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  1. Milcarb to Launch Remote Nitrogen & CO2 Beverage Gas Monitoring System eXcelisys Builds Mobile IoT App that Delivers Tank Telemetry Directly to Android and iOS Devices Gas (carbon dioxide and/or nitrogen) is a standard ingredient in beer. To achieve the ideal pour, pressurized gas is used to push the draught beer from the keg to the faucet. No gas = no beer. In most workplaces, it’s considered impolite to talk about passing gas. At Milcarb, that’s their job. For five decades, Milcarb has been a leader in the beverage gas industry. Milcarb’s gas-tastic innovations keep beer, craft cocktails, cold-brew coffee and soda flowing at restaurants and bars across the land. You can’t pour the perfect pint without a little nitrogen or CO2 to give it that bubbly mouthfeel. And who wants a flat, uncarbonated soda or seltzer? Yuck. Based in Aurora, Illinois, Milcarb innovates, manufactures and distributes beverage gas systems, nitrogen generators and custom components that help beverage-serving businesses cut costs, reduce downtime and serve better drinks. Milcarb’s ingenious product line includes the N2UⓇ Nitrogen Generator (makes unlimited on-demand nitrogen), the Carbo-Switch 5100™ (auto-switches CO2 tanks to eliminate disruptions) and the B2U Gas Blender (supplies the appropriate nitrogen/CO2 ratio to propel beer from the keg to the glass without disturbing the flavor characteristics). A few months back, those crafty product designers at Milcarb brewed up another great idea – turning their dispensing switches into “smart” devices capable of taking measurements through sensors, then transmitting the data to gas distributors who may be located hundreds of miles from the tanks they maintain. “The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a rising trend in the past five years, even more so in the beverage industry as of late,” said Milcarb Product Engineer Taylor Turner. The new devices provide remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring. Turner said the new Milcarb Switch-Series (patent pending) is aimed at gas distributors and will offer them “more peace of mind” because they will know how smoothly their customers’ beverage systems are running at all times. Say you’re a gas distributor and you’re wondering if you need to drive over to the Old Town Beer Shack two towns over to deliver a new CO2 tank. Instead of trekking over to check the tank, you can check your Milcarb App. Or, say there’s some type of emergency. Open the Milcarb App and hit the “kill switch” feature to shut off the system without even setting foot on the premises. Great for emergencies or for customers running behind on their bills. Bringing the Remote Beverage Gas Telemetry Monitoring System to Life Milcarb has been manufacturing tank switches for years, but they had no IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities — until now. With the new system, Milcarb Monitors take measurements and collect data, then feed the data to the cloud through wi-fi or a cellular network. The Milcarb App — built by eXcelisys — accesses the data from the cloud (hosted by Amazon Web Services IoT) and delivers the data to users. The Milcarb Switch-Series monitors tank pressure, ambient temperature and battery power and can be retrofitted onto most systems. The Milcarb Switch-Series is brand-new and currently undergoing a soft release to test the new remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring system. Milcarb App Features (download free in the app store) Push notifications: pressure status alerts and notification when the system switches over to the emergency supply cylinder Intuitive user eXperience: uncluttered, easy-to-navigate screens Real-time monitoring: Nitro-Switch includes real-time temperature monitoring that can be accessed through app Quick-start setup: Adding a new Milcarb Switch-Series device is quick & easy; app asks for device type, ID, location, etc., all on one screen Milcarb Switch-Series – works in conjunction with the Milcarb App Carbo-Switch (patent pending): manifolds 2, 3, or 5 high-pressure gas cylinders; sends notifications via phone or email when main and/or emergency supply is depleting; monitors tank pressure; auto-switches from main gas supply to emergency reserves; distributes pressure readings daily at 9 a.m. and midnight — wi-fi and cellular capable Bulk-Switch (patent pending): Designed for bulk CO2 systems and featuring a remote kill switch accessible in the app; auto-switches to emergency backup and sends email notification at this time to request a delivery — wi-fi and cellular capable Nitro-Switch (patent pending): for blended gas systems; monitors main nitrogen supply generator pressure and emergency nitrogen supply pressure; “Run-Time Controller” will shut down nitrogen generator due to compressor overuse (such as system running constantly due to an issue with leaks, etc.); kill switch can be deployed through app; temperature sensor for real-time temperature monitoring — wi-fi and cellular capable Milcarb App splash screen (above). Milcarb App home screen (below left). Selecting Activate > Add New Device on the home screen brings up the “new device” interface (below right), which walks users through the configuration process so they can add new devices and get the data flowing quickly. Above: Selecting Alerts on the home screen brings up this screen. Milcarb App-building Process The Milcarb beverage industry IoT mobile app was built by eXcelisys Web App Developer Zach Lawson working in conjunction with eXcelisys Project Manager Kurt Knippel. Initially, Milcarb envisioned a web app that would allow users to open a web browser and access the data — whether they were using an Android, iOS or Windows device. But web apps have some disadvantages: slower load times, data access problems (unavailable without an Internet/cellular connection) and a compromised user eXperience because the app cannot fully interface with each device’s built-in, native features. Given the limitations, eXcelisys steered Milcarb away from a web app for a variety of reasons, including that a native app would allow for direct OS level push notifications (a must-have feature) without the need to integrate third-party services or requiring browser-specific workarounds. Native apps are installed directly on a device after downloading from an app store. This means they load faster. Native apps can be more eXpensive, though, because these smartphone applications have to be developed specifically for each mobile operating system — like Swift (iOS), Java (Android) and C++ (Windows Mobile). To skirt the issue of having to develop separate native apps for each platform (iOS, Android, Windows), eXcelisys used React Native — a cross-platform app development framework that allows an app to run the same code on different operating systems. React Native allowed eXcelisys to develop for multiple operating systems using a single codebase (JavaScript), thus shortening the development cycle. In other words, React Native allowed eXcelisys to build three beverage industry IoT mobile apps in one. “I didn’t have to use separate coding languages for each one,” said Lawson. “This saved them time and money.” Milcarb’s new Switch-Series brings a little IoT to the beverage industry, offering gas distributors remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring. After the device auto-switches a tank to the emergency back-up, it sends a notification to request a delivery. In the end, Turner said that working with eXcelisys on the remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring system was an “overall positive eXperience,” although he thought that as design and spec changes were implemented, not everyone was on the same page with regards to communicating costs and vision. “The product looks great, but we ended up paying more than we wanted.” Costs for app development are always a tricky business, especially with custom development, said Knippel, the project manager. “We are building a custom solution the first time, every time.” As much as eXcelisys works to shorten and eXpedite the process, with custom development the entire cost is borne by the single client. In the case of the Milcarb app, said Knippel, the costs for Phase 1 of the development and the initial release came in within the estimated range as provided by eXcelisys at the beginning of the development process. At a Glance: Milcarb What: Designs and manufactures beverage gas systems and components to keep beer, craft cocktails, cold-brew coffee, tea and soda flowing at restaurants and bars. Founded in 1963. Where: Based in Aurora, IL Tagline: Good Under Pressure Tech Specs: eXcelisys Milcarb “Alert” App What: Milcarb App – download free in the app store; works in conjunction with the Milcarb Switch-Series (bringing a little IoT to the beverage industry) How it works: CO2 and nitrogen tanks are outfitted with special Milcarb Switch-Series devices that have sensors to collect data on tank pressure, ambient temperature and battery power. The data is fed to the cloud through a wi-fi or cellular network. The Milcarb App accesses the data from the cloud (hosted by Amazon Web Services IoT) and delivers the data to a user’s Android, iOS or Windows device. The app sends push notifications (alerts) when the sensors detect an anomaly or when the system switches over to the emergency supply cylinder. In the event of a problem, the app allows users to send control commands remotely to the Switch-Series devices – i.e. there is a “kill switch” feature that can be eXecuted from the app. The app walks users through the configuration process to add new Switch-Series devices to get the data flowing. Technologies: React Native, MongoDB, Node.js, AWS IoT Challenge: When eXcelisys started the remote beverage gas telemetry monitoring system project, the Switch-Series devices did not eXist in the physical realm. They were an idea – a prototype under development by Milcarb. Results: The Switch-Series and accompanying beverage industry IoT mobile app are currently enjoying a “soft-opening” release and will be available in 2020. Ready to roll out the barrel on your own web app or native IoT mobile app? Check out our custom app development services. The post Milcarb to Launch New Switch-Series for Remote Beverage Gas Telemetry Monitoring appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  2. FileMaker Inc. Rebrands as Claris International Looking Toward the Future, Software Company Revives Name From Past FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 15, 2019 Names change. Google started out as Back Rub and Yahoo! was originally known as Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web. And FileMaker Inc.? That’s so old-fashioned. Last week, during FileMaker’s annual Developer Conference – AKA DevCon ’19 – the company announced it was going back to its roots, changing its name from FileMaker Inc. to Claris International. Anyone remember Claris? Back in the 1980s, Claris was an Apple spin-off responsible for creating software like MacDraw, MacWrite and FileMaker Pro. In the 1990s, Apple brought its Mac software back in-house and rebranded Claris as FileMaker Inc., letting the subsidiary continue on as its own database software company. Over the past two decades, FileMaker Pro has grown into a leading Workplace Innovation Platform for custom app-building. At eXcelisys, FileMaker Pro is just one of the tools we use to bring custom database solutions and web applications to life. While FileMaker Inc. is changing its name, the FileMaker product will retain its brand name and signature style. In other words, the