drive to, and what gear should be there,” said Golebiewski. “Say there’s 300 people ready to go out. We know that’s comprised of 12 different groups and can call off group names to get them loaded quickly.”

Equipment management is smoother because office staffers know exactly what river inventory is available each day. The database tracks canoes, kayaks, river tubes and “cooler” tubes that can be tied on and towed behind each flotilla to keep beverages and snacks close at hand.

Inventory Screen in FileMaker Pro Custom App

The Campground Tracker keeps tabs on how much river inventory is available for rent each day.

Canoe Kindling Fuels Campground Software Bonfire

The Canoe Tracker worked so swimmingly that Golebiewski asked eXcelisys to add campground reservation functionality a few years later. In time, the Canoe Tracker morphed into the Campground Tracker to give River View one cohesive custom FileMaker Pro app database solution for managing campground and canoe reservations.

The Campground Tracker is highly visual, with interactive maps that make scheduling a breeze. Golebiewski had a hand in the map-making. He created aerial campground maps of River View in Photoshop, then handed them off to eXcelisys, who made them interactive. The interactive maps make it quick and easy for staff to find — and fill — vacant campsites.

“Visually, it’s really cool,” said Vie, who fussed with the maps to make the fields and buttons function properly. “You can click on any campsite and create a reservation for it.” In addition, the map layout includes a listing of every campsite in the section, the name of the group that has each site reserved, the number of campers in the group, and if the site is on hold or confirmed and paid.

Riverview Campground Map Screen in FileMaker Pro Custom App

Using the interactive maps, River View staff can click on a campsite to make a reservation. Looking at this map, it is clear that site A12 is available and can hold 4–8 campers.

The Campground Tracker streamlines:

· Campsite Management / Site Inventory: Before the Campground Tracker, administering River View’s 270 campsites involved sorting through hand-scribbled reservation slips kept in a master binder with staff members using a paper map to sort groups into sites. It was like a giant game of Tetris shuffling campers into sites that met their needs while trying to fill the campground to its maximum occupancy and ensure large groups received enough adjoining campsites so everyone could camp together. Now, with the interactive maps, the campsite information is readily available in bird’s-eye view enabling staffers to see which sites are open and how many campers each site can hold. Staffers can reassign campsites with a simple click.

· Bookings / Reservations: The Campground Tracker prevents the double booking of campsites and the overbooking of canoes because the inventory is “live.” It also allows staff to make bookings simultaneously without sharing the scheduling book. Previously, River View had one “master” binder with the reservation information and campground map on which reserved sites were marked. The office staff could only work with one booking at a time, no matter how many patrons were on the phone lines. Often, they had to take notes and make callbacks.

Golebiewski says the Campground Tracker has also reduced booking errors. With the paper system, “special requests” were scribbled on the margins of the reservation sheets and sometimes got overlooked. With the new database solution, notes are time-stamped and all reservation details are entered into a networked system everyone can access. “It helps with customer communication,” said Golebiewski, noting anyone can pick up a reservation at any moment and help the customer make any changes.

Invoicing: As most campground owners know, managing groups and their payments can be tedious. One person may book for a group of 50 with each person, or couple, or family in the group paying their own fees. That’s a lot of data to keep track of and at the end of the weekend, the group may have a hefty balance if everyone hasn’t paid or if ice and firewood have been picked up at the camp store. If there’s a balance due, who is responsible? The Campground Tracker solves this issue by listing all of the purchases and charges individually for each person in the group. This makes it easy to figure out who has paid for what.

Campground Tracker Billing Screen in FileMaker Pro Custom App

The Campground Tracker helps with billing. The “group info” tab (above) displays all of the individual member reservations within the “Bucksnort” group along with their charges and payments.

Blazing New Trails for the Future

Golebiewski continues to tweak operations at River View with the help of eXcelisys. Currently, eXcelisys is adding an email module to automate email responses. A majority of booking requests and deposits are now coming through the River View website. With the new email system, staff members will no longer have to manually reply to these electronic requests. Instead, the Campground Tracker will automatically send emails to confirm reservations, acknowledge payments and so forth.

“My eXcelisys team of Levi and Kurt [Knippel] handled my tough campground reservation system project and came up with a great FileMaker Pro custom app solution for my business,” said Golebiewski. “They were able to handle all of my curveballs and delivered a great solution that has helped my business significantly.”

eXcelisys’ efforts have made Golebiewski a happy camper, indeed!

To read other eXcelisys client testimonials, click here.

The post Happy Camping at Riverview with FileMaker Pro Custom App appeared first on eXcelisys.


View the full article

eXcelisys

Editable FileMaker Pro Virtual Lists

FMP tip developed by David Thorp, Article written by Andy Persons

*Tested in FileMaker Pro 14-16

Virtual Lists

Since FileMaker Pro virtual lists were introduced more than five years go, they have seen wide use due to two primary benefits: flexibility and performance. The whole point of this tip is EDITING values in a virtual list.  That's new and fancy and most people believed impossible, until now!

Flexibility

FileMaker Pro Virtual lists allow us to display information (usually in a portal) in virtually (pun unintended) any configuration we want. We can gather information from a variety of sources and combine them how we wish, without impacting the schema (other than the initial setup of the virtual list structure). Once the structure is in place, we can also reuse it for multiple purposes.

Performance

FileMaker Pro Virtual lists have another, sometimes crucial benefit: they can be dramatically faster than retrieving data directly, especially over a remote connection. Because developers control what data is retrieved, they can avoid loading unnecessary data; because they control when it is retrieved, can avoid reloading it unnecessarily. This can result in greatly improved user experiences.

Limitations

However, FileMaker Pro virtual lists have a crucial limitation: because they rely on calculations, they cannot be edited directly. This technique allows us to work around this limitation.

This can be applied to any usage of FileMaker Pro virtual lists. For example, you might wish to quickly retrieve a list of contacts in a popover, while retaining the ability to edit names for quick corrections. Or you could display a list of students with their classes in a cross-tab arrangement, with the ability to change their class assignments on-the-fly.

Here’s an overview:

  1. Global fields are placed over the virtual fields and set to be hidden except for the active row.
  2. When a user clicks in a virtual field, the value is entered into the corresponding editable field and the focus moved there.
  3. When the user modifies the editable global field, the database is updated.
  4. The virtual list is then refreshed to load the changes.

screen shot of filemaker pro virtual ists demo file

The result is that a user can click into the unstored calculation field on the virtual list directly and it will seem like they are directly editing the values.

Though this technique was developed with FileMaker Pro virtual lists in mind, it could be used any time you want to create the experience of “editing” a calculation field.

screen shot of filemaker pro virtual lists editing demo file

Please see the demo file for more details.

 • • • Download Demo File • • •

ENJOY!


**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

eXcelisys

Editable FileMaker Pro Virtual Lists

FMP tip developed by David Thorp, Article written by Andy Persons

*Tested in FileMaker Pro 14-16

Virtual Lists

Since FileMaker Pro virtual lists were introduced more than five years go, they have seen wide use due to two primary benefits: flexibility and performance. The whole point of this tip is EDITING values in a virtual list.  That’s new and fancy and most people believed impossible, until now!

Flexibility

FileMaker Pro Virtual lists allow us to display information (usually in a portal) in virtually (pun unintended) any configuration we want. We can gather information from a variety of sources and combine them how we wish, without impacting the schema (other than the initial setup of the virtual list structure). Once the structure is in place, we can also reuse it for multiple purposes.

Performance

FileMaker Pro Virtual lists have another, sometimes crucial benefit: they can be dramatically faster than retrieving data directly, especially over a remote connection. Because developers control what data is retrieved, they can avoid loading unnecessary data; because they control when it is retrieved, can avoid reloading it unnecessarily. This can result in greatly improved user experiences.

Limitations

However, FileMaker Pro virtual lists have a crucial limitation: because they rely on calculations, they cannot be edited directly. This technique allows us to work around this limitation.

This can be applied to any usage of FileMaker Pro virtual lists. For example, you might wish to quickly retrieve a list of contacts in a popover, while retaining the ability to edit names for quick corrections. Or you could display a list of students with their classes in a cross-tab arrangement, with the ability to change their class assignments on-the-fly.

Here’s an overview:

  1. Global fields are placed over the virtual fields and set to be hidden except for the active row.
  2. When a user clicks in a virtual field, the value is entered into the corresponding editable field and the focus moved there.
  3. When the user modifies the editable global field, the database is updated.
  4. The virtual list is then refreshed to load the changes.

screen shot of filemaker pro virtual ists demo file

The result is that a user can click into the unstored calculation field on the virtual list directly and it will seem like they are directly editing the values.

Though this technique was developed with FileMaker Pro virtual lists in mind, it could be used any time you want to create the experience of “editing” a calculation field.

screen shot of filemaker pro virtual lists editing demo file

Please see the demo file for more details.

 • • • Download Demo File • • •

ENJOY!


**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post FileMaker Pro Virtual Lists appeared first on eXcelisys.

 

View the full article

 

eXcelisys

• FileMaker® Pro Tip-n-Trick •

FileMaker Master-Detail in a Web Viewer

By: RJ Carroll

* This has been tested on FileMaker Pro 14-16

FileMaker Master-Detail views are a great way to minimize the number of separate layouts and also provide users with the best of both worlds when it comes to viewing their data as a hybrid of FileMaker Pro’s native “List” and “Form” views. A Master-Detail interface is also naturally intuitive to users familiar with side navigation panels that are commonplace across the web. Given their popularity with users, developers have long sought a simple, flexible way to implement master-detail views in custom apps.

The Old Masters

Originally, to create a Master-Detail view, the common approach was to add a second table occurrence for the table that the current layout is based on with the relationship defined as a Cartesian (“X”) join. This setup requires placing a portal to the new TO on the layout to serve as the “master” list, then attaching a Go To Related Record step to a button or field in the portal row. Because this basic approach can quickly become hard to manage in larger solutions with a lot of tables, a more popular method has been to use some type of a virtual list. (An implementation of a virtual list master-detail is the approach is that’s used in the Master Detail 2.0 module available on Modular FileMaker.) But what if you just want a Master-Detail without adding lots of extra tables, fields, and sets of scripts to your app?

Visualizing The “List Of”

One way to create FileMaker Master-Detail views everywhere with minimal overhead is to harness the power of a “List Of” summary. We’ve found a lot of magical uses of FileMaker Pro’s “List Of” summary field since it was introduced in FileMaker Pro 13. “List Of” summaries possess two key features that make them useful in setting up a new, super-fast type of Master-Detail view: (1) You have access from the current record to all the data for the entire found set and (2) the data is in the same sort order as the found set. So, just by creating a summary list of names, and placing that field on a layout, you already have a type of native master-detail view. It’s just not very useful for navigation. At least not yet…

Nobody Does Lists Like HTML

HTML lists have probably been around forever. They were definitely around when I learned HTML back in the 90’s, and they still work the same way. The cool thing about an HTML list item is that, unlike a portal row, it doesn’t care how much vertical space it takes up. Another cool thing about an HTML list item is that it–and this may be shocking–can be a link. Thanks to the specifications of FMP URI scheme, it can even be a link to the very FileMaker database you’re currently using. So this gives you immense power to create a Master-Detail view composed of only four easy steps:

  1. Create a stored calculation field that wraps some meaningful text from the record, along with the record number or primary key in HTML <li> and <a> tags that contain an fmp:// link back to the target record in FileMaker.
  2. Define a “List Of” summary of that field to show all the HTML elements in the found set.
  3. Place a web viewer on the layout that references the summary field and contains a little opening and closing HTML.
  4. Write a script to accept the parameter passed back to FileMaker when you click the link and navigate to the appropriate record.