FileMaker name change will not affect the product itself and eXcelisys will continue to utilize the FileMaker Platform because we love its robust capabilities. In publicizing the change, FileMaker Inc./Claris International announced the acquisition of the Italian startup Stamplay, which is known for its cloud development and API-based backend development solutions. With the rebranding and acquisition, Claris International has launched Claris Connect, a new cloud service offering that will complement FileMaker Pro by helping developers integrate cloud services and automate workflows between them. At eXcelisys, we are eager to dig into Claris Connect because it will help our clients. With Claris Connect, we will be able to integrate cloud services like Dropbox, Slack, Salesforce, etc., with less development time. Here at eXcelisys, we look forward to the future and the new opportunities these changes will bring in helping us eXpand our capacity to serve clients with the most innovative, mission critical solutions around! A Message About the FileMaker Name Change From Claris International CEO Brad Freitag When I accepted the position as FileMaker CEO, I knew we had a massive opportunity in front of us – not just as a company, but as a community. Digital transformation, which we define as automating workflows and processes, is changing the nature of work. I knew we could make a tremendous impact on enabling problem solvers in this new era of technology. I joined FileMaker in 2013 as Vice President of America’s Sales. At that time, FileMaker was transitioning from a single-user box product to a subscription model. There was a huge investment in mobile and we were trying to figure out how to scale for the Cloud. Our goal was to make technology easier to use and more accessible without limiting the imaginations of our talented developers or the sophistication of their applications. Since that time, the world has caught up with our vision. The ability to develop powerful software that solves clear problems within a business or industry has only become more valuable. The economy is going to be defined by the companies that harness technologies to transform the way they work. At the same time, the supply of web, mobile and app developers have not kept up with the demand. Read the rest of this article at Filemaker.com FileMaker Reborn as Claris Acquisition of Stamplay leads to new cloud service offering for community of more than 1M users SANTA CLARA, Calif. – [August 6, 2019] – Today at their 24th annual DevCon, FileMaker, Inc., maker of the world’s leading Workplace Innovation Platform, unveiled the start of a new chapter in the company’s history as Claris International Inc. In addition, the company announced its acquisition of Stamplay, a service that helps businesses of all sizes integrate data from third-party cloud services such as Box, DocuSign, and others into their apps. Claris has fully integrated this service and unveiled a new offering, Claris Connect. This service will provide customers with an intuitive interface for automating workflows across cloud-based services, saving them from the task of building custom-built, backend integrations. The Claris Connect team will continue to be led by former Stamplay CEO, Giuliano Iacobelli. “Claris stems from the Latin root ‘clarus,’ which means ‘clear, bright and shining,’” said Brad Freitag, Claris CEO. “Nothing better encapsulates the company’s mission: to empower the problem-solver with smart solutions that work for their business. By extending the reach of our platform as a modern, multi-faceted, and powerful merger of on-premises custom apps and third-party services, our customers can streamline their business processes across the cloud services that they use every day.” Read the rest of this article at Filemaker.com The post FileMaker Inc. Rebrands, Changes Name to Claris International appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  3. Metaphysical Supply Shop Finds Bliss with Magento Integration eXcelisys Brings Tranquility to Crystal Vaults by Linking Inventory Database to Magento Webstore As an informational website and webstore, Crystal Vaults enjoys a rock-steady flow of visitors. Some 8 million people a year come to Crystal Vaults to learn about the power of crystal energy and browse the healing crystals, amulets, talismans, pendants, earrings and other natural crystal creations for sale on the Magento eCommerce site. A few years into the venture, Crystal Vaults owner Hank Mason hit a stone wall with his e-business software and hired eXcelisys to devise a tincture. Mason was managing operations with one of eXcelisys’ free, downloadable eX-Files, but needed more capability. After eXamining processes, eXcelisys dug in, completing a Magento integration to handle multichannel sales by connecting the Crystal Vault’s eCommerce site with its inventory and ordering system. A Gem of an Idea A retired U.S. Air Force helicopter pilot, Mason opened Crystal Vaults in 2006 in Bunnell, Florida. He started the business as a way to engage area teens in an activity that would give them purpose. Mason figured if he could turn a profit, he could pay the teens for their work. At Crystal Vaults, every item is one-of-a-kind and must be assessed, measured, weighed, photographed and packaged before being added to the inventory database and website. When a crystal-filled box arrives from overseas, the teens go through the loose stock, cataloging each item and writing detailed product descriptions. Early on, Mason downloaded a complimentary copy of the eXcelisys BizTracker and used it to run the business. The eX-BizTracker is a jump-start FileMaker Pro template. It comes pre-built with the basic features most businesses need to manage the goods and services they sell. “I used the free version for a while, then needed more capability,” said Mason. That’s when he hired eXcelisys and began working with Doug West, eXcelisys VP for product development, who modified the eX-BizTracker to fit the unique needs of Crystal Vaults. The Crystal Tracker Mason relies on the Crystal Vaults BizTracker to manage the inventory, customer base, sales, vendors and order fulfillment at his Magento webstore. “Every single piece of information about my business is in the BizTracker,” said Mason, noting that the Crystal Vaults BizTracker handles all goods on the way in and on the way out. Magento Integration Works Like a Charm eXcelisys linked the Crystal Vaults BizTracker to the Crystal Vaults Magento webstore to allow for quick communication between the website and inventory database. As such, the Magento integration speeds order processing. Before the eXcelisys solution was built, Mason had to go to the Magento webstore, grab the order information, then copy and paste it into the database. Now, Mason goes directly to the Crystal Vaults BizTracker dashboard and imports the orders from the website with the click of a button. “I was spending an hour or two a day copying and entering the orders into the database by hand,” said Mason. “It felt endless, and that’s what I did not want it to be. Automation made life easier.” Benefits of BizTracker-Magento Integration Manages multichannel sales in real-time. Crystal Vaults sells products on its own site, on ebay, and through Amazon. The Magento integration seamlessly handles sales and customers converting on these multiple marketplaces. Inventory management is quick because employees can go to the “Magento Import” button on the home screen of the BizTracker to pull in new orders, so the inventory is updated quickly. “All order information is in the database,” said Mason. “I can see what people have bought and know what inventory I have in real-time.” Aids data entry. Product details are prepared in the Crystal Vaults BizTracker database before posting to Magento. Employees prepare product details in the BizTracker database (above), then post them to the Magento webstore (below). The Magento integration allows for quick communication between the webstore and the inventory database. After a customer purchases an item in their shopping cart, the order information can be accessed immediately in the database, allowing for quick order processing and real-time inventory control. Other Favorite Features of the Crystal Vaults BizTracker: PO System: “Crystal Vaults has a heavy PO system,” said West, noting that a purchase order includes lot tracking. Because Magento lacks PO components, the FileMaker Pro-based BizTracker assists in this area. Reports: The Crystal Vaults BizTracker is configured to create specialized Excel reports for investors. Crystal Vaults is a direct seller and a reseller, so the business must track sales and processing fees for vendors. eXcelisys Makes the Cut Since the initial “crystal tracker” went live in 2010, Crystal Vaults has relied on eXcelisys to tweak and maintain tech operations. Recently, eXcelisys completed a server upgrade. Mason appreciates working with eXcelisys because, he says, eXcelisys developers “can make the database do whatever I need it to do.” He loves that the Crystal Vaults BizTracker can make labels, bring in orders with the punch of a button, and build the reports he needs. “What I like about working with eXcelisys is you are talking straight to the developer as opposed to an intermediary. You go straight to the eXpert. A lot of places, you call customer service and talk to someone about your needs. Then, there’s the person in the back room who does the work. You never talk to the ‘crew chief.’ But with eXcelisys, you go right to the person who actually built it and knows how to make it do what you want it to do. Cutting out the middle-man interface is a big deal.” ~ Crystal Vaults founder/owner Hank Mason In need of Magento development, support and/or integration services? We’ve got you covered! At a Glance: Crystal Vaults What: Crystal Vaults sells healing crystals and gemstones. Where: Based in Bunnell, FL Fun Fact: The Crystal Vaults website is home to the Crystal Metaphysical Encyclopedia, a reference guide twice the length of War and Peace. This illustrated guide offers detailed information on different stones, their healing energies, metaphysical properties and uses. Tech Specs: the eXcelisys Workplace Innovation Solution What: eXcelisys BizTracker modification for inventory/order management with Magento integration, offering quick communication between the Magento webstore and inventory database. Technologies: FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Server, Magento, ODBC (Open Database Connectivity), Integration with FileMaker ESS (External SQL Sources) Challenge: Each product is unique and must be prepared individually before being offered for sale in the Magento webstore. The order processing workflow in Magento is too generic and allows for important steps to be overlooked in the fulfillment process. Managing orders and products in different systems is tedious and error-prone. Solution: The FileMaker-based “Crystal Tracker” does it all — it keeps track of all transactions, sales, inventory and suppliers, handling all goods on the way in and on the way out. Results: – Order processing times slashed: Orders can be imported from the Magento webstore directly into the Crystal Vaults BizTracker via the Dashboard. Before, Crystal Vault employees had to go to the webstore, then copy and paste the order information into the database. – Improved inventory control: Employees go to the “Magento Import” button on the home screen of the BizTracker to pull in new orders, allowing the inventory to be quickly updated to reflect actual sales. The post Metaphysical Supply Shop Finds Bliss with Magento