That’s really all there is to it. Depending on how you setup your solution, the web viewer layout object, calculation and summary fields can literally be pasted into any part of your app without any modifications at all. If you want to get fancier and more creative, this FileMaker Master-Detail technique can also be expanded to harness CSS styling, sub-summary headers, images or anything else your web skills allow. Check out this implementation by downloading our demo file. It shouldn’t be hard to master the details in no time at all.

• Download the demo file and give it a view! •

FileMaker Master-Detail in a Web Viewer

** PLEASE NOTE: A new security feature in FileMaker Pro 16 requires you to expressly enable execution of web scripting. Make sure this has been enabled as shown below.

FileMaker Pro 16 Privilege settings


***This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like our help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. we specialize in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, PostgreSQL, and MySQL for database frameworks. Complimenting those database frameworks we have competency with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, PHP, CodeIgniter, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing excellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation regarding your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post [FMP Tip-n-Trick] FileMaker Master-Detail in a Web Viewer appeared first on eXcelisys.

 

View the full article

 

eXcelisys

Inverted Portals With FileMaker Pro

By: Doug West

**Tested on FileMaker Pro versions 14-16

Portals are great for displaying information in the appropriate context. Unfortunately, they don’t always provide the most intuitive user experience when newcomers are learning how to enter data in a FileMaker solution.

After configuring a relationship in the Manage Database window to enable the option to “Allow creation of records in this table via this relationship”, we can easily create related records within a portal by simply typing new values in the last row of a corresponding portal. Entering the first batch of related records seems straightforward enough. But what happens once you’ve exceeded the number of visible rows in the portal?

portal sample screen shot

Here is where we start to see the puzzled looks. When we’re ready to add the next related record, we first have to scroll through the list of existing records to access the blank “record creation row” at the bottom. This is enough of a nuisance that we often see buttons to improve the user experience through scripting.

So today’s challenge was to find the most efficient solution to this usability problem, with the added requirement to present the results in descending order by date. This concept for inverted portals must allow creation of new records on the first row, followed by the existing data rows from newest to oldest. We’ll be able to add entries without the nuisance of scrolling and we’ll see the most relevant information first.

So how can we get the record creation row to appear at the top of the portal? As is often the case in FileMaker Pro, there is more than one way to do it. Maybe your first attempt could involve some global fields for entering data above the portal, which could then trigger a script to create a related record, set the data, and clear the global fields. Effective? Sure, but not elegant. I’m looking for a cleaner approach that’s a bit “lighter”.

How about two portals using the same related table occurrence with no scripts and no extra fields? By telling our first portal to filter out all existing records (using a very simple formula! (see demo)), we’re left with just the record creation row. Position that above another copy of the same portal showing the existing data sorted by date, while hiding objects in the record creation row at the bottom.

•• Download FREE FileMaker Pro demo file ••

screen shot of demo for FileMaker Pro Inverted Portals

We now have an upside-down portal that’s sure to satisfy developers and end users alike! We haven’t added any scripts, fields, or table occurrences, and we’ve saved your users at least a few mouse-clicks along the way.

ENJOY!


**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post [FMP Tip-n-Trick] Inverted Portals with FileMaker Pro appeared first on eXcelisys.

 

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Hierarchical Portal Filtering within FileMaker Pro

By Andy Persons

This is the second of a three-part series on FileMaker Pro hierarchical portal filtering. You can find part one here.

This FileMaker Pro hierarchical portal filtering file demonstrates how to provide high-performance sorting of a hierarchical portal by various fields, while maintaining the hierarchy. **Been tested in FileMaker Pro versions 14-16.

Download the FileMaker Pro hierarchical portal filtering demo file.

filemaker pro hierarchical portal filtering part 2 screenshot

Static Approach

The most straightforward approach would require creating an index “path” calculation for every field that you might want to sort by. For example, if you wanted to sort by name, you’d have to create a sort_name field that contained “Plants Vegetables Roots Carrots”. Each additional field that you wanted users to be able to sort by would need a similar field. Also, whenever a record was edited, all descendant records would need to have their sort fields updated.

Dynamic Approach

For very small data sets, you could make the path field an unstored calculation and have each record calculate up the path chain dynamically. However, this would very quickly become so slow as to be unusable.

Dynamic Approach with High-Performance

This FileMaker Pro hierarchical portal filtering file demonstrates an approach that combines the light footprint of a dynamic approach with performance closer to that of a static approach.

Here’s the overview:

  • A dictionary field (sort_dictionary) of record id’s and sort field values is created in the data table.
  • Before sorting, all related values of sort_dictionary are copied into a global variable named $$sort_dictionary using the List() function.
  • A sort key field (sort_key) is calculated on the fly by replacing IDs in the record’s id_path with the corresponding sort value from $$sort_dictionary and padding it with zeros if it’s a number field.
  • For example, an id_path with “000001 000034 000052 000076” would become “Plants Vegetables Roots Carrots” on the fly, using the values from $$sort_dictionary
  • The portal is then set to sort by sort_key.
  • Because the data from both id_path and $$sort_dictionary have already been downloaded to the local machine, sort_key can calculate very quickly.

Next Installment: Hierarchy Advanced 2.3

Drag-and-drop arbitrary sorting and reassignment

Stay Tuned!


**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235 | info@excelisys.com

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post FileMaker Pro Hierarchical Portal Filtering 2.2 appeared first on eXcelisys.


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Got Rentals?

Finally, the Ultimate Rental-Tracking Software Solution for the Equipment Rental Industry!

 
1*wIuSsMqaD1mzTONMPeLgfQ.jpeg

Pre-made? Custom? Or SaaS? It’s a never-ending battle of pros and cons when trying to find apps that will make your rental business run smoother while giving you the best bang for the buck.

Pre-made? Tempting. It costs less up front but choosing this one-size-fits-all solution may leave you addled with useless features and not enough functionality. Custom? Seems costly but will definitely meet your needs. With SaaS (software-as-a-service), you remain at the mercy of your vendor for feature upgrades, and as fees add up over the years you may find you could have paid for a custom-fit solution instead!

Luckily, when it comes to rental business software applications, there’s another way …

eXcelisys has released a new eX-File, the eX-RentalTracker — a FileMaker Pro jump-start solution for the equipment rental industry. The app tracks inventory, bookings, returns, customer contacts, invoices and payments and includes an availability calendar. Because the basics are already there, customization is quick and easy.

The eX-RentalTracker is the best of both worlds, offering clients a software solution that’s part ready-made and part custom.

 
eX-RentalTracker

“After working with multiple customers constructing tailor-made rental tracking solutions for their businesses, we decided to build a jump-start solution for the masses,” said Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development. “The eX-RentalTracker comes pre-built with many of the standard features our rental business clients have been requesting.”

The eX-RentalTracker is for rental businesses who’ve found out-of-the-box software solutions too clunky and custom-built systems too expensive. The eX-RentalTracker can be used on a desktop PC (Mac/Windows) with certain task-based functions available on iPads.

 

 

 

See the eX-RentalTracker in Action Today

Businesses interested in the eX-RentalTracker can request a FREE demo copyvia the eXcelisys website. After receiving the eX-RentalTracker demo, you can tool around in the app to see how easy and intuitive it is to use. You won’t need a tutorial to figure out how the eX-RentalTracker works because the tabbed interface makes navigation a cinch. Check out the “home” screen, which includes “Quick Tasks” tabs that provide rapid access to the tasks most frequently used in rental app solutions.

The eX-RentalTracker simplifies daily processes. Features include:

  • Kitting (allows multiple items to be packaged in a single rental kit)
  • Barcodes/handheld scanners (for quick check-out/check-in)
  • Instant invoicing (no more entering long strings of product numbers)
  • Equipment tracking (prompts users to select the condition of returned items at check-in so broken inventory doesn’t get placed back on the shelf)
 
1*etEQF6f9bTbg01Zbm7N8yw.png
Availability calendar prevents overbooking.
 
1*WRuxpgPP2nqQh-WLDIHIbw.png
The “Quick Tasks” tabs on the home page offer quick access to many everyday tasks, such as adding a customer, a product, a PO, a vendor or an order.
 
1*AP-ZE9vfMeCRPazsLZMxuQ.png
Track the history of each item — know where it’s been and the condition in which it was returned.

eX-File FileMaker Pro Templates Save Tons of Time & Money

eXcelisys has been designing jump-start FileMaker Pro template solutions since 2004 when the first edition of the FileMaker Pro BizTracker was released. Since then, the BizTracker (for sales-driven businesses) has evolved into a full lineup of eX-File solutions, including the eX-TruckingTracker (which tracks trips, mileage, and expenses) and the eX-EvalTracker (used to archive employee performance).

The eX-BizTracker has been a popular and steady jumping-off point for countless eXcelisys customers requesting software development. Ever proactive, eXcelisys developers modified the tried-and-true eX-BizTracker to create the eX-RentalTracker by adding features and functionality common to and frequently requested in the rental industry.

Recently, Birnn Chocolates of Vermont contracted with eXcelisys for a biz-tracking solution. After four generations and 101 years in business, Birnn Chocolates was ready to join the 21st century with a software upgrade to smooth daily operations. Owner Mel Fields had been using a hodgepodge of paper record-keeping, Excel spreadsheets and Google documents to keep the truffles flowing. Fields needed an up-to-date system to manage the production process, ensure order fulfillment and track the ingredients and finished goods for FDA compliance.

Instead of starting from scratch — like he does with his truffles — Fields started the process using the eX-BizTracker as a foundation for his business solution. During his hands-on experience with the eX-BizTracker demo, Fields discovered that many of the features he needed were already built into the software. “Being able to demo was essential for being able to pull the trigger and make the decision,” said Fields. Utilizing the pre-built mock-up allowed Fields to zero in quickly on modifications needed to make the software fit his unique business needs.

Fields is still awaiting his software solution as eXcelisys developers finish tweaking the eX-BizTracker build. Fields is certain he’s getting a great deal. “We spent some hours taking away features, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m quite sure we got a lot more for the money by starting with BizTracker.”

Like Birnn Chocolates, Cinema Camera Rentals recently came to eXcelisys seeking a custom inventory management app and used the eXcelisys BizTracker5 as the foundational template. “This approach helped me the most from a time standpoint,” said Cinema Camera rental manager Matt Stemmley. “Instead of dedicating the energy to figure out how I wanted the system to be laid out, I instead hit the ground running on envisioning functionality.”

Stemmley advises business owners to take advantage of the eX-RentalTracker. “Future customers of eXcelisys in any sort of rental capacity will ideally be able to start with the eX-RentalTracker base and add features as they see fit.” Stemmley says he “highly recommends” the eX-RentalTracker to anyone considering a rental app based on the FileMaker Pro platform. “In my opinion, it will save them countless hours that could be dedicated to other areas of design and functionality.”

Demo the eX-RentalTracker today. Like Birnn Chocolates, discover how pre-built FileMaker Pro templates can sweeten the deal in the search for the right and perfect software solution for your equipment rental business.