Integration appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  4. Medical Sales College Alleviates Administrative Complications with Custom Software Solution for New Student Recruitment Bespoke FileMaker Pro Solution Injects New Life into Admissions & Speeds Job Placement Process at Med Device Sales School As a post-secondary institution, Medical Sales College is committed to recruiting, enrolling, educating and placing students. For years, Medical Sales College used multiple FileMaker Pro databases for student record management and placement. But the system was a chronic pain, requiring staff to cut, copy and paste the same data over and over again. In addition, the old FileMaker Pro system lacked email automation, making placement correspondence a time-absorbing affliction. To alleviate the chronic pains, Medical Sales College hired eXcelisys to build a new, fully integrated student recruitment custom software solution, complete with some job placement automation features. “The big goal was to improve efficiency and automate what we are trying to do,” said Scott Binder, Executive VP of Student Services. The “transplant” to the new student recruitment tool took place in spring 2018 and, ultimately, improved operations. Pre-Op: How It Used to Work A person applies to Medical Sales College (MSC) through a web form. Recruiter accesses the information and manually types it into the “applicant” database so the interview and vetting process can begin. If the applicant is admitted, the information is re-typed (using a cut-and-paste method) into the “student” database. Upon graduation, the student’s information is re-typed into a “placement” database. MSC staff send emails to potential employers in the graduate’s target area to introduce the graduate and highlight their qualifications (this was a lengthy process of accessing, cutting and pasting data from multiple layouts so information about the student’s coursework, grades, contact info, etc., could be included). Post-Op: How It Works Now (with new student recruitment software) 1. A person applies to Medical Sales College (MSC) through a web portal (via WordPress). 2. Every 10 minutes, the new student recruitment software queries the server looking for new applicants. If one is found, it alerts school recruiters so they can respond in a time-sensitive manner (information autofills from web form into applicant database so staff no longer have to manually transfer the information) After an application is submitted via the web portal, the information auto fills into the applicant database (above). When a student is accepted into a program, an acceptance email goes out (above). The student recruitment software autofills the student’s information into the email template, saving recruiters from spending their time writing emails and compiling the pertinent information. 3. Once the applicant is accepted into a program, their status is updated from “applicant” to “student.” With “student” status, additional interface elements open up, allowing users to input related student-only data (see image below). 4. Upon graduation, the student’s information is automatically available to staff in placement services (no need to re-type information into the placement database). 5. MSC staff send emails to potential employers in the graduate’s target area to introduce the graduate and highlight their qualifications (the process is semi-automated; the app pulls data to populate the selected email template so staff no longer have to hunt for the information and type it into the email). Email Automation Aids Job Placement Process eXcelisys developer R.J. Carroll was the lead developer on the custom software solution project. He is especially pleased with the app’s email automation feature, which helps Medical Sales College connect graduates with potential employers. “The coolest feature is in pulling the data to generate the emails.” Carroll said that with the old system, email composition ate up a lot of time. Essentially, Medical Sales College staff would hunt through a list of employers in the graduate’s target area, then compose emails to each employer to introduce the student. To create the email, placement staff had to sort through multiple FileMaker layouts to gather the pertinent information — this included things like the student’s specialty, grade, contact info, etc. This information was cut and pasted into the email. For some students, staffers might send 20 to 30 emails. Imagine the time that took. Now, automation speeds the process. First off, it’s quick and easy for staffers to zero in on the right employers. A “check-the-box” system allows placement staff to select the state(s) a graduate wants to target so the right employers receive the email (see below). Next, email “personalization” is completed through the use of an auto-filled template. “We’re essentially making a mail merge directly in FileMaker,” said Carroll. “They can select the employers based on the graduate’s criteria, choose a template and create the email in a matter of seconds.” This is a sample of what the Employer Template looks like before autofill (above) and after autofill (below). Alive and Kicking with New Student Recruitment Tool Binder appreciates the improved efficiency of the new custom student recruitment software has brought Medical Sales College. However, he was surprised by the length of the development process and how long it took to test and tweak the system. “It took a lot longer than I thought,” said Binder. eXcelisys Project Manager Kurt Knippel understood Binder’s frustration and acknowledged that sometimes custom software solutions take longer than eXpected. “Like any custom development — and especially one with a major shift in functionality — there can be some hurdles as we move into uncharted territory for the client,” said Knippel. “We automated manual processes with no clear guidebook on the steps needed to make that happen for the client. The more new capabilities you add, the more testing and refinement required.” If email automation and database autofill sound like features that could take your business/organization to the next level, check out our FileMaker Custom Development services to eXplore more about what our developers can do for you. Contributing Editors: Kurt Knippel Lisa Frick Christo The post Medical Sales College Alleviates Administrative Complications with Custom Software Solution for New Student Recruitment appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  5. Custom FileMaker Go iPad App Reduces Chronic eXposure to Paperwork for Safety Training & Consulting Firm OSTS Inc. Rids Itself of Unnecessary Data-Entry Hazards and Improves Occupational Health in Front Office With a mission to help businesses reduce injuries, save lives and comply with Cal/OSHA regulations, OSTS Inc. provides safety consultation and employee training to clients across Southern California and beyond. OSTS (Occupational Safety Training Systems) President Mike Geosano grew up in the safety supply industry. His father owned some distribution companies that sold safety products like first aid kits and hard hats. While this atmosphere sparked an interest in worker safety and protection, Geosano decided to veer from his father’s footsteps. “Growing up in that environment, I learned not to like inventory at all.” Geosano found his niche after the California legislature passed Senate Bill 198 in 1989, requiring all employers to implement a written injury and illness prevention program. In response, Geosano founded OSTS Inc. to help companies meet the requirements. One of the core services provided by OSTS is training and certification. On any given day, OSTS trainers may be teaching courses on CPR/first aid; forklift safety; industrial hygiene; mobile crane operation; HAZMAT emergency spill response; and excavation safety / trench shoring. The list goes on and on. While Geosano escaped the need to manage a physical inventory, his business requires an endless amount of record-keeping. Every time an employee takes a course or earns a certification, it must be documented. Trainers must track course attendance and eXam scores for each pupil. In addition, there are physical certificates to print and disperse. Until recently, OSTS handled these processes with pens, paper and manual data entry. This was no small task. OSTS trains some 40,000 employees a year and about half take courses that come with physical certificates upon completion. “Manually creating 20,000 certificates a year was quite a task,” said Geosano. Looking to automate (and digitize) the workflow and certificate-printing process, OSTS hired eXcelisys to build a custom classroom roster app to remove all paper irritants. The FileMaker Pro platform — and especially the FileMaker Go mobile app for iOS devices — fit the need perfectly. eXcelisys developer Joe Cellino began work on the FileMaker Go app in late July 2018 and by mid-August had deployed a testing build, which was tweaked for the final build delivery last fall. “I really love using this system,” said OSTS Business Operations Coordinator Sue Hughes. “Instead of typing all of the information onto each certificate — like name, company name, date, instructor, instructor ID number and so forth — I just import the roster. All of the information carries over to our certificates.” The time savings are phenomenal. Hughes said that for a class with 50 students, it might have taken her 10 to 15 minutes to type the information for the batch of certificates. “Now, I can upload all of the information in about one minute — literally!” Feature Highlights ✔️Electronic sign-in and signature capture: Utilizing an iPad, students type their name into the system and sign to acknowledge their attendance. Benefits No more time wasted deciphering illegible handwriting and/or tracking down correct name spellings for records and certificates. Many courses are multi-day. Because the solution tracks daily attendance, instructors know eXactly which portion of the course a student has attended. This means if a student is absent one day, it’s easy for them to pick up the missed training the next time the course is offered. ✔️ Test Score Recording/Reporting: Each course has its own eXamination requirements. Some courses have several “practicals” students can take to show they have mastered the content. The app shows the instructor which eXams are applicable and the instructor chooses the ones that will be administered. ✔️ Email data transfer: After delivering the course content and administering the eXams, the instructor signs off on the course to acknowledge it has been completed. At this point, the course roster, class details and student scores are emailed to the home office, where they are available in both Excel spreadsheet form and PDF output. Some courses are taught onsite at OSTS, but some are taught at the client site, making the email transfer an essential piece of the app’s design. Benefits No more need for instructors to physically deliver rosters to the OSTS office for processing. Eliminates need to manually type each class roster into the database. PDF can be saved for quick record-keeping. No need to type information for individual certificates because the system syncs the data (via the Excel spreadsheet) and autofills the certificate information. Students are presented with this check-in screen. After signing their name, the screen at the top right pops up. By hitting “accept,” the student acknowledges their attendance at the course. Instructors can check the “roster details” to see who has checked into their course. Lower right: After all students have checked in, the instructor