To request the eX-RentalTracker demo, click here.

To read about the Cinema Camera rental-tracking solution, click here.

To read about another eXcelisys-built rental-tracking solution, click here.

eXcelisys

Finally, the Ultimate Rental-Tracking Software Solution for the Equipment Rental Industry!

eX-RentalTracker rental-tracking solution

Pre-made? Custom? Or SaaS? It’s a never-ending battle of pros and cons when trying to find rental-tracking apps that will make your rental business run smoother while giving you the best bang for the buck.

Pre-made? Tempting. It costs less up front but choosing this one-size-fits-all solution may leave you addled with useless features and not enough functionality. Custom? Seems costly but will definitely meet your needs. With SaaS (software-as-a-service), you remain at the mercy of your vendor for feature upgrades, and as fees add up over the years you may find you could have paid for a custom-fit solution instead!

Luckily, when it comes to rental business software applications, there’s another way …

eXcelisys has released a new eX-File, the eX-RentalTracker — a FileMaker Pro jump-start solution for the equipment rental industry. The app tracks inventory, bookings, returns, customer contacts, invoices and payments and includes an availability calendar. Because the basics are already there, customization is quick and easy.

The eX-RentalTracker is the best of both worlds, offering clients a software solution that’s part ready-made and part custom.

rental-tracker-300x299.png“After working with multiple customers constructing tailor-made rental tracking solutions for their businesses, we decided to build a jump-start solution for the masses,” said Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development. “The eX-RentalTracker comes pre-built with many of the standard features our rental business clients have been requesting.”

The eX-RentalTracker is for rental businesses who’ve found out-of-the-box software solutions too clunky and custom-built systems too expensive. The eX-RentalTracker can be used on a desktop PC (Mac/Windows) with certain task-based functions available on iPads.

See the eX-RentalTracker Rental-Tracking Solution in Action Today!

Business owners interested in the eX-RentalTracker can request a FREE demo copy via the eXcelisys website. After receiving the eX-RentalTracker demo, you can tool around in the app to see how easy and intuitive it is to use. You won’t need a tutorial to figure out how the eX-RentalTracker works because the tabbed interface makes navigation a cinch. Check out the “home” screen, which includes “Quick Tasks” tabs that provide rapid access to the tasks most frequently used in rental app solutions.

The eX-RentalTracker simplifies daily processes. Features include:

  • Kitting (allows multiple items to be packaged in a single rental kit)
  • Barcodes/handheld scanners (for quick check-out/check-in)
  • Instant invoicing (no more entering long strings of product numbers)
  • Equipment tracking (prompts users to select the condition of returned items at check-in so broken inventory doesn’t get placed back on the shelf)

 

eX-RentalTracker Availability calendar screen shot

Availability calendar prevents overbooking.

eX-RentalTracker Orders Screen Shot

The “Quick Tasks” tabs on the home page offer quick access to many everyday tasks, such as adding a customer, a product, a PO, a vendor or an order.

eX-RentalTracker product history screen shot

Track the history of each item — know where it’s been and the condition in which it was returned.

eX-File FileMaker Pro Templates Save Tons of Time & Money

eXcelisys has been designing jump-start FileMaker Pro template solutions since 2004 when the first edition of the FileMaker Pro BizTracker was released. Since then, the BizTracker (for sales-driven businesses) has evolved into a full lineup of eX-File solutions, including the eX-TruckingTracker (which tracks trips, mileage, and expenses) and the eX-EvalTracker (used to archive employee performance).

The eX-BizTracker has been a popular and steady jumping-off point for countless eXcelisys customers requesting software development. Ever proactive, eXcelisys developers modified the tried-and-true eX-BizTracker to create the eX-RentalTracker by adding features and functionality common to and frequently requested in the rental industry.

Recently, Birnn Chocolates of Vermont contracted with eXcelisys for a biz-tracking solution. After four generations and 101 years in business, Birnn Chocolates was ready to join the 21st century with a software upgrade to smooth daily operations. Owner Mel Fields had been using a hodgepodge of paper record-keeping, Excel spreadsheets and Google documents to keep the truffles flowing. Fields needed an up-to-date system to manage the production process, ensure order fulfillment and track the ingredients and finished goods for FDA compliance.

Instead of starting from scratch — like he does with his truffles — Fields started the process using the eX-BizTracker as a foundation for his business solution. During his hands-on experience with the eX-BizTracker demo, Fields discovered that many of the features he needed were already built into the software. “Being able to demo was essential for being able to pull the trigger and make the decision,” said Fields. Utilizing the pre-built mock-up allowed Fields to zero in quickly on modifications needed to make the software fit his unique business needs.

Fields is still awaiting his software solution as eXcelisys developers finish tweaking the eX-BizTracker build. Fields is certain he’s getting a great deal. “We spent some hours taking away features, but in the grand scheme of things, I’m quite sure we got a lot more for the money by starting with BizTracker.”

Like Birnn Chocolates, Cinema Camera Rentals recently came to eXcelisys seeking a custom inventory management app and used the eXcelisys BizTracker5 as the foundational template. “This approach helped me the most from a time standpoint,” said Cinema Camera rental manager Matt Stemmley. “Instead of dedicating the energy to figure out how I wanted the system to be laid out, I instead hit the ground running on envisioning functionality.”

Stemmley advises business owners to take advantage of the eX-RentalTracker. “Future customers of eXcelisys in any sort of rental capacity will ideally be able to start with the eX-RentalTracker base and add features as they see fit.” Stemmley says he “highly recommends” the eX-RentalTracker to anyone considering a rental app based on the FileMaker Pro platform. “In my opinion, it will save them countless hours that could be dedicated to other areas of design and functionality.”

Demo the eX-RentalTracker today. Like Birnn Chocolates, discover how pre-built FileMaker Pro templates can sweeten the deal in the search for the right and perfect software solution for your equipment rental business.

To request the eX-RentalTracker demo, click here.

To read about the Cinema Camera rental-tracking solution, click here.

To read about another eXcelisys-built rental-tracking solution, click here.

The post Got Rentals? Get Our Rental-Tracking eX-File! appeared first on eXcelisys.


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New Camera Rental Tracking App Trims Paperwork “Production” Time & Turns Daily Tasks into One-Click Acts

Cinema Camer Art

In the hot movie-making hub of Hollywood, Cinema Camera Rentals faces stiff competition in providing customers with the latest and greatest technology has to offer. With a need to streamline its equipment rental pipeline, Cinema Camera Rentals recently contracted with eXcelisys for a new rental tracking app. Together, the two firms wrote the script for a bang-up inventory management system and eXcelisys produced the final cut, with the system premiering in February 2017.

Lights! Camera! Plenty of Action!

Based in Culver City, California, Cinema Camera Rentals opened in 2008 when Future Line Entertainment principals Mark and Emma Cameron started renting out their small inventory of film production equipment. Future Line is known for its commercial spots, including some for Oakley WomenNike Swim and Nike Basketball.

While the Camerons focused on their production company, the rental business grew. In 2013, Matt Stemmley was brought in to join the cast as rental manager at Cinema Camera, which serves clients embarking on months-long feature film shoots and those producing high-end commercials. “We rent top-of-the-line cameras, lenses and accessories,” said Stemmley, noting the value of some equipment packages hits $50,000 to $200,000.

As a brick-and-mortar rental house serving the Los Angeles area, Cinema Camera provides more than cameras. A full production takes truckloads of equipment, including monitors for instant viewing of what the camera sees; matte boxes to prevent lens flare; tripods, dollies and gliding camera stabilizers (like the DJI Ronin) to ensure steady shots; light panels with C-stands; microphones and boom poles. Battery packs. The list goes on.

Cinema Camera rents it all, which means Stemmley has lots of serial numbers and items to track. Cinema Camera oversees nearly 2,000 individual items within its inventory. To keep track of it all, Stemmley instituted barcoding after joining the company and began utilizing Excel spreadsheets.

Stemmley’s primitive tracking system worked, but it had its limitations. To manage rental kits, purchase orders, quotes and invoicing, Stemmley had to open and review multiple files within Excel. The process was time-consuming. Stemmley understood where to find the information, but it was hard for other employees to follow up on his work. In addition, quotes could only be generated one at a time because of limited access to the Excel spreadsheets.

“I tried to envision a better workflow for day-to-day operations,” said Stemmley, who conceived of a system where employees could view each other’s work in real time and see the quotes and invoices others were preparing. “In order to push those daily tasks out onto other employees, we needed a better system. We needed a system we could all have access to.”

Looking for a solution, Stemmley reached out to other high-end rental houses to see what kind of inventory management software they used. He discovered that some opted for premade software they leased or purchased, while others bought custom systems. “I wasn’t able to get a uniform sense of the best option,” said Stemmley. One of the happiest rental houses he found utilized a FileMaker Pro system, custom-built by a software developer. Stemmley decided to follow that lead and was referred to eXcelisys for the custom FileMaker database design and development needed for the task.

FileMaker Pro Takes Spotlight as Valuable Production Assistant

In May 2016, Stemmley and eXcelisys began working on plans for a custom software solution. Stemmley created a laundry list of needs and the eXcelisys developers made them a reality. The new system connects desktop computers, wireless scanners, iPads and a Mac mini hosting the FileMaker Pro database solution, enabling real-time access to the latest information from any device by any of the employees.

Because the software is streamlined and very intuitive to use, Stemmley no longer has to micromanage the invoicing and quoting process. He can rely on other employees for these tasks. “Having a centralized point of contact … that helps,” said Stemmley. “Everybody can see everything. It’s allowed me to take the stress off myself.”

There’s also less stress to getting multiple quotes compiled and delivered in one day because the task is quicker and quotes can be created simultaneously. In addition, invoicing is faster with no more need to click through multiple Excel screens to fill out an invoice template. Items that have been scanned out and scanned in appear on the invoice automatically. The program also figures rental rates, offering the appropriate discounts for multi-day use. “Invoicing is crazy easy,” said eXcelisys developer Rob Poelking. “The numbers are there. It fills in everything. You only have to click a button.”

Cinema Camera rental tracking Invoice

Day-to-day operations also run smoother because employees can jump on a workstation, go to the home page and filter for outgoing rentals. Once the employee has a list of orders going out, the employee can select an order and print a “pick list” so the items can be assembled on time. It’s also easy to amend an order at pickup. If a customer needs to add another matte box or filter, the item can be scanned, which then automatically adds it to the order — no need to look up item numbers or pricing. It’s all there.

The new inventory management system also helps Cinema Camera track subrentals. With a goal of having the right equipment on time and on demand, Cinema Camera sometimes uses subrentals and consignments to meet customer needs. With subrentals obtained from other rental houses, Cinema Camera has to generate POs to pay for the equipment. The new software system has streamlined this process.

Camera rental tracking Inventory Orders Screen

Another custom feature includes a field that displays a customer’s insurance information — with expiration date — on the order page. To protect its investment, Cinema Camera requires customers to have at least 1 million dollars in general liability coverage. The easy display ensures this information is up to date. In the end, Stemmley says, the new tracking system has improved the outlook at Cinema Camera Rentals.

Camera rental tracking Inventory Accessories Screen

FileMaker Pro Retains All-Star Status in New Rental-Tracking App

Cinema Camera Rentals is just one of the many rental businesses eXcelisys has assisted with custom software development in recent years.  “We wanted to get more productive and apply our efforts in the right places,” said Stemmley. “Not get bogged down with paperwork.” Working with such businesses prompted eXcelisys to create the ex-RentalTracker — a jump-start FileMaker Pro template that can be quickly modified to meet the needs of any rental business.

Like Cinema Camera, maybe you, too, are torn between choosing a low-cost, premade, out-of-the-box software solution, or investing in a custom system to get everything you need. Try the eX-RentalTracker for yourself by requesting a FREE demo copy via the eXcelisys website, and get the best of both worlds.

To read about another eXcelisys rental-tracking app, click here.

The post Cinema Camera Reboots With FileMaker Pro Rental Tracking App appeared first on eXcelisys.


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Blockbuster Rental-Tracking Inventory App Sharpens Booking Process, Cuts Equipment Retrieval and Check-in Times

Gulf Camera Inventory Control Header

During Hollywood’s rapid fade-out of 35-millimeter film, camera operator Neal Norton saw an opportunity to make money in the digital retooling of the industry. The year was 2010 and the German-made Arri ALEXA had just hit the market, providing a viable digital alternative to celluloid film.

Norton decided to take action. He partnered with cinematographer Alan Degen to found Gulf Camera and the two began stockpiling the groundbreaking ALEXA. “We could see this was the first time there was a digital camera suitable and with high enough quality to use in theatrical motion pictures,” said Norton. “We opened our rental business based on that technology.”

The duo couldn’t have written a better script. The ALEXA shot quickly to movie star fame as production companies dove into the digital revolution. Gulf Camera’s ALEXAS were in high demand. Meanwhile, Norton and Degen stayed active in the industry. Norton has worked on more than 40 feature film sets, operating cameras and steadicams for Tim Burton, Philippe Rousellot and Denzel Washington.

But working in Hollywood and managing the Florida-based rental business became a struggle. Five years in, Norton knew he needed to reframe how Gulf Camera handled its inventory and invoicing. Gulf’s spreadsheet/word processor/pen-and-paper method was inefficient and inadequate. As Norton panned for options, he came across eXcelisys.

In January 2016, Gulf Camera went live with a new rental-tracking system built by eXcelisys. A custom app, barcodes, scanners. These all make life easier for Norton.

Some favorite features:

Availability calendar: Because Norton and Degen work on bookings concurrently and from off-site locations as they travel for work, they had problems controlling inventory. “It was not unheard of for us to rent the same gear to multiple people,” Norton said. Before the new system was in place, they emailed each other continually to check on item availability. Now, with a centralized app managing the inventory for them, Norton and Degen know instantly if an item is in-house or out and when it will be back. Double-bookings are no longer a problem and the booking process is more efficient.

Inventory Availability Calendar

Barcoding for rapid check-in/check-out: The new system uses barcodes — something Gulf Camera had not previously utilized. Before barcodes, Norton had to check out — and check in — large orders by hand. This was time-consuming because some products come with 30 or 40 pieces — all separate from the basic product itself but necessary for the use of the product.

For example, when customers rent a camera body, they also need a viewfinder, cables, extension rods, filters, batteries and so forth. With barcoding, Norton scans an item and it goes on the ticket. This system ensures that all items from the “pick list” have been pulled and nothing is missing from the order.

Norton finds the barcodes especially helpful at check-in. He no longer has to hand-check each item in every return. “In the heat of production, it’s not uncommon for a piece of equipment to go missing,” said Norton, given the long days, late nights and working conditions the crew may face over the course of a shoot. “One of the keys to making this business work is making sure all the pieces come back,” said Norton. “On check-in you know immediately — instead of weeks later — if something is missing.”

Gulf Camera Inventory Prep Room

Now that Gulf Camera has a slick, centralized, barcode-driven system for rental management, Norton can’t imagine conducting business without it. “It would be torturous to do it a different way,” he said, joking that the FileMaker Pro server is the most important piece of equipment in the whole shop, though it sits next to cameras that cost upwards of $50,000.

FileMaker Pro Takes Lead Role in eXclusive Rental-Tracking App

Gulf Camera is just one of the many rental businesses eXcelisys has assisted with custom software development in recent years. After creating rental solutions over and over for different clients, eXcelisys developers had a grand idea — why not develop a jump-start FileMaker Pro template solution for the rental business industry? By end of April 2017, eXcelisys rolls out the eX-RentalTracker — a new edition to the eXcelisys eX-Files lineup of jump-start FileMaker Pro templates. Other offerings include: eX-BizTracker5eX-EvalTracker and eX-Trucking Tracker.

“The eX-RentalTracker is designed with the common base features our rental business clients have been requesting,” said Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development. The eX-RentalTracker is aimed at rental businesses who’ve found out-of-the-box software solutions too clunky, and custom-built systems too expensive.

The eX-RentalTracker comes standard with an inventory availability calendar, kitting and barcoding. It tracks inventory, bookings, returns, invoices and payments.

Look for the public release announcement of the eX-RentalTracker in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, you can get a sneak preview and try it out for yourself by requesting a FREE demo copy of eX-RentalTracker via the eXcelisys website. The FREE demo will give you a good feel for how the rental solution jump-start will work in action for your needs. Just like Gulf Camera — you, too, can write a happy alternate ending to your rental-tracking tale of woe by contacting eXcelisys today.

For more information on the eX-Files, click here.

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FileMaker® Pro / WebDirect: FileMaker Web Subscription Service Keeps Oil Field and Reservoir Data Flowing to Prospectors 24/7

Just because your business involves fossil fuels, the technology you rely on doesn’t need to be a fossil too. A new FileMaker web solution brings new technology to finding an old resource. 
Oil Rig

In the United States, the average person consumes about 2.5 gallons of crude oil per day — or 22 barrels per year. Offshore oil production helps meet this need. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in the past decade, offshore oil production has accounted for about 30 percent of total global oil production.

Petroleum powers our lives. We rely on it all day long. Every day — and not just to gas up our cars. Plastic water bottles, bike tires, heat, ink, crayons, bandages, toilet seats, tape, roofing tar, and even propane for the backyard barbecue. All possible, thanks to petroleum.

We utilize the fossil fuel endlessly, topping off our tanks and speeding away from the pump without ever stopping to think about the process that brought the gas into our lives.

Dr. Steve Cossey thinks about it all the time.

As a geologist and founder of Cossey & Associates Geoconsulting (based in Durango, Colorado), Cossey is in the business of helping oil companies locate underwater reservoirs of the slick, black stuff we love so much. So what is Cossey’s fantastical tool for oil exploration? The humble database.

For 20 years, prospectors have used Cossey’s comprehensive FileMaker Pro database of oil field and reservoir geology to plan deepwater explorations. The database has been available through DVD subscription. Periodically, Cossey updates the database and mails out new DVDs to subscribers.

Since the early 2000s, eXcelisys has helped Cossey with the design and maintenance of his database. Last fall, Cossey decided to take the plunge and revamp his system by adding web functionality to make the database available as an online subscription service. Several factors played into the decision, primarily a drop-off in DVD subscribers following a downturn in the oil industry. To help fuel subscriptions, Cossey decided to place the database on the Internet so it would be available to anyone willing to buy a block of time to access the information.

“I thought, ‘What am I going to do to utilize this database and find some other way of getting it out there to people to use in a different mode?’ ” The conversion went live a few weeks ago, making the Cossey Turbidite Field and Reservoir Database available online and putting Cossey’s DVD-burning days behind him. “It’s very slick, very fast,” said Cossey. “I think we’ve covered all the bases.”

 FileMaker Web Tech - WebDirect Login Screen

Drilling into the Data Made Easy

What, exactly, is on the Cossey database and how do geoscientists and engineers from oil companies utilize the information?

Deepwater reservoirs are expensive to drill, so oil companies need to vet their prospects carefully. This is problematic, says Cossey, because “the deepwater environment is such a lightly known area of the world.” Oceans cover 70 percent of the earth’s surface with 95 percent of the ocean floor remaining unmapped.

Given the unknowns, how do oil companies know where to drill? They rely on analogues. Cossey’s database allows prospectors to conduct an analogue study of the area they are considering. “Aristotle used analogues,” said Cossey, noting analogues provide a reliable way to make estimates of the unknown from the known.

“Say you’re working in an area like offshore West Africa. You might know certain things — like the depth or age of the prospect, or some other characteristic,” said Cossey. Before drilling, the prospector would want more information. For instance, it’s important to know the porosity of the rock in the prospect because the porosity can be used to determine the volume of oil that can be recovered from an area. This is where Cossey’s database comes in handy.

“You pull all examples the same depth, age and thickness as your prospect,” he said. Looking at these examples from actual oil fields and reservoirs all over the world, prospectors can match known traits to determine the unknown traits — such as the porosity. “Very rapidly in my database you can pull up statistics that would take you months of searching to find,” said Cossey.

A Rock Solid Foundation

Cossey’s database is his magnum opus — it includes more than 20 years of research. He’s eager to see how well the new online platform will be received. Prior to the online conversion, Cossey used an early version of FileMaker Pro that allowed subscribers to view the data via the runtime application. Instead of merely transferring the data during the web-upgrade operation, eXcelisys developers gave the database a complete makeover to freshen the look.

“eXcelisys rewrote the new database from the ground up, utilizing FileMaker Pro 15 in the process and upgrading to WebDirect,” said eXcelisys Project Manager Kurt Knippel. “We designed the interface. It’s fairly modern, but still, it’s a FileMaker/WebDirect solution with FileMaker Pro interface conventions. It won’t win any web awards, but our goal was to make this solution easy for his customers to use.”

 
Original Database Screen

These screen shots display information on the Andromede Marine field. The original database interface is pictured above. Below, the updated, more modern interface can be seen.

Screenshot of FileMaker Web App in WebDirect

One of the most appealing new features of the custom FileMaker Pro database designed and developed by eXcelisys is the integration of PayPal. With the old subscription service, Cossey had to spend time sending out invoices and following up with accounting departments to get paid. This was often a laborious process — especially when foreign entities were involved. Now, users enter their credit card numbers directly into the system to buy access. To protect users, the transaction is SSL-encrypted and the site does not store any credit card information.

 FileMaker Web App Credit Card Processing Screen

Other advancements with the new system include:

  • Real-time data for users: With the old subscription service, Cossey updated the data in batches and sent out new DVDs every six months. This resulted in a data lag. For example, if Cossey unearthed new data three weeks after sending out a DVD, the new data would not get into the hands of subscribers until the next round of updates. Now, Cossey makes updates from his desktop and it goes live immediately.
  • Robust charting: Bar graphs and scatterplots are integral in helping users visualize data distributions and make sense of data sets. Cossey’s old database used a FileMaker plug-in for charts. The new online system utilizes an API that allows zoom functionality and interactivity. When viewing a scatterplot, users can click on a data point and a small text box pops up to display the data values at the cursor location.
  • Countdown clock: One distinctive feature the new system required was a way to track user time. Many websites offer subscription services. Often, a user buys access for a specific period of time — like 7 days, 30 days or 1 year. Cossey wanted to sell access by the minute. To accommodate this idiosyncrasy, eXcelisys developers added a timer to the website that runs quietly behind the scenes. A readout at the bottom of the screen shows a user how much time is left on the account and prompts the user to buy more time as the minutes tick down toward zero. Users can purchase time in 5, 10 or 20-hour blocks. The website logs a user out after 15 minutes of idle time and allows for subordinate users under one account.