enters a PIN to move the iPad out of check-in mode so roster information cannot be accessed. Classroom Roster App Passes with Flying Colors In the end, OSTS is pleased with the new app. “I think that it is really effective and easy to use,” said OSTS Consulting Supervisor and Instructor Ismael Garcia, who has been with OSTS since 1997. “I do not want to go back to the paper sign-in sheet because we had a lot of issues with getting the proper spelling on each student’s name and had lots of issues getting the physical roster to the office.” Future plans include an auto-push for roster transfer to replace the emailing and manual import. Currently, OSTS has no internal FileMaker server so an auto-sync feature is not possible. When asked if eXcelisys had delivered on all of the features OSTS had asked for when the project began, Geosano replied, “absolutely.” The “course information” page displays the eXams that will be given. Depending on the course, some eXams are written, while others require a hand-on performance/demonstration. The instructor can customize the course information to select the eXams to be given. eXam scores are input directly into the iPad. The instructor signs off on each course after completion. The final course roster (along with eXam scores) is exported as a PDF for filekeeping. Both OSTS and the client company keep copies for OSHA records. Contributing Editors: Kurt Knippel Lisa Frick Joe Cellino The post Custom FileMaker Go iPad App Reduces Chronic eXposure to Paperwork for Safety Training & Consulting Firm appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  6. Untangle the Website Design Process with Wireframing Need a sketch-builder to help you visualize pages and layouts for your site? Try Pencil, an open-source GUI prototyping tool. by Justin Kwapich, eXcelisys WordPress Web Wizard Wireframing with Simplicity One of the first steps in constructing a new website is planning where the elements of your website will be placed. Building a website and then moving different components from page to page looking for the perfect placement could add up to a lot of wasted time. This is where prototyping and wireframing come into play. Wireframing is basically like laying out a floor plan for your website. This can save you so much time in the long run — so long as you’re using the appropriate tools. Some web developers use Adobe® Photoshop® and develop a whole series of layers that can be moved around, duplicated and resized as needed. Others prefer the old fashioned route of pen and paper. However, it is generally most efficient to use a tool specifically designed for each stage of development you are in. What to Use? When it comes to low- to mid-fidelity wireframing, the ultimate tool that I have discovered is an open-source software called Pencil. Not only is it designed specifically for this job, it’s simple to use and 100% free — no catch. The free download can be found at https://pencil.evolus.vn/ along with some templates if you are looking for a little eXtra detail. Download Pencil here. How to Use It To start, open up Pencil, give your new page a title and choose the page size and background color. Once you’ve selected these, you’ll see your background and a sidebar. The sidebar will be everything you’re going to need from here on out. The process now is nothing more than drag-and-drop! My favorite “collection” is the Sketchy GUI. Sketchy GUI has an authentic wireframe aesthetic, and it’s easy on the eyes. Once you’ve dragged an element onto the background, you can resize it by pulling it from the edges or corner with the cursor. Or, you can use the “Location & size” settings controls at the top for more precision. You can easily add color to your elements; however, for most wireframes it is recommended to stick with greyscale. All you need to do is click the element, then chose the color from the top toolbar. Yes, it really is that simple There are so many elements available in the sidebar, it should cover everything you will ever need. Labels, bread crumbs, text fields, password fields, radio buttons, scroll bars, buttons — you name it! There is even a light grey grid available, making it simple to quickly eye your placements. If you add something to your page and later decide to remove it, just click on it and press delete or drag it back to the sidebar. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this software is the ability to create multiple pages. You will be able to jump between pages and really provide a feel for the flow of your website with just a couple clicks. Save yourself time and money Throughout my time as a web developer, I’ve gone through many different pieces of software looking for the optimal equipment to use for each stage of development. Pencil, by far, is my favorite tool for wireframing. You can throw together a clean layout for any website in just minutes. Nailing down your web design is only part of the process. To get the most out of your site, you may need some customization and development work to help you take control of your content and online presence. Check out our WordPress website services. Maintenance, troubleshooting, development, support. We do it all. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ **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 website/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 Untangle the Website Design Process with Wireframing appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  7. The Paradox of Plugins: How to eXtend Your WordPress Site Safely & Sanely Is it better to use a pre-made WordPress plugin or hire a developer to create a custom one? As many a WordPress user has lamented, plugins can be a great asset — and huge liability — at the same time. Built right, plugins add crucial functionality to your WordPress site. What is a plugin? A plugin is a modularized section of code added to your website to do specific things. Plugins utilize the PHP scripting language to output whatever it is you want to output. What can a plugin do? Anything, really. It’s only limited by your imagination (and the skillset of your developer). For example, you could build a plugin that allows website visitors to book tours as part of a web reservation system. Plugins can be built to: add a shopping cart to sell products or services on your site; implement a customer service and support ticket system; display products for sale; create contact forms (for surveys, polls and so forth); add a live chat feature to your site; or add new subscribers to your Mailchimp list directly from your WordPress site. How can a plugin improve site functionality? Is there an eXample? Last spring, the Century Group hired eXcelisys for custom WordPress plugin development. Century Group specializes in direct hire and temporary staffing in the areas of accounting and finance. Read more about the Century Group custom plugins and website optimization project. eXcelisys built a custom “jobs plugin” to: Enhance the user eXperience: The custom plugin aggregates the job data in a manner that allows site visitors to conduct keyword searches. Job seekers can filter their search by job (i.e., accountant), location (i.e., Los Angeles) and industry (i.e., healthcare). In addition, an “easy apply” button allows users to apply for a position and upload their resume in one fell swoop. Improve internal processes: As noted, the plugin is scripted to allow applicants to attach their resume directly to their application and submit it through the website. Before the new plugin, candidates applied for jobs through the site but had to send their resume as an email attachment. This meant Century Group staff had to comb through emails and applications to match them up. Now, it’s automated through the jobs plugin. Speed recruiter response times: The plugin sends an email alert to Century Group recruiters each time an applicant submits. The system is customized so that the applicant’s first and last name is inserted into the subject line. This means recruiters have only to look at their inbox to see how many jobs “John Smith” has applied for. Do I need a custom plugin? Aren’t there plenty of pre-built plugins? There are more than 50,000 ready-made WordPress plugins. Some are free. eXcelisys has some favorite, go-to plugins we utilize with clients to save them time and money. We’re fond of Gravity Forms (for creating surveys, polls, file upload forms, questionnaires, online orders and support requests); WooCommerce (for ecommerce sites); Yoast SEO; and Advanced Custom Fields (to ensure all fields are editable so content can be revised). Why would I choose a custom plugin over a pre-built one? Non-custom plugins are likely to include features you don’t need, adding bloat (eXtra code) to your site. Also, the more plugins you have installed, the slower your site will run, so it’s a good idea to run plugins with the leanest code possible to accomplish the tasks you need. If I find a pre-built plugin that meets my needs, do I need a developer to install it? Not at all. However, some plugins may cause conflicts with other plugins or with your WordPress theme, causing your site’s functionality to come to a crashing halt. Also, consider security because pre-made plugins may be poorly coded and not regularly updated, eXposing you to potential web attacks and hacks. As one eXcelisys WordPress Developer noted: “If the plugin is not developed well, there can be security risks that may open your site to SQL injections or getting hacked. Be sure to check reviews.” Check the WordPress.org plugin directory to help you evaluate potential plugins. The rating at right is for the Akismet Anti-Spam plugin. The more recent the update, the better. Also, look at the number of active installations and check the reviews, which will tell you if a plugin has lived up to expectations. How can a WordPress developer untangle my plugins? We can vet the plugins you are considering, check for plugin conflicts, and make sure you are choosing the right tools for the job. We can also configure new plugins to ensure they run right. Caching plugins (popular because they speed site load times) often contain features the average user may struggle to configure. A good PHP developer can also review your plugins to see if you really need them to achieve your website or web application goals. eXcelisys Web App Developer Michael Suhrbier reviewed the Century Group website and determined that the site had an unnecessary plugin for HTTPS redirection. This plugin was increasing the site’s load time, so he axed it. “My approach is making sites better by subtraction,” said Suhrbier. “The HTTPS redirect plugin is not needed. The same thing can be done with three lines of code in the .htaccess file.” There is virtually no limit to what you can achieve with WordPress plugins. The features they provide are priceless; however, striking the right balance between functionality and stability can be challenging. If you’d like help with plugin optimization and configuration, or with general WordPress support, contact us today to learn more about our custom WordPress plugin development and WordPress Website Services. To read more web tips and tricks from our web app developers, check out eX-Cetera, our blog where we offer WordPress Tips and Tricks and other general Web Tips and Tricks. **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 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’ website maintenance and support 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 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 websites 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. The post The Paradox