Full Steam Ahead

Dr. Steve Cossey

Dr. Steve Cossey

Cossey, himself, is a unique specimen. He’s definitely not your average rock hound. Sure, he’s published academic papers on carbonate flow deposits and amalgamation in channel complexes, but he’s also self-published books on blurb, including a volume of poetry and another that deals with the intersection of geology and culture as it concerns the Chicontepec Basin of eastern Mexico.

Cossey grew up near Cambridge, England, and studied geology at the University of Wales in Swansea (now Swansea University). He attended graduate school at the University of South Carolina and completed field studies in Tunisia, earning his doctorate in 1978. During the 1980s, Cossey spent time in China, Indonesia and Dubai. He worked for ConocoPhillips, Sohio Petroleum, Standard Oil and BP. In 1995, Cossey left the corporate oil world to strike out on his own, and it was at this time that he began compiling his database.

While Cossey hopes the online database helps broaden his user base, he has other prospects in the works. In the fall, Cossey will lead a travel tour to Colombia. One highlight of the trip will be a ride aboard a 1921 Baldwin steam locomotive. “I have a passion for steam engines,” said Cossey, who bought the engine a few years ago and can’t wait to take it out. It’s been sitting in a shed in Bogota — idle — and unlike Cossey who is always on the move traveling and hiking and continually gathering new information for his website to provide users with the most comprehensive, up-to-date oil field and oil reservoir data available.

Read about other eXcelisys case studies, click here.

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WordPress Theme Considerations

By: Fred Morgan

wordpress theme basics logo

WordPress originally began life as a blogging engine, but over time has matured into not only a great content management system (CMS), but also a full-fledged application development framework.  Consequently, WordPress holds the lion’s share of the CMS market and its widespread use has spurred the development of countless WordPress themes and plugins to extend its feature set.  However, not all WordPress themes and plugins are created equal.

There is so much variation in the way a WordPress theme (and plugin) are developed for WordPress that I am never really sure if I like it or not until I install it and start working with it on the back end.  That being said, here are a few things to consider before making your WordPress theme purchase to reduce the risk of ending up with a theme you are not satisfied with.

1.  Is the WordPress theme responsive?

responsive wordpress theme screen sizes imageIf not, forget it and move on to the next option.  People will be accessing your site from smartphones, tablets, and computers with various size monitors.  A responsive WordPress theme will automatically adjust to the screen size of the device that is requesting the page and the menus and other resources will reformat accordingly.  In today’s web world, it is absolutely critical that your site is responsive so your audience has a consistent user experience optimized for the device they are using.

Responsive themes are developed using CSS and HTML, and the CSS files can get very complex with all of the rules required to address the myriad devices in use today.  Some developers choose to write their own CSS for this purpose, which is fine so long as it works, however, my favorite themes are built with Bootstrap.  Not only is Bootstrap a complete front end framework containing fully-baked responsive CSS and robust JavaScript elements that are simple to implement, it is also by far the most used framework on the web.  Since virtually all professional web developers are familiar with Bootstrap, choosing a theme that is built around this framework will ensure that your developer will be able to customize your theme with minimal effort, which means time and cost savings for you.

2. Is the theme well documented and supported by the author?

themeforest logoMy favorite themes are generally the ones that are well-documented and well-supported.  In a marketplace like Theme Forest, you can determine the latter by the comments and reviews posted by people who have purchased the theme so you can see what kind of issues they have encountered as they have installed and configured it.  You should also choose a theme that is updated regularly as new versions of WP and required plugins are released.

A theme that is documented and supported well by the author will make the development effort much quicker, and since time = money, it will also be less expensive in the long run.

3.  Is the WordPress theme compatible with the current version of WordPress?

This probably goes without saying, but any time you purchase a WordPress theme you should make sure it is compatible with the current version of WordPress.  WordPress has changed significantly over the years and the later releases implement features and libraries that may not be compatible with older themes.

4. What assets are included with the WordPress theme?

Many WordPress themes do not include the assets (images) shown in the demo. This often leaves you with a lot of graphic placeholders that need to be replaced with your own images.  This is fine for a general purpose theme, but can be a real pain to rebuild like the demo that the you or your client fell in love with if you purchase a WordPress theme for a particular vertical market (e.g., a hair salon or restaurant)  it looks .

5. Does the WordPress theme come with an XML import file for demo content?

wordpress theme import xml logoIf the WordPress theme includes an XML import file, it will make your life much easier.  An XML import makes it very easy to set up the theme just like the demo.  Importing the XML file will typically create the menus and sample pages as well as download the image assets into the media library.  This allows you to start with the theme set up just like the demo and begin making your modifications from that point, rather than having to build all of the pages, menus, etc. from scratch.  It is always easier to edit pages and menus that have already been created than to build it all from the ground up.

6. What plugins are required by the WordPress theme and are they well supported?

wordpress theme plug ins logoWordPress themes can have required plugins so it is a good idea to take a look at those WordPress plugins to make sure they are also well documented, supported, and regularly updated.  WordPress is frequently updated and can be set to do so automatically.  This is a convenient feature because many of the updates are security-related.  However, it is possible that a WordPress core update could cause one or more of your plugins to not function properly.

There are literally thousands of plugins available for WordPress, so be careful when selecting plugins that will be an integral component of the design or functionality of your site.  Just because it looks pretty now doesn’t mean you won’t have issues with it later when a security vulnerability is discovered and the plugin has to be disabled until it is patched.

7. Is the WordPress theme specifically designed for (or at least compatible with) the plugins you intend to use?

If you intend to use a plugin like WooCommerce (a very popular e-commerce plugin) or BuddyPress to provide core functionality for your site, it is important to choose a theme that is either specifically designed for, or at least compatible with, that plugin.

8. How important is page load speed to you?

wordpress theme speed logoPage load speed is always something to consider with WordPress.  Because your site’s content is housed in a MySQL database, each page load requires the web server to interact with the database server and wait for responses. This can often cause some lag with the page load speed, especially in shared hosting environments.

WordPress themes range from clean and minimalist to heavily designed, and which is best is really a matter of preference.  However, themes and plugins load libraries and resources (e.g., css and javascript files), and some of them can contribute to slow page load speeds.  This can be true for even a minimalist theme.  For instance, BuddyPress is a very popular community building plugin, but it is also a rather large application in and of itself with quite a bit of overhead.  Complex plugins like this (or ecommerce plugins) can cause even a minimalist theme to become bloated and ultimately lag.

Consequently, if page load speed is important to you, doing a page load speed analysis is a good idea. Google provides a free tool for this purpose at: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/.  Running the test on the demo site for the theme may not provide the most accurate results since demos are typically embedded within the marketplace site. This may make page load speeds appear longer than they would if the theme were installed on your site. However, running tests on various themes within the same marketplace should help you see how they compare to each other in terms of speed.

Performance testing should be repeated once the theme is installed in its base configuration within your own hosting configuration, after activating all of the plugins you intend to use. Scrapping a theme and choosing a different one at this point is much less expensive than waiting until significant development effort has been expended and finding out then that the theme or plugins have some inherent issues affecting page load speed.

9. Is the WordPress theme highly rated by other users?

wordpress theme ratings imageAs mentioned in the first point of this article, a WordPress theme can look good on the front end but be a disaster on the back end and there is no way of knowing for sure until you install it and begin working with it.  This is where purchasing your theme from an online marketplace can be advantageous compared to purchasing directly from the developer.  A theme marketplace like Envato Market will typically offer reviews from other users who have purchased the theme in the past.  The review system allows users to rate the theme and post comments regarding what they found challenging/serendipitous to work with, the quality of support offered by the theme developer, etc.  These reviews can help sort out the good from the bad before spending your hard earned cash on a theme purchase.

Of course, there are other things you may want to consider depending on your particular needs, but this list should get you headed in the right direction.


**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ WordPress consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235.

** eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with The WordPress Foundation, WordCamp, or the WordPress open source project.

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Hierarchical Portal Filtering using FileMaker Pro 15

By Andy Persons

Way back in 1996/97, I developed my original hierarchical portal filtering technique using FileMaker Pro 3. Twenty years later, we decided to take another look and update it for FileMaker Pro 15. Several alternate approaches have been developed in the interim for the hierarchical portal filtering technique (including a “lite” approach by my colleague Doug West). After reviewing them, we believe the original approach still has merit as one option to consider.  

Hierarchy Lite Advantages

The Lite approach on the hierarchical portal filtering technique focuses on ease of implementation. It works to abstract the hierarchy logic using features like global variables and portal filtering, entailing fewer schema changes and requiring fewer changes after pasting scripts and fields. Download Doug West’s version of Hierarchy Lite Demo  

Hierarchy Classic Advantages

The Classic approach to the hierarchical portal filtering technique uses a multikey in a global primary key field to filter records. This requires more work to implement and more schema changes, but can result in improved performance in certain circumstances such as high numbers of related records or WAN deployments. This is because records are filtered at the relational level rather than the portal filter level. Records that won’t be displayed simply aren’t downloaded in the first place rather than being downloaded and filtered after the fact.  

Leveraging New FileMaker Pro 15 Features

We were also able to take advantage of several features that have been added since FileMaker Pro 3:

 

Hierarchical portal filtering screen shot 

 

  • Button Bars: the text for the Expand All/Collapse All button toggle takes advantage of calculated Button Bars
  • Script Triggers: Indented arrows use repeating calculation fields with OnEnter script triggers to simulate “repeating buttons”
  • CSS: allows us to hide the In Focus formatting of the repeating field to preserve the button-like behavior

 

Hierarchical Portal Filtering FileMaker Pro Download

Download Revised Version

 

Hierarchy Advanced 2.0 Features (coming soon)

This refreshing of the original technique also sets the stage for more advanced features that we’ll be releasing in subsequent demos:

  • Dynamic sorting by any field
  • Drag-and-drop sorting and reassignment

Stay tuned for Pt2 and Pt3!

**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235 | info@excelisys.com

eXcelisys

Hierarchical Portal Filtering using FileMaker Pro 15

By Andy Persons

Way back in 1996/97, I developed my original hierarchical portal filtering technique using FileMaker Pro 3. Twenty years later, we decided to take another look and update it for FileMaker Pro 15. Several alternate approaches have been developed in the interim for the hierarchical portal filtering technique (including a “lite” approach by my colleague Doug West). After reviewing them, we believe the original approach still has merit as one option to consider.

 

Hierarchy Lite Advantages

The Lite approach on the hierarchical portal filtering technique focuses on ease of implementation. It works to abstract the hierarchy logic using features like global variables and portal filtering, entailing fewer schema changes and requiring fewer changes after pasting scripts and fields. Download Doug West’s version of Hierarchy Lite Demo

 

Hierarchy Classic Advantages

The Classic approach to the hierarchical portal filtering technique uses a multikey in a global primary key field to filter records. This requires more work to implement and more schema changes, but can result in improved performance in certain circumstances such as high numbers of related records or WAN deployments. This is because records are filtered at the relational level rather than the portal filter level. Records that won’t be displayed simply aren’t downloaded in the first place rather than being downloaded and filtered after the fact.

 

Leveraging New FileMaker Pro 15 Features

We were also able to take advantage of several features that have been added since FileMaker Pro 3:

Hierarchical portal filtering screen shot  
  • Button Bars: the text for the Expand All/Collapse All button toggle takes advantage of calculated Button Bars
  • Script Triggers: Indented arrows use repeating calculation fields with OnEnter script triggers to simulate “repeating buttons”
  • CSS: allows us to hide the In Focus formatting of the repeating field to preserve the button-like behavior
Hierarchical Portal Filtering FileMaker Pro Download

Download Revised Version

 

Hierarchy Advanced 2.0 Features (coming soon)

This refreshing of the original technique also sets the stage for more advanced features that we’ll be releasing in subsequent demos:
  • Dynamic sorting by any field
  • Drag-and-drop sorting and reassignment

Stay tuned for Pt2 and Pt3!

**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web applications. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about making your business more efficient through intuitive and effective software automation. 866-592-9235 | info@excelisys.com

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Custom Mobile App Puts iPads Out to Pasture (Literally)

Farmer Loading Feed

A farmer loads liquid feed from a distillery in Owensboro, KY, 1938 / Russell Lee, U.S. Farm Security Administration

Cattle farmers have been using liquid feed supplements for more than a century. The practice is not new. What has changed over time, though, is the delivery process and precision with which dealers can custom formulate liquid feeds to meet the specific needs of individual livestock herds.

Decades ago, farmers squirted liquid supplements (like molasses) onto hay bales in hopes that the sticky sweetness would inspire the cows to eat more food. Today, farmers use troughs to deliver nutrient-dense, molasses-based liquid elixirs to beef cattle to keep them growing at a steady, ready-for-market pace. These palatable, nutritionally balanced supplements include additives like protein, energy, vitamins and minerals.
It sounds simple enough. Mix the ingredients together and pump the watery tincture into a trough. But a system like this is a recipe for inconsistency and failure. If the liquid feed is too tasty sweet, the cows will overeat; if the liquid feed is too bitter, they won’t eat enough and will miss out on the nutritional supplements being delivered by the liquid feed. Balance is key — with constant readjustments. Maintaining product uniformity within and between batches requires persistence, skill and a whole lot of math.
In 2012, higher-ups at CowBos Liquid Feeds (a division of the Penny Newman Grain Co.) began to wonder if there was a better way to calculate feed usage and mix percentages of the CowBos liquid feed supplement. At the time, vendors used scratch paper, pens and calculators to compute feed-mix ratios. Now, they have an iPad app that figures the calculations for them smack dab in the middle of the muddy, cow-packed pasture.

Penny Newman CowBos Ad

CowBos (think “Cow Boss”) is a division of the Penny Newman Grain Co. (Literally)


Picture the situation. Each day, CowBos distributors drive their CowBos tankers out to cattle farms. On board, they have a “sweet” liquid feed and a “bitter” liquid feed. At each trough, the driver is tasked with figuring out how much of each substance to add to maintain optimal proportions of protein, energy and minerals for the specific herd feeding from the trough.Think of the variables; the size of the trough matters, the size of the herd matters, the type of dry food the cattle are consuming matters, the leftovers matter — not just the amount but also the bitter-to-sweet ratio of the carryover. If the cows are eating too much, more bitter feed can be added. If they are not eating enough, more sweet feed can be added. After analyzing all of these variables, the driver figures out a mixture ratio for the new delivery — maybe it’s 50/50 bitter-to-sweet, or 75/25 bitter-to-sweet.
For years, CowBos vendors made these calculations by hand. Imagine the time devoted to the task. The system was also time-consuming on the invoicing end. Under the paper-based system, CowBos dealers had to sort through the paper slips provided by the drivers in order to invoice the cattle ranchers each month.
In 2012, CowBos execs approached eXcelisys with the idea of creating an iPad app to streamline operations. After a development process as tricky as roping a steer, eXcelisys designed a custom FileMaker Go solution that distributors can use out in the field to do all of their mix percentages and feed usage calculations. The driver takes measurements at the trough, inputs the numbers and gets instant feedback on the precise bitter/sweet mixture that needs to be added. The solution uses MirrorSync2 by 360Works to transmit the data back to the main Penny Newman server when the iPad makes a network connection through either wifi or cell. In this way, Penny Newman’s corporate headquarters gets detailed, timely reports on how ranchers are using its product. The quick data access and analysis also helps Penny Newman continue to refine its product and processes to stay ahead of the competition.
FileMaker Go iPad App

The eXcelisys custom FileMaker Go iPad app shows a detail screen for each pasture serviced.

In 2014, the eXcelisys-built CowBos app won the American Feed Industry Association’s Information Technology Innovation Award — an annual contest sponsored by Feed & Grain, the American Feed Industry Association and AgGateway. The award recognizes technological advancements in the feed and food industry. The CowBos app received recognition because it allowed CowBos dealers to increase productivity in the field by helping distributors make their calculations more quickly and accurately. The app also helped reduce time spent on billing because of the digital recordkeeping and automated invoicing that were built into the FileMaker Pro custom database system. In addition, the captured data proved useful for ranchers, who now have accurate, cost-per-head reporting to help them budget for food supplements.
FileMaker Go iPad App Trough Screen

Dealers use this trough service screen to enter their service data for the day. The dealer inputs the number of days the feed needs to last, the gallons of feed still remaining and the target ratio for the bitter/sweet mix. After the data has been entered, the CowBos app calculates how many gallons of the sweet mix and bitter mix to add.

“That’s freaking awesome!”, eXcelisys developer Rob Poelking said after learning that Penny Newman had won the award based on work he had completed. eXcelisys was pleasantly surprised to find that the CowBos app had won an award when the discovery was recently made by one of its Internet-surfing staff members.Rick Middleton served as the eXcelisys account manager for the project. He reports that the software solution has helped Penny Newman corporate by giving it an edge as a sales tool in the competitive liquid-feed market. “They can pitch it to distributors — we have a tool we use — you don’t have to figure it all by yourself.”
The app is kind of a cash cow. It has increased sales for Penny Newman while decreasing administrative costs for dealers. As reported in Feed & Grain magazine, the new technology has boosted sales, improved billing and led to more accurate food supplement recommendations.
For eXcelisys, the CowBos solution was challenging — but in a good way. While working on the project, Poelking learned that he really does like math. Through the complex algorithms that had to be written into the program, Poelking discovered the power and elegance of mathematical formulas. He said that working on the CowBos solution has prepared him to tackle future eXcelisys builds that involve brain-busting formulas and he’s eagerly awaiting his next mathematical challenge.

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FileMaker Pro Progress Bars, chapter 5: Gantt-Man
By Andy Persons

In which nothing can Bar our intrepid code from Progressing to Uncharted territory!

We received an interesting variety of responses to our FileMaker Pro Progress Bars demo files. Can you make it show an image for the foreground? How about an animated gif? It’s too blurry; can you sharpen it up? Any chance it can do my taxes?

One of the requests that piqued our interest was the ability to have the foreground color appear in the middle of the bar. That is, to be able to specify a background color segment, then a foreground color, then a background color.

Sure, we could do that, but why stop with a ham sandwich when you can throw a luau?

So we donned our grass skirts and created the ability to generate Gantt charts. This FileMaker Pro progress bars demo file showcases our GanttChart() custom function that allows you to specify an unlimited number of segments via a return-delimited list. Each line in the list should specify a percentage (where the segment begins) and the color of the segment (in base64; don’t worry, we also provided a tool to convert from RGB colors to base64).

Of course, this custom function could also be used for a host of other purposes, including:

  • Stacked bar charts
  • Dynamic interface elements, where the ability to specify the color on the fly is crucial (since FileMaker Pro’s styling doesn’t allow for that).
  • Possibly even bar codes, although we haven’t tested that one

Also, remember you can rotate elements in FileMaker Pro, in case you wanted to use this vertically.

Oh and we decided to throw in the autofocus as well by upgrading the base graphic from 100 pixels to 1000. This should eliminate the blurred edges that some users experienced when they expanded the container to very large sizes.

 

Download the demo file and give it a whirl!

FileMaker Pro Gnatt Chart

Hope you enjoy it!

*This article is provided for free and as-is, use and play at your own risk – but have fun! Excelisys does not provide free support or assistance with any of the above. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining Excelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About Excelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, Excelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. Excelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Go database solutions, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgnitor, PostgreSQL, QuickBooks-FileMaker Pro Integration, Excel and MS Access to FileMaker Pro conversions/migrations, iPhone and iPad business solutions, and other various database frameworks and web technologies that automate your organization’s data solution needs for use on the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact Excelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys

Ready to Play Hide and Seek with a Button in a FileMaker Pro Portal Row?
By Rob Poelking

I just figured this out and thought it was cool enough to share with you. It’s pretty commonplace to put a button over a FileMaker Pro portal row object to trigger an event related to that particular row. But sometimes you don’t want a button across the entire row. So then we typically put a visual button off to the side like an “edit” button, but the result can be unsightly seeing “edit” repeated a dozen times on the screen. So, what if you could just display the edit button when that row was active. In FileMaker 13, you can with the new hide object feature.

So, to set this up, I had to add a field in the related table as an unstored calculation Get ( RecordNumber ). Then, I had to name the portal object. Now using the function to GetLayoutObjectAttribute, I can dynamically show the button only with the portal row is active with this calculation:

not ( GetLayoutObjectAttribute ( “portal” ; “hasFocus”  ) and (Get ( ActivePortalRowNumber ) = myPortal::RECORDNUMBER ) )

 

Download the demo file and give it a whirl!

FileMaker Pro Portal Row Button Hide and Seek

This is not the only way to provide this button in a FileMaker Pro portal row functionality. After reviewing, Doug West offered up an idea by simply using a global variable to achieve the same effect.

Either method provides an intuitive user interface that allows a user to select an item in a list before taking action on it. This also works well in FileMaker Go where unintentional taps don’t accidentally set off an unintended process.

Happy FileMaking 🙂

*This article is provided for free and as-is, use and play at your own risk – but have fun! Excelisys does not provide free support or assistance with any of the above. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining Excelisys’ FileMaker Pro consulting & development services.

About Excelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, Excelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. Excelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Go database solutions, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgnitor, PostgreSQL, QuickBooks-FileMaker Pro Integration, Excel and MS Access to FileMaker Pro conversions/migrations, iPhone and iPad business solutions, and other various database frameworks and web technologies that automate your organization’s data solution needs for use on the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact Excelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys

FileMaker Go Takes Center Stage with Scrub Management Solution

Kiosk System Cuts Costs, Boosts Compliance Thanks to Custom iPad App

Doctors Wearing Scrubs

Medical facility managers are always looking for ways to bend the cost curve and ensure compliance with all of the regulations faced on a daily basis — while at the same time safeguarding patient care.

Sai Systems Technologies understands this operational predicament and strives to provide compliance management systems to the healthcare industry to ease the burden of these tasks.

Scrub Struggles

In 2014, Sai Systems of San Marcos, California, approached eXcelisys with an idea for a scrub tracking solution utilizing a check-in/check-out system run through an iPad. Imagine the problem. In a typical hospital setting, pre-shift scrub dispersal and post-shift roundup are managed through an honor system. Staff members arrive at the facility. They suit up in surgical scrubs. After their shift, they return the scrubs to a laundry bin.