of Plugins: How to eXtend Your WordPress Site Safely & Sanely appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  8. [FMP Tip-n-Trick] FileMaker Developer Busts Through Stalemate to Create Chess Engine FileMaker Database App Reigns in Gaming Platform by Joe Cellino, eXcelisys FileMaker Developer There are two things that bring me joy in this world — chess and FileMaker. I never thought that these two passions would cross paths in my lifetime, but now, that day has come. Having spent the past several years immersed in the tech industry, I’ve seen how rapidly machine learning has progressed. From autonomous self-driving vehicles to Google Assistant, which carries on conversations eerily similar to those held by humans, America’s technological landscape is constantly evolving. Machine learning took a giant leap with AlphaGo, a computer program that learned to play the strategy game Go (pictured above). Then came AlphaGo Zero, which defeated the renowned chess engine Stockfish and inspired eXcelisys developer Joe Cellino to create a chess engine in FileMaker. While all of this technology is impressive, my favorite “deep learning” champ has to be AlphaGo Zero. AlphaGo is a machine learning program. Give AlphaGo a set of rules for a game and it will play itself repetitively until it masters the game. In other words, AlphaGo learns by playing itself, improving with each game. In late 2017, AlphaGo was given four hours to “self-train” and learn the game of chess. AlphaGo then played the world’s best chess engine, Stockfish. Stockfish has dominated the chess world for years, consistently winning the World’s Chess Engine Championship. But in this matchup, Stockfish performed like a fish out of water. Of the 100 games played, AlphaGo won a triumphant 28 and played to a draw on the rest (find match details here). Inspired by AlphaGo Zero, I wondered if it would be possible to create a chess engine on the FileMaker Platform. In the five years I’ve been developing with FileMaker, I had never considered using the platform to design games. I developed a plan of attack: Create the data structure Set up a board and get the pieces to move Develop piece movement logic Add more rules like castling, en passant and check Add checkmate and stalemate The start of a game. The FileMaker Go Zero chess app utilizes button bars, container calculations and custom scripts and functions to process each move. The data structure was easy. Each game can have many moves. Done. Setting up the board was a little more difficult. Initially, I thought I could utilize the drag-and-drop feature of container fields to move pieces and control the game through script triggers. For example, when clicking into a container the OnObjectEnter script trigger would determine what square had been selected. When the image was drag-dropped into another container, the OnObjectModify script trigger would process the move. This seemed to cause more problems than it was worth because the script triggers wouldn’t always run and when they didn’t, the entire game was ruined. To fix this problem, I decided to use button bars instead due to their stability in running scripts. I also made a decision to store each piece image in a “pieces table” instead of storing each one directly on the board. This made it possible to display a piece’s image using container calculations that were driven by text fields that stored a carriage-return list of the squares occupied by each piece. After the board was set up and the pieces had the ability to move, the next step involved developing the logic for each piece’s movement. I was able to create each piece’s movement logic using scripts and custom functions to determine if squares were occupied and/or available. The scripting works as follows: The player selects a square. Based on the image in the square, determine the square, piece and color. If a piece is selected and it is that color’s turn, then determine all of the legal squares that type of piece can move to. If the player selects one of the legal squares, then move the piece by modifying the appropriate text field that stores the piece’s placement. If the player selects a different square, run steps 2 thru 4 again. White puts black in check. Notice that the app catalogs each move as it is made. Castling and en passant were easily handled with additional scripting and logic, but dealing with kings in check proved more complicated. I began by creating a script that calculates all of the squares the opposing color’s pieces are attacking (i.e. protected squares). This script runs after each move. I set it up so the king could not legally be moved to a protected square and if your king is in a protected square at the start of your turn, you are in check. At first, I thought this was enough but soon realized that you can move other pieces besides the king to end up in check. I therefore had to “check for check” when determining legal moves for every piece. It is important that you determine check after any piece is moved because a piece can be shielding your king from an opponent’s piece and, if moved, will place you in check. This requires a lot more processing power because checking for check requires determining the protected squares after the piece is hypothetically moved. Checkmate and stalemate require looking one move ahead. If it is your turn and you are in check and you have no legal moves, then it is checkmate. If you remove check from the first scenario, then it is stalemate. Both of these seem to go hand in hand with creating an AI that can make intelligent legal moves, so I decided to leave these features out of this version. Get a piece of the action. Download the FileMaker Go Zero chess engine today. In the future my goal is to add computer AI that would be able to determine its legal moves and make an intelligent choice aimed at winning the game. It seems as if I have the right scripting structure to be able to determine legal moves. I would theoretically have to link moves through a child / parent relationship and build a tree data structure in order to see moves ahead and determine if the future positions are good or bad. Then maybe one day my engine could compete against AlphaGo in the computer world chess championships. Stay tuned for my next version. If you’re stuck in a database checkmate and need a FileMaker developer to attack the problem, contact eXcelisys today for a complimentary consultation. ______________________________________________________________________________________________ **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 website/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 Developer Busts Through Stalemate to Create Chess Engine Using FileMaker Pro appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  9. Consider 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! 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. Don’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. Okay, so that’s the low-down. As a reminder, here are three quick takeaways for that dinner party with the IT guys: WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system. It’s simple, free to use, and infinitely customizable. 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.. The post Sharing Some WordPress Basics, Now You Know! appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  10. DevCon 2016 – eXcelisys Vendor Session: Tantalizing Tips-n-Tricks from the Trenches Attend the eXcelisys vendor session on Wednesday July, 20 2016 from 2:00pm – 3:15pm The eXcelisys vendor session will be lead by our very own Mr. Doug West and assisted by some of the eXceptional eXcelisys FileMaker Pro talent. With a team of developers working on thousands of projects over the last 14+ years, we’ve stood our ground against a variety of challenging customer requirements. eXcelisys, a FileMaker Platinum Partner, will eXplore a few of our eXcellent FileMaker Pro Tips-n-Tricks in depth. A dynamic “class” of how-to and when-to use some of these eXceptional concepts in your solutions! Drag-n-Drop Hierarchical Portals Powerful Progress Bars Stealth Buttons Double-Click Single-Click Trick Audit Trails without Casualties Popover Imprisonment The post DevCon 2016 – eXcelisys Vendor Session: Tantalizing Tips-n-Tricks from the Trenches appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  11. 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: 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. 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. The post FileMaker Developer Conference Interview 2016 in Las Vegas with Christo appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  12. 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. 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. View the full article
  13. : FileMaker Developers Wanted : We’re Looking For a Few Good FileMaker Developers eXcelisys is eXpanding! Demand has grown for our FileMaker Pro development and consulting services. FT, PT, subcontractor positions available. We are seeking motivated self–starters to join our expanding team of professional FileMaker Pro Developers If you like setting your own hours, working from a hammock on the beach, or from a cabin overlooking a snow–capped mountain, or whatever idealistic work–from–home scenario you currently envision, eXcelisys might be the perfect fit for you. In addition to retaining your independence and your right to work in shorts from your living room couch, you will become part of something bigger than yourself: a collective of like–minded, talented programmers, developers, project managers and business process gurus. You’ll find that, despite our autonomy and our unique individual talents, abilities and personality quirks, we share a common goal: to foster long–term technology partnerships with our clientele, and to provide a creative and positive environment for our team members that empowers each with the confidence to thrive and do his or her best. We are looking for talented, experienced, charming, cunning, take–no–prisoners FileMaker Pro application developers and designers who can hit the ground running; who can take a project from concept to deployment; who can please every client with solutions that blow minds, win hearts and exceed expectations. To find out more, check out the FileMaker Developers listing on the opportunities page on our website. The post FileMaker Developers Wanted appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  14. 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! 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. The post FileMaker Pro Tip-n-Trick: Hide-n-Seek a Button in a FileMaker Pro Portal Row appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  15. 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. 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.” 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.” 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. 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. 