But a system like this leaves room for chaos. First off, there’s the matter of attrition. If scrubs aren’t returned, the facility loses money. Second, there’s a compliance issue. Anyone who’s watched enough television can envision an operating room filled with scrub-clad doctors being splattered with bodily fluids. Without scrub tracking, hospital administrators cannot know if staffers are following regulatory requirements pertaining to soiled scrubs. There’s also a potential for grab-and-go abuse with unauthorized users helping themselves to scrubs.

Then there’s the accounting piece. For hospitals that “lease” scrubs through an outside vendor, administrators have no way of knowing if they are being charged appropriately because they have no idea how many sets of scrubs are actually being used. On any given day, there are also outside vendors coming to the facility using scrubs that need to be tracked.

FileMaker Go Assists in Scrub Tracking Fix

scrubTrax iPad Kiosk

As Sai Vice President John Osborn looked at the issues, he knew there had to be a better way. “The initial concept was for inventory tracking for surgical attire, providing a low-cost solution to hospitals to do something they haven’t been able to do — track inventory and keep compliant.” Osborn saw some facilities using vending machines to deliver leased scrubs but he recognized that the hulky contraptions were both cost- and space-prohibitive. “The machines are big and expensive,” Osborn said. “Low-use areas don’t have and never will have the numbers to justify their use.”

As Osborn scoured for a solution, he came up with the idea for scrubTrax and contracted with eXcelisys to bring it to life. “We knew what we wanted, but we didn’t know how to get there.” Osborn wanted the inventory management system to use FileMaker Pro and integrate with an iPad. The system also needed 1D and 2D barcode scanning abilities. Osborn explained what he needed and left the execution up to eXcelisys.

In the end, eXcelisys designed a Kiosk using FileMaker Go, which consists of an Apple iPad Mini physically integrated and locked into an easily accessible small stand that can be installed anywhere. FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Go provide the backend brains for the system, which also utilizes the Infinite Peripherals Infinea Tab M 2D scanner and the FMLinea bridge app by Alexey Dubov, as well as MirrorSync2 by 360Works.

iPad Kiosk Efficient, Easy to Use

In 2015, scrubTrax debuted at the University of Kansas Medical Center. The nifty, small-footprint system proved easy to use. It works like this. The employee grabs a clean scrub top and scrub bottom from the scrub cart, then logs in to the kiosk by typing a user ID and PIN or scanning an ID badge. Next, the employee scans the barcodes on both the scrub top and bottoms. After the shift is completed, the employee hits “rapid return,” scans the barcodes again and dumps the scrubs into a collection cart.

On the accounting end, scrubTrax allows administrators to run reports to match scrub charges (for laundry or rental use) with the actual scrub use that occurred. In addition, the system allows administrators to check for employee compliance to ensure staffers are following health codes with regards to scrub use. Administrators also know who is failing to return the scrubs. Loss rates become transparent.

In the end, Sai was pleased with the scrubTrax platform. For starters, the custom FileMaker Pro application is easy for employees to use. Second, it meets the needs of administrators by providing detailed, up-to-date scrub tracking and usage reports that transform the data into valuable and actionable information.


scrubTrax iPad Kiosk App Screen


Solution Yields Unending Possibilities

Once the scrubTrax system was up and running, Osborn thought of other uses for the custom FileMaker Pro tracking platform. Sai continues to work with eXcelisys to develop spin-off applications based on the same concept. “We realize there are all different flavors of customers,” Osborn said, noting FileMaker Pro’s agility allows for custom tweaks to the platform to fit different health-setting needs. “We’re developing a whole portfolio of solutions around scrubTrax.”

New medical tracking systems in the works include:

  • Vendor-based scrub tracking programs. In February 2017, Sai launched a scrubTrax vendor program at the University of Iowa. The Iowa scrubTrax version — designed by eXcelisys — allows vendors to check out and return scrubs in a locker room area using an iTouch in a pistol grip. Besides scrub tracking (for cost purposes), the system allows for some ancillary vendor authorization and security tracking, helping hospitals keep tabs on which vendors are coming in, how often they are coming in and how long they are staying.
  • scrubTrax 360. Sai is working with eXcelisys to create scrubTrax 360, which will offer lockdown scrub security to ensure that the casual passer-by from another department can’t walk away with the inventory. With scrubTrax 360, the scrubs won’t be kept on a shelf or cart. Instead, scrub sets will be packaged in a “keeper” — a lockable zippered envelope secured with a QR code. Employees (or vendors) can request the custom scrubs they want, mixing and matching sizes. The scrubs will be placed in the keeper and the employee will receive a lock code via an app on their phone. Only registered users will receive codes. Once the lock is “opened,” the scrub set is assigned to the user. Osborn said that unlike the oversized vending machine system, the custom keeper rack can be built to fit any space configuration — with either a horizontal or vertical stack.
  • Surgical instrument tray tracking. Sai is also working with eXcelisys to create a method for tracking surgical instrument trays. Osborn said the system is aimed at helping everyone become more efficient — from the sterilization team that prepares the trays to the staff members who use them. Once again, cost and compliance are integral.

For eXcelisys project manager Kurt Knippel, it’s been satisfying to bring all of Sai’s medical tracking systems to life. It’s also proof to Kurt that a well-built database is like a sandbox with endless play value. “These tracking systems are all based on the scrubTrax platform,” said Knippel. “John has a lot of ideas and he’s in a line of business that allows him to productize the platform to make efficient use of it.”

eXceeding eXpectations Every Day

More than two and a half years into the relationship, Sai is pleased with the responsiveness of eXcelisys’ FileMaker Pro developers. Whenever Sai needs something, Osborn says a few back-and-forth texts with developer Kevin Hammond usually does the trick.

“I love Kevin. He’s doing a great job. He has been able to manage multiple tasks we’re throwing at him. He doesn’t get confused with all that’s going on and he hits our timelines. He’s on top of it. He gets it. He understands what we’re trying to do.”

– Sai Vice President John Osborn

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wordpress basics logoConsider these next several paragraphs a crash course in WordPress basics, one of the most widely-used web tools available today.  So the next time you’re at that dinner party, and the IT guy starts blathering on about “post categories” and “child themes”, you’ll be prepared.   (You’re welcome.)

Okay, we’ll admit it.  We love web technology.  It’s what we do most of our working day.  And one of our favorite web tools is WordPress.

Sure, you’ve heard of WordPress (www.wordpress.com), but maybe … just maybe … you’re one of those folks who think, “What the heck is WordPress, and why should I use it?

We’re glad you asked!  Ready?  Let’s go!


meet wordpress basics

What is WordPress?

Generally speaking, WordPress is web software. Technically speaking, it’s called a “content management system” (CMS).  It’s used by web developers as a framework for building amazing websites – like the one you’re on right now.

WordPress was launched in 2003 as a blogging platform, and has become the leading tool for building and managing websites of all kinds.  It’s used by global corporations like CNN, Forbes, GM, and UPS, as well as individuals and mom-and-pop online stores.   It’s the most popular CMS by far (76 million users), and one-fourth of all websites globally use WordPress.

Why is WordPress so popular?

WordPress has become the developer’s top choice for several reasons.

  • Unlike traditional HTML sites, WordPress sites don’t require extensive knowledge coding and developing skills.
  • It’s incredible flexible. The design and layout can be changed easier than previous technologies (like strict HTML-only sites) often allowed.
  • It’s super user-friendly, and easy to update.  If you can use programs like Microsoft Word, you can learn to use WordPress.
  • Many themes (or site templates) are “responsive”; they automatically adjust to fit mobile screens.  So your website can look great and function beautifully, no matter which device is being used.
  • WordPress integrates social media seamlessly.
  • WordPress offers the ultimate in SEO friendliness, and some great SEO plugins are available for even better visibility.
  • It’s packed with amazing options, such as e-commerce, event registration, newsletter forms, animated graphics and more.

How much does WordPress cost?

The software is free, and has been since its beginnings in 2003.  It’s continually being updated, and those updates are free, as well. However, there can be associated costs, such as premium themes, plugins, hosting, imagery/graphics, WordPress consultants, and so on.

wordpress tutorial image vrDon’t all WordPress sites all look the same?

Absolutely not. The look, feel, design, layout, color, and so on are determined by a particular WordPress “theme”.  There are countless thousands of WordPress themes available.  Some are free (like this); other “premium” themes (like this and this) require some cold, hard cash (usually in the $30-$75 range).  Most developers agree that a quality premium theme is usually worth the money. The good news? Your WordPress theme can easily be changed, which means virtually unlimited designs for your site!

The Web is full of places to find WordPress themes. Some of the more popular ones are ThemeForest, Envato and Mojo Marketplace.

Can I edit my own WordPress site?

Absolutely!  WordPress offers an user-friendly dashboard for making updates.  There’s a little bit of a learning curve, but you’ll get the hang of it very soon.  Not interested in all that stuff?  eXcelisys has a great web team than can handle it for you, or hold your hand and give you guidance.

Can I move my existing site to WordPress?

It depends.  Since WordPress is a dynamic web platform, it works best when starting your site from scratch, as opposed to migrating eXisting pages over.  Even then, your static site may not look eXactly the same when powered by WordPress.  However, converting your current site to a WordPress site is easier than you might think. We can grab your images, text, and any other content, and integrate them into a new site relatively smoothly.

If you want your site to look the same, but function on a WP platform, that’s definitely doable. Want a fresh look? With the thousands of unique themes available, the sky’s the limit when it comes to design.


wordpress tutorialOkay, so that’s the low-down.  As a reminder, here are three quick takeaways for that dinner party with the IT guys:

  1. WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system.
  2. It’s simple, free to use, and infinitely customizable.
  3. Your next web project will look great and function beautifully when built with WordPress.

Okay, one more shameless plug:  at eXcelisys, we’re WordPress experts, so we can tackle any size project, from full-on custom WordPress development, to support and maintenance.  Heck, we can even fix some of those issues you may run into from time to time with your current WordPress site.

Ready to get started?  Just get in touch with one of our web solutions specialists!  It’s no charge, so no eXcuses!

**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with The WordPress Foundation, WordCamp, or the WordPress open source project..

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FileMaker Developer Conference Interview with Christo – eXcelisys

Always hard to see yourself on video… That being said it was a very casual (tad impromptu) and fun exchange with Don Clark from FileMakerProGurus.com. Thank you Don for the opportunity.

 

 

I must make note that there was some incorrect information from interpretation by the interviewer in the notes of the video:

  1. I was not involved, nor did I work on or for, the movie Jurassic Park – the company I worked for, Dinamation Int’l, benefitted from the release of that motion picture as the interest in the Dinosaurs Alive exhibits became big demand. My job as the digital librarian was with Dinamation for tracking all the assets that Dinamation created.
  2. Correction on the new eX-File solution this year is, eValTracker. We also released the updated BizTracker 5, and two other new eX-Files; TruckingTracker and RentalTracker.

Hopefully you find some useful tips from the interview.

About Excelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235.

Excelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

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Why You Should Consider Using Git, Even If You Are a Solo Developer

by: Fred Morgan

If you work with open source software then I’m sure you have already learned how challenging the process of upgrading applications can be (if not, you will soon enough). After recently upgrading a Drupal 7 installation for a client, I found an issue with the way links were being rendered in a particular view (the query string parameters were being mysteriously removed). The settings in the view had not been corrupted by the upgrade, so I decided something in the upgraded code base must have caused the issue. However, since a standard Drupal installation contains thousands of files, searching for the offending code would be worse than trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Enter Git. At its core, Git is a version control tool for software developers who work in a distributed development environment that allows multiple developers to work on a single project without stepping on each other’s code. The web developers at eXcelisys use it precisely for that purpose. However, it also has many useful features even if you are the only developer working on the project. Not only does it allow you to maintain discrete versions of the application you are developing, it also has a built-in tool for comparing files, called “diff.” This tool will reveal the files that have been modified between commits and show exactly which lines of code were changed. You can even view the modifications side-by-side to help you sift through the changes and identify the bug that was introduced in the latest version.

git logo image

The downside to using Git is the learning curve, especially if you use it from the command line. In fact, just perusing the Git reference can be an intimidating experience if you’re not accustomed to working with the terminal. The good news is, because of its popularity in the open source world, there are a variety of services and GUI clients available to help with this process, which means you don’t have to learn all of those cryptic terminal commands. Github (www.github.com) is the most popular of these services, and offers hosting for free public repositories. It is wildly popular in the open source world, and for good reason. In fact, if you have spent much time in open source development, you have probably been introduced to using git by downloading files from Github without really understanding what it is or how it functions. However, if you are working on a project for a client, a public repository is probably not the best idea. This is where alternatives like Bitbucket are more appropriate. Bitbucket offers the same features of Github but with unlimited private repositories for up to 5 developers on any one project. (If you are interested in more information regarding the basics of using Git, there is an introductory video that can give you a quick overview).

This tutorial will walk you through the steps of using git to create a private repository and to compare the changes in commits (versions of your code base).

  1. Create an account at bitbucket.org.
  1. Login to your account and click the Create button.
  1. Enter a name and description for your repository, along with the remaining options shown in the following image, and click the “Create repository” button.

using git creating repository

4. Using Git can be a complicated process, but it is much easier with a GUI client. Click the link to download the Atlassian Source Tree client and install the software on your system. Configure the software with the user credentials for your Bitbucket account, then return to your browser and click the “Clone in Source Tree” button.

using git hub setting up repository

If you see a dialog prompting you to select an application, select Source Tree and click the checkbox next to “Remember my choice for sourcetree links.”

using git dialogue tree box

  1. Enter the destination path for where you would like to store the repository files and click the “Clone” button.

using git storage selection screen shot

  1. The repository will be cloned to your local system and Source Tree will open a new management window for the repository.

using git source tree storage screen shot

  1. The window will tell us that there is nothing to commit because we haven’t yet added any files to our local repository. Navigate to the folder you set up for the repository or click the “Open in Finder” button and copy the code for your build to this location. For simplicity’s sake, I am only going to copy the affected module (in this case, Drupal’s link module). For the first commit, I want to use the module as it was prior to the upgrade procedure. So I am going to copy the entire folder for the link module.

Next, return to your Source Tree management window and you will see a list of the files you have copied which will appear in the Unstaged files area.

using git - source tree management window

8. Click the checkbox next to “Unstaged files” and the client will move all files into the Staged files area.

using git Staged files area

  1. Click the “Commit” button at the top of the screen and enter a description for the commit. Select the “Push changes immediately to origin” checkbox (this will save us a step) and click the commit button at the bottom of the screen.

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 1.12.32 PM

  1. This action will create the commit and push the files to the repository. In the left navigation pane, select “master” under “Origin” to view the details of the commit.

using git commit files to repository window

  1. Now simply copy the link module from the post-upgrade installation into the folder, replacing the existing folder in that directory on your local machine.
  2.  Return to the Source Tree management window and you will once again see a list of files in the “Unstaged” files pane. Repeat steps 8 and 9 above, but this time enter a description that identifies this commit as post-upgrade.

using git Source Tree management window

13. Repeat step 10 and you will see that you now have two commits under “master.”

using git commit to master window confirmation

  1. Now return to Bitbucket.org in your browser and click the commits link for the repository you created in the left navigation pane.

Bitbucket.org  commits link for the repository window

  1. Select the latest commit (post-upgrade) and you will see a list of files that have changed. Scroll the window down and you will see each of the changes; green indicates lines that have been added and red indicates lines that have been removed.

using git list of files changed window

Clicking the “Side-by-side diff” button can make the code comparison even easier. In my case, the issue was found in the link.module file. Once the issue was identified, I was able to locate a patch for the module in the current development version of Drupal 7.x. The expected behavior was restored after replacing the module with the patched code.

This is one of countless applications of the powerful diff engine in Git. This functionality is also very useful for finding infected files in a compromised site, checking the modifications you made in various versions of an application, or just tracking down bugs in your own code.

Using Git in your development workflow can deliver a real productivity boost when attempting to pinpoint file changes, even if you are a solo developer. Happy hunting!

**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com) specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235.

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FileMaker Pro Tip-n-Trick: Real-Time QuickFind

by: David Thorp

R…
Re…
Rem…
Reme…
Remem…
Rememb…
Remembe…
Remember…

…what life was like before instant search on the web became the norm? We had to actually type out whole words and phrases, hit the pesky “return” key and THEN look at the results. Then maybe type in more words and phrases and search again if the results weren’t quite to our liking.

Just like us, our users have come to take instant-search for granted. Search results autocomplete as you type. That’s just how computers work now. Except, of course, in the hundreds of applications that don’t intrinsically support an instant search feature, including, sadly, native FileMaker Pro.

In the grand scheme of things, FileMaker Pro’s Find Mode is pretty amazing. This native functionality allows for extremely powerful granularity in the construction of both specific and more open-ended queries. Custom development can add to the simplicity and speed of producing a found set of records using Find Mode.

But despite all of this, the web has given most of us a different set of expectations when it comes to intelligent and efficient searching. The responsiveness of your favorite search engine – or any similar search fields found within a myriad of modern web, desktop and mobile apps – can make the task of performing a find in FileMaker Pro seem somewhat old school. Even FileMaker Pro’s built-in Quick Find feature, which returns the results of a query of multiple fields on a layout at once, stops short of providing the kind of instant gratification of seeing every possible result as you type. There are plenty of cases where the interface, the application, or the specific problem points to a “Search” box that users will use and want to see instant results.

But instant searches are about more than instant gratification. For the most active users of a solution, the time spent searching for records and sets of records adds up fast. Any amount of time saved is more than just a welcome feature. In many cases, the immediate feedback of instant search is expected.

So the challenge we tackle here is to provide results which are quicker – dare we say in “real time” – than successive Quick Finds, and provide users the experience of knowing the answer to their questions before they finish asking them. There are a few ways to do this, as we’ll see, and a few challenges with implementation that require a bit of extra attention. We want to find relevant records and return results instantly, as users type, with the fewest possible keystrokes and no unnecessary delays.

That “no unnecessary delays” is the fun bit…

FileMaker Pro’s native QuickFind feature is a script step (Perform QuickFind) that takes the contents of a given field and searches for its contents in whatever fields are set to allow it, on the current layout.  But how to get it to run…

Option 1. Put a button next to the field.  Click the button.  Performs the Find.  Ok.  But we can do better.

Option 2. Add an OnObjectExit script trigger to the field.  Type your criteria.  Tab out of the field.  Script is triggered and performs the find.  But what about those “instant results” we were talking about?

Option 3. Add an OnObjectModify script trigger to the field.  Now we’re getting our “instant results”.  Every keystroke that modifies the field triggers the script and performs the find.  But…

The problem here?  What if the find takes a while, for any reason: unindexed fields being searched, large numbers of records, deployment over WAN, etc.  That’s going to make. every. keystroke. pretty. tedious.

Check out the file to see our solution. 🙂

**This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! eXcelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining eXcelisys’ consulting & development services.

About eXcelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, eXcelisys (www.excelisys.com)is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. eXcelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and MySQL for database frameworks, along with FileMaker WebDirect, WordPress, MySQL, PHP, CodeIgniter, PostgreSQL, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications. Aside from providing eXcellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact eXcelisys today for a free estimate and consultation about your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235.

eXcelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post FileMaker Pro Tip-n-Trick: Real-Time QuickFind appeared first on eXcelisys.


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eXcelisys

FileMaker® Pro Tip-n-Trick: Smart & Simple Column Sort

By: RJ Carroll

One of the most-requested features from FileMaker Pro developers is a one-click simple column sort. Trying to sort out how to sort can be a tricky business. The typical way to implement column sort from list-view is by using buttons above each column. First, the user calls a script by clicking on a field name in the column header. Usually, the script includes a number of hard-coded “Sort Records” steps.  Then, the script decides which field to sort and how from a series of If/Else If steps. Each order of each potential field would require its own script step.) Scripts like this leave a lot of things to change if you add or delete fields. (They also leave a lot of code to maintain in general.) Before FileMaker introduced “Sort Records by Field”, this was basically the only sort of way to do it (pardon the pun).

Sort Records by Field

A simpler approach is to leverage the power of “Sort Records by Field.” One advantage of “Sort Records by Field” is that, unlike “Sort Records,” you can leave the field unspecified and use the context of the currently active field. It also eliminates the need for extensive “If…Else” branching logic and hard-coded sort orders in the sorting script. The only issue with using “Sort Records by Field” this way is that when a user clicks a button on the layout, the user isn’t actually in the field when the script gets called. Most users would expect to click a button (such as the field’s name) in the column header to call a sort script, but since clicking a button takes you out of the field, it won’t work. So what do you do?

From Button to Trigger

One clever workaround: place copies of the fields you want for sorting in the header and use an OnObjectEnter trigger to invoke the script. This eliminates all need for script parameters and branching logic altogether. It also allows for powerful one-click column sorting. Just style those fields to look like “sort buttons”. Now have an elegant method for sorting by columns that is simple and easy. It is also manageable, easy to maintain as your solution changes. Check out this implementation by downloading our demo file. I think you’ll find it’s remarkably simple with this technique to get all your sorting quickly sorted out.

Download the demo file and give it a sort!

filemaker pro simple column sort graphic

*This article is provided for free and as-is, use, enjoy, learn, and experiment at your own risk – but have fun! Excelisys does not offer any free support or free assistance with any of the contents of this blog post. If you would like help or assistance, please consider retaining Excelisys’ consulting & development services.

 

About Excelisys, Inc.: Founded in 2001, Excelisys (www.excelisys.com) is an FBA Platinum Partner and FileMaker Certified developer organization. Excelisys specializes in designing, developing, customizing, supporting, consulting, migrating, upgrading, fixing, and integrating of database solutions for Desktop, Mobile, and Web. Our core technology competencies are FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, PostgreSQL, and MySQL for database frameworks. Complimenting those database frameworks we have competency with WordPress, PHP, CodeIgniter, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, CSS, HTML5, and Javascript for web sites and web applications.
Aside from providing excellent customer service, our goals are to use these technologies to intuitively automate your organization’s data solution needs seamlessly and flawlessly across the web, mobile, and desktop platforms. Contact Excelisys today for a free estimate and consultation regarding your business software automation needs @ 866-592-9235.

Excelisys, Inc. is an independent entity and this web site/information/blog post has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise affiliated with FileMaker, Inc. FileMaker is a trademark of FileMaker, Inc., registered in the U.S. and other countries.

The post FileMaker Pro Tip-n-Trick: Simple Column Sort appeared first on eXcelisys.


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