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 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. The post Geologist Fuels Consulting Biz by Drilling Deeper Into FileMaker Web Technology appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  16. Oyster Farm Nets Hefty Harvest by Linking FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks FMP/QB Integration Spawns a Sea Change of Efficiency Located on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, Hama Hama is a fifth-generation timber and oyster farm (photo courtesy of Hama Hama). Just as the soils of Napa Valley bestow the ideal wine-making grapes, the waters of Washington’s glacier-carved Hood Canal are idyllic for oyster farming. Here, the Hama Hama Co. raises its famous beach-cultured Hama Hama oysters and tumble-farmed Blue Pool oysters. These briny bivalve mollusks are enjoyed locally but also find their way to chefs in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. Hama Hama also offers doorstep delivery to households across the U.S. To ensure its perishable product moves promptly from harvest to table, Hama Hama relies on FileMaker Pro for inventory and sales tracking. While this app efficiently manages the comings and goings of the oysters, it’s been a hassle on the accounting end. For years, the orders have been entered into FileMaker Pro by the sales team, then re-entered into QuickBooks by the accounting team. Fed up with the process, Hama Hama asked eXcelisys to integrate the two. “We’re a very small company so the duplication of effort is rough on us,” said Hama Hama Finance and Sustainability Director Tiffany Waters. Waters reports that the integration is nearly complete. Hama Hama can now push “invoice data” from FileMaker Pro to QuickBooks, though there’s still some fine-tuning going on. “It’s a lot of work on the front end, but this will save us a ridiculous amount of time. The accounting clerk was spending one to two hours a day, three days a week, entering invoices.” When the integration project reaches completion Waters estimates that invoicing will take only a few minutes each day. Family Business Thrives on Timberlands, Tide Flats Before FileMaker Pro, QuickBooks and website ordering, Hama Hama had a humble beginning. “We’re a fifth-generation timber and oyster farm,” said Waters, noting the business set down roots in the late 1800s, then incorporated as the Hama Hama Logging Company in 1922. In the mid-1950s, the harvest lineup expanded to include oysters and clams from the Hood Canal. Hama Hama is a small, family-owned business run by about 30 people. With such a small staff, it is imperative for Hama Hama to utilize efficiencies both on the oyster farm and in the office. To streamline operations, Hama Hama recently hired eXcelisys to intregrate its FileMaker Pro database with QuickBooks (photo courtesy of Hama Hama).The company takes its name from the Hamma Hamma River, a name derived from the Twana language and rumored to translate roughly to “stinky stinky” (think salmon runs). Rising near Mount Washington, the Hamma Hamma glides down the mossy, eastern slopes of the Olympic Mountains. Reaching the base, the river dumps its gravelly, glacial-fed waters into the Hood Canal, creating a tidal flat that serves as the perfect coldwater incubator for oysters. As for taste, the canal delivers. Like fine wine, oysters are geographic. As filter feeders, they eat by straining food particles from the water around them. Local aquatic conditions — like salinity, tidal flow and phytoplankton species — give oysters their own regional flavor idiosyncrasies. Hama Hama, therefore, works hard to protect its turf. “We are unique as a company in that we have a lot of influence over our local environment,” said Waters, noting Hama Hama strives to strike a balance between its forestry and aquaculture ventures. “Everything we do in the uplands affects downriver. We log in sustainable ways. We don’t want to put in too much sediment and affect water quality because the oysters are actively feeding off the materials in the river.” Waters says the family jokes that their oysters are “fed by firs.” FileMaker Pro / QuickBooks Linkup Delivers Integration Emancipation In addition to focusing on environmental stewardship with its land and water, Hama Hama must also concentrate its efforts indoors on its business management system. To keep the operation flowing, Hama Hama uses QuickBooks — for accounting — and FileMaker Pro — for inventory/sales and to track the chain of custody for its shellfish. To meet regulations, Hama Hama must document data such as the location of origin, the water temperature where the shellfish are harvested, and so forth. But the FileMaker/QuickBooks arrangement required duplicate data entry with order information added to each system separately. Seeking to streamline the process, Hama Hama sought integration eXpertise from eXcelisys. Simply put, Hama Hama needed both systems to talk to each other so the order information could be entered (once!) in FileMaker Pro and pushed to QuickBooks for invoicing. FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks IntegrationeXcelisys Senior FileMaker Developer Ken Moorhead spearheaded the project, which involved laying a pathway for moving data between the two apps. Moorhead said the first task was to build out the customer list. To do this, he needed to synchronize the systems so when an order was entered into FileMaker and sent to QuickBooks, QuickBooks would know which customer FileMaker Pro was talking about. QuickBooks gives each customer its own ID. To complete the process, Moorhead had to find each unique QuickBooks customer ID and link it to that customer in FileMaker Pro. But that was only the start of the process. The integration involved linking up lots of fragile text strings so FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks could communicate. Consider an order for 3 dozen “trucker” sized Hama Hama oysters. The order is entered into the FileMaker Pro database, then pushed to QuickBooks. To build the invoice appropriately, QuickBooks needs to recognize the data from FileMaker Pro — the specific item purchased, the quantity, the size, and so forth. With all of the products, sizes and packing options, there were a lot of text strings (data) to match between the two apps. In addition, Hama Hama rolls shipping prices into the cost per dozen, so QuickBooks needed to find the appropriate price list for each customer based on its location. “It is amazing,” said Waters, “the amount of detail that goes into this in making sure things are accurate — to ensure that when we enter something into the FileMaker Pro database it will get into QuickBooks.” For Moorhead, the hunt-and-peck process seemed routine. “Once you get the data points lined up to the customer’s workflow, it’s actually relatively easy. But integration is never cookie cutter. Every customer — every accountant on the planet — has a slightly different way of doing things. It’s always a slow process; there’s a lot of data to pick through.” ~ eXcelisys developer Ken Moorhead Hidden Pearls Over the course of the integration project, Waters has been pleased with eXcelisys. “Ken [Moorhead] is really great to work with,” said Waters, noting he responds quickly to queries and is always willing to get on the phone to clear up an issue efficiently instead of sending endless emails back and forth to pin down the specifics of a problem. “It’s great to work with a company that recognizes, ‘Hey, we’ve hit our limit with email. Let’s talk.’” While anyone can enjoy Hama Hama oysters through overnight delivery, Waters urges people to visit the Olympic Peninsula and enjoy them freshly shucked at the Hama Hama Oyster Saloon at the company headquarters in Lilliwaup, Washington. “We are two hours from Seattle,” she said, noting the peninsula has plenty of hikes and rivers to explore. “There are a lot of amazing, beautiful things to see out here.” Top: The Hama Hama Oyster Saloon offers an oyster-heavy menu, allowing visitors to enjoy oysters just a few hundred yards from where they are harvested. Above: Hama Hama runs a farm store, which sells fresh oysters and clams and other local products like ice cream, cheese, grass-fed beef and chocolate (photos courtesy of Hama Hama).To read about another eXcelisys solution benefitting food producers, click here. The post Oyster Farm Nets Hefty Harvest by Linking FileMaker Pro and QuickBooks appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  17. Blockbuster Rental-Tracking Inventory App Sharpens Booking Process, Cuts Equipment Retrieval and Check-in Times 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. 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.” 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-BizTracker5, eX-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. The post Camera Rental Company Zooms In On Inventory Control Using FileMaker Pro appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  18. Is your site running an older version of PHP? Chances are … yes. According to W3Tech, 76.6% of websites are running a version of 5X. This December, support ends for versions 5.6 to 7.0, pushing them to end of life. This means no more security updates! What does this mean for you if your site is still running an older version of PHP? It means that if a new security issue is found it will not be fixed going forward. So, if you get hacked there may not be a simple fix. You can always roll back, but you can’t roll back and fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again. If your website is important to you, give us a call and we can work out a plan to migrate to the latest version of PHP bringing better security, stability and speed along with it. If you are up to date on your PHP, how is your WooCommerce? Please make sure you are running the October update to 3.4.6 so your site doesn’t get compromised by a recently discovered design flaw. The post appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  19. Penny Newman Grain Co. CLIENT Penny Newman Grain Co. DATE 2012 TAGS Agriculture, Consulting, Database, Design-Development, FileMaker Go, FileMaker Pro, Mobile Applications, Synchronization About Penny Newman Grain Co. Penny Newman Grain Inc. is a grain/feed supplier to the cattle and livestock industry. Challenge: Penny Newman had an idea to try and convert their dealers from paper-based reporting to an online system to allow their dealers to more accurately calculate grain/feed usage and mix percentages, and to allow automatic reporting from dealer back to Penny Newman corporate for aggregate reporting. The major hurdle was allowing iPads out in the field, with limited bandwidth and connectivity, to synchronize so that dealers’ data could be backed up and retrieved from a central location. Solution: A FileMakerGo sync solution that their dealers use on iPads out in the field to do all of their mix percentages and feed usage calculations, which uses MirrorSync V2 to transmit data back to the main Penny Newman server when a network connection could be established through either wifi or cell. Result: The FileMaker GO sync solution exceeded their expectation much better than anticipated; they were gaining new dealers from competitors just because they offered this iPad solution that tracked their work and did the math for them. Furthermore, corporate offices could monitor how feed was being used and could ensure that dealers were using the product correctly. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation! Contact Us The post Penny Newman Grain Co. appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  20. Pond Care Company Uses FileMaker Pro with Field-Synced iPads to Deliver Photos & Service Records to Office Staff & Clientele; System Eliminates Paperwork & Improves Customer Communications ASAP Aquatics is located in Indianapolis. Lakes and ponds are lovely … when they are lovely. But not so much when frothy slicks of fluorescent algae bloom all over the surface. To fix this problem, the people of Central Indiana rely on ASAP Aquatics. Founded in 1996, ASAP Aquatics offers algae and aquatic weed abatement, lake and pond care, and fountain sales and service. The ASAP “season” lasts a grueling seven months. From April to October, ASAP techs make 45,000 visits (including service calls and inspections) to bodies of water all over Indiana. That’s a lot of record-keeping, but it all goes swimmingly thanks to ASAP’s custom-built FileMaker Go solution. The system allows techs to take iPads on service calls, document their visit (with notes and pictures) and send the information to the office from the road. But the fun doesn’t end there. The system is also linked to ASAP’s website, allowing clients to log in to their account and check the service records and photos themselves. eXcelisys developer Duane Weller says the system syncs through about 70,000 images a season. ASAP founder/owner Brian McVeigh says he is pleased with the way eXcelisys has been able to incorporate and manage all of the syncing that goes on. At any given time, there may be 30 iPad-equipped techs in the field. “We transfer thousands of records a day,” said McVeigh. “If we couldn’t have the iPads talking to servers in the office all day, it would shut us down. The amount of paperwork would be a burden.” McVeigh came to eXcelisys in 2007 when he needed some heavy lifting with his database app. McVeigh built his first FileMaker Pro solution on his own — in version 3.0 — to manage records and contacts. But as his business niche grew, so did his software needs. No out-of-the-box software solution can handle ASAP’s operations, so the company has been working with eXcelisys regularly over the past decade to add new features whenever McVeigh dreams up a new tweak to streamline operations. McVeigh isn’t afraid to tinker around in the app. Sometimes, he adds a new element, then asks eXcelisys to get it working properly. “He calls on us when he doesn’t have time or can’t figure it out,” said Weller. The current solution is a beast of custom web app ingenuity. “It’s the backbone of what we do,” said McVeigh. Tools of the trade: When techs head out in the morning, they take a truck, trailer, boat and iPad. A Day in the Life of ASAP’s Software Solution Step 1: Tech grabs an iPad from the office and opens the app to access the day’s route. By clicking on an account, the tech receives directions to the site, as well as information about the service needed (i.e. treatment for algae, scum or other shoreline invader such as cattails/water primrose; fountain and aeration system maintenance, repair or installation, etc.). ASAP’s custom FileMaker Go app provides techs with property maps indicating the location of each pond they are to service. The red arrows tell the tech where to access the pond (boat launch). Step 2: Tech services the lake, pond, fountain or other aquatic feature on the site and documents the visit using the app. The tech performs the task that has been scheduled. Upon completion, the tech makes job notes on the iPad and adds photos to corroborate the work that has been done. If the tech sees something that needs further attention, the tech can note this on the iPad app and add more photos so the customer can see the problem. Step 3: Tech syncs the device (can use a cellphone) and the data is transmitted to the FileMaker Server in the front office via MirrorSync. This feature means techs don’t have to spend time filing paperwork or uploading files when they return to the office. The data beats them back! However, if the tech has poor cell service, the files can be synced when they get back to the office. Step 4: App sends client a text or email notifying them that ASAP has serviced their property. Client can log in through a web portal to read about the service that has been performed. McVeigh says that giving clients web access to the service records has greatly reduced the number of phone calls to the office. Instead of calling to see when ASAP is going to spray for cattails, the client can log in and find the date the service is scheduled to occur. The client can also view the images taken by the tech and read a full record of the service performed. The customer portal also includes information about the contract agreement so customers know when to renew their service contract. This saves ASAP from having to send out renewal notices. Above: This is the main landing page for users. It lists their properties and the services contracted for each. Some clients — like property managers — have multiple properties with multiple aquatic features. Above: The “treatment” page that is available to clients through the web portal shows the date, images and information on the treatments performed. It can display treatments by date or pond. Below: Clients can read a detailed report of the visit and see images from the day the pond was serviced. Best New Feature: Employee Incentive Program Tracker This summer, eXcelisys added a “tracker” to the FileMaker Pro system so ASAP can track the number of ponds each technician services a week. When the tech hits a “threshold” (as set by McVeigh) they receive an automatic bonus that is incorporated directly into the payroll. McVeigh says the techs are eXcited by the new feature. “They are doing what they’ve always done but now there’s an incentive to hit the bonus threshold and accumulate eXtra pay.” More Benefits Float to the Surface Detailed record-keeping: McVeigh says the app provides a huge benefit to ASAP’s fountain and aeration division because of the comprehensive record-keeping it provides. When ASAP installs a new fountain or aeration system, the specs are documented in the app, along with the serial numbers of each piece of equipment. The “fountain” layout. When a new fountain or aeration system is installed, the tech takes photos to show it has been installed properly and is working. McVeigh says this helps when clients call to say their fountain is off and complain that it “never” worked. “We have a record that it did,” says McVeigh. The images also help the pond service department. Say a client calls to complain about algae and says it has been there all year. Because the app provides ASAP with a photographic, chronologic history of the pond, ASAP can tell eXactly when the algae problem happened. Said McVeigh: “We can look back and say, ‘No, this just happened. The algae bloomed last week.’ ” Improved Client Relations / Communications: As the old saying goes, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” McVeigh says having images available to customers through the web portal speeds the repair process when a fountain or aeration system needs fixing. “They can see pictures of what’s broken and get a better understanding of the problem.” It also means customers don’t have to wait at the property to see if the technician shows up to do the work. A custom gallery allows clients to view images in high resolution. To make the images available through the website portal, eXcelisys built an image transferring program in FileMaker Pro that connects to the database to transfer out by FTP. The interface processes and resizes each image for web viewing. A Wellspring of Success McVeigh says he is pleased with the efficiency with which eXcelisys handles each development task. “I’m amazed at how much work eXcelisys can do with the hours we purchase from them.” McVeigh says he finds eXcelisys developer Duane Weller to be eXtremely responsive and thoughtful. “When I have an idea, he says, ‘Sure, I can do that.’ But he’s also aware of the cost.” McVeigh went on to eXplain that when he asks about adding a new feature or function, Weller takes into account the development time the task will take and if it will really advance the end goal. If it’s not a cost-effective feature, Weller recommends not to move forward, even though that means he’s passing up the opportunity to put development dollars in his own pocket. “eXcelisys has really earned my trust,” said McVeigh. ASAP techs pull a fountain system for winter storage and service. Thanks to Brian McVeigh. The post Custom Web App Keeps ASAP Aquatics from Drowning in Paperwork appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  21. WordPress Theme Considerations By: Fred Morgan 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? If 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? My 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? If 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 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? Page 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? As 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. The post Basics Before You Purchase a WordPress Theme appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  22. 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! 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.
  23. Custom FileMaker Go iPad App Helps FMS Health & Safety Identify Dysfunctional Movement to Reduce Injuries and Workers’ Compensation Costs Mike Contreras would like to teach the world to move. Fluidly. Adeptly. With no hitches. No pain. “Our research — and the research out there — shows that if you can improve how somebody moves, you can improve everything about the quality of their life.” Thanks to a custom FileMaker Go iPad App built by eXcelisys, Contreras’s data now moves fluidly and adeptly too. To create a culture of movement that helps people move better, reduces the potential of injury, and enables businesses to realize the full potential of their workforce ~ FMS Health & Safety Mission Statement A Battalion Chief with the Orange County Fire Authority and founder of FMS Health & Safety, Contreras began exploring the intersection of health and movement in 2006 when he took charge of the Fire Authority’s wellness and fitness program. As Contreras worked with Fire Academy recruits and their workers’ compensation claims, he wondered if there was a way to predict — and thus prevent — future injury. Contreras’ investigation led him to the Functional Movement Screen. Developed by physical therapist Gray Cook and athletic trainer Lee Burton, the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) is a popular assessment tool used by trainers to identify risk factors for injury. FMS first took off as a screening tool for athletes. It’s used at the NFL and NHL combines, said Contreras. “The thought was, before we take them out full steam ahead, let’s see if there are limitations and fix them. Then we can go play hard.” FMS utilizes seven movement screens that test the biomechanics of the hips, core, shoulders, spine, knees and ankles. Using the tests, a screener can identify dysfunctional movement patterns, weaknesses and asymmetries so corrective exercises can be prescribed to restore functional movement, thus decreasing the risk of musculoskeletal injury. After Contreras instituted FMS at the firehouse, injury rates dipped and workers’ compensation claims decreased. The success of the FMS program put a fire in his belly and in December 2015, Contreras founded FMS Health & Safety to bring functional movement to the masses. Law and Order Initially, FMS Health & Safety targeted tactical athletes (like firefighters, police and the military) as well as other industries (like manufacturers and utility companies) who sought to minimize work-related injuries to reduce workers’ compensation costs. Later, FMS Health & Safety took on corporate clients interested in employee wellness. “Our program is for anybody who wants to improve the movement and, ultimately, the capabilities and capacity of their workers,” said Contreras. In the early days, FMS Health & Safety screeners used paper scorecards to collect test data. Afterward, they keyed the results into Excel. “As we took on more clients, this got to be problematic,” said Contreras. “A spreadsheet is great for one client, but one client with 3,000 employees in 70 locations, it starts to be a challenge.” Contreras also began to worry that the paper data was not secure and could be lost in transit before it was collated in Excel. Contreras also ran into problems with accessibility and usability. “Data is only good if you can control it and use it,” said Contreras, noting he needs efficient data analysis capabilities to put together appropriate post-screen training and education programs for clients. In addition, the paperwork piled up. Literally. Because FMS Health & Safety holds client records for five years, Contreras had to rent a storage locker to house the paper overflow. As the drawbacks to this paper-driven, spreadsheet system mounted, Contreras decided to pursue other options. Pain Relieved with an eXercise FMS Health & Safety decided to explore the idea of a custom database application and attended an Idea to iPad seminar hosted by Apple and FileMaker, Inc. Contreras was hooked up with a FileMaker Pro developer and started down the path for a custom database solution. “I was sold on the concept,” said Contreras. Unfortunately Contreras became frustrated with the project and shelved it for nine months. But the business kept growing and other business opportunities arose, such as licensing his screening system. “I realized, I can’t license a pencil and a piece of paper, so I circled back around.” Contreras contacted FileMaker, Inc., again and asked for a referral for another FileMaker Pro developer. Soon after, FileMaker connected Contreras with eXcelisys and eXcelisys’ VP/Project Manager Doug West took over. “Doug is phenomenal,” said Contreras. “He took the time to understand the complete FileMaker Go iPad App — the A to Z of my plan and my needs and how this database was going to fit into my whole operation. I wouldn’t be using FileMaker Pro if it wasn’t for Doug.” The FMS Health & Safety database is hosted in the FileMaker Cloud. iPads connect and sync to get the latest information. This also shares the data with those people who have been screened. Using a desktop computer, they can access their data, along with reminders about the corrective exercises assigned to them. To be useful, the data had to go both directions. The iPads in the field needed to be able to pull down data from the hosted file, as well as send information back to it. Doug developed a custom synchronization routine to keep the data up-to-date between the FileMaker Cloud database and the offline copies used for data collection in FileMaker Go on the iPads. “It’s a fully automated, one-click process for exchanging data with the server,” said Doug. This was a good option for Contreras because his company doesn’t have an IT department to maintain a local server so a hands-off, cloud-based hosting option was ideal. In addition, the FileMaker Go database solution lacked branding, so Doug added the FMS Health & Safety corporate colors and logo and stylized the FileMaker Go iPad App interface so it was more consistent with the company’s corporate image. Contreras likes the simplicity and ease with which the database can be utilized. “We don’t build rockets here. It’s pretty simple and the interface makes it simple.” FMS Health & Safety uses the mobility screening data it collects to identify where employees have limitations in their movement so corrective exercises can be implemented. Doug also saw an opportunity to add back-office capabilities and turned the solution into more than a data collection tool. The FileMaker Go iPad App system now handles invoicing. Previously, clients used a sign-in sheet at the screening site and Contreras had to reconcile the names one by one. Functional for the Future Contreras is pleased with the final outcome of his custom FileMaker Go/Pro database solution and the efficiency the iPads add to the screening process. He says the iPads have cut data-entry man hours by 98 percent and he’s relieved to know the data is safe and secure. “It allows us to focus on the things we need to focus on instead of punching endless numbers into a spreadsheet.” And what Contreras wants to focus on is helping people. Contreras sees FMS Health & Safety as an extension of his firefighter duty to help people in distress. While many clients hire FMS Health & Safety hoping to reduce lost days and workers’ compensation claims, Contreras remains committed to the employees. “We’re doing it for the workers,” he said. “I could retire tomorrow with a pension and be fine, but truly, I really look at, ‘Do you know how many lives we could change if we could teach people how to care for themselves?’ ” For Contreras, caring for oneself involves maintaining functional mobility. “I’ve seen it before — where the inability to squat or go to the bathroom becomes a death sentence. You fall, go to a care home, get an infection and die. Maybe that doesn’t have to be the outcome.” To read about another eXcelisys solution that benefits the healthcare industry, click here. The post FileMaker Go iPad App: A Notion for Motion Devotion appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  24. The Discovery Phase: Taking the Final Leap: Define the Scope & Approve the Plan When it’s time to actually begin development the tendency is to want to just get started. A lot of time and effort has gone into getting to this point, so there can be a lot of eXcitement about finally making things happen. However, there is one last step to take before your developer puts fingers to keyboard. The “discovery” phase is where the requirements gathering is done. It is the all important planning phase. Thorough discovery is necessary to ensure the app will catapult your business to the next level by improving the efficiency of your business processes, or by freeing up time for employees to increase productivity in other areas. During discovery, you sit down with your developer to hammer out the details — or scope of work. This is usually when the clock starts ticking. Scope of work Brainstorming and needs gathering are used to determine the breadth and potential details of the project. The scope of work narrows that down to the nuts and bolts and provides an architectural plan. The scope of a project includes all of the requirements, data capture, features, connectivity, users, security and everything that defines the whole of the project. Everything about how, where and by whom the solution will be used is included. Information can be shared with other software applications like accounting software, cloud-based solutions, other data systems and your website, or the solution can be completely self-contained. Your developer will help you determine how to incorporate those requirements into the final solution. eXamples of your current work procedures (current database if you use one, other software, spreadsheets, forms, memory, post-it notes, napkin drawings, reports, etc.) and any shortcomings or inefficiencies should be included in the requirements gathering discussions with your developer. Your desired workflow needs to be described so that your developer can turn that into a functional program. The requirements become the working blueprint for development. The end product of the discovery process is the working list of features and functions that end users will use to facilitate their work, the eXpected timeline and cost estimate. If you’re interested in learning more about how you and your developer can work together to define the project and set timelines, we’ve got you covered. Click here! A word of caution. Determining the scope of work is a necessary step, but it can sometimes lead to “paralysis by analysis.” There is no way to anticipate every possible detail of the final solution. There will be adjustments along the way once development starts, so don’t get hung up trying to define every jot and tittle — especially if the developer uses an agile development style, which is closely akin to a wash, rinse and repeat cycle, allowing plenty of room for refinement as the app takes shape. At this point you should be able to trust that your developer has enough information to start building the app so you can see your vision unfold. Now is the time to take the leap and approve the plan. There will be changes, but the initial plan provides a launching point for the developer to begin. Changes in the Scope The scope of work is a living description of the project. Just like with an architectural blueprint for a custom home, change is the nature of the beast. Even after the blueprint is finalized and approved, there are ALWAYS changes along the way. Some changes are minor and some are major. As the project unfolds there will be new ways to think about the workflow and data organization, or it may spark whole new ideas. This is normal and to be eXpected. Unless you are locked into a rigid contract that doesn’t allow any changes to the scope of work, eXpect the requirements to evolve over the course of the project. This evolution requires a periodic re-evaluation of the scope of work to make sure the critical business requirements remain intact while accommodating any changes. As changes arise the scope of work may eXpand or contract. That means the budget and timeline need to be re-evaluated. Those changes will be added or put on a wish list or discarded based on the overall goals along with the budget and timeline. Having a clear understanding of how new ideas affect the development plan will keep the overall project from feeling like a black hole further down the road. The vortex of development doubt can be daunting! Relax. You’ve got scope and a vetted developer., the light at the end of the development tunnel! Development in Phases Sometimes a custom application is relatively small and concise, as simple as automating a single business task. Other times the application will manage an entire business. Most apps are somewhere in between. A small project is generally completed by a single developer in one development effort. A larger project might lend itself to being broken into multiple phases of development or involve multiple developers. It is worth looking at a medium- to large-sized project to determine if it could, or should, be done in phases. Many times, larger projects seem to drag on and take forever before you see any real benefit if they are created in one monolithic effort. That can even kill an app before it is born if the timeline and/or budget keep ballooning. This is something that can strike fear in the heart of the client manager. Considering whether the project can be reduced to modules or discrete parts that have self-contained sets of features can alleviate this concern. If a project can be deployed in stages so that there is a usable benefit early on while other parts are in development, there is a greater sense of progress and a quicker return on investment. For eXample, a project with a fairly self-contained customer module and a separate set of features for a manufacturing module could be broken into phases. The developer can create the customer module first and deploy it so that the end users can start working with it while the manufacturing module is being developed rather than waiting until both modules are finished before deployment. This approach allows users to become familiar with the new system and provide feedback as they work with the customer module. Once the manufacturing module is complete, the two modules can be integrated and deployed as a single comprehensive solution. This is a great strategy that allows users to get comfortable with the new system and do some active testing with real data. Often, this process will even reveal additional adjustments that need to be made to the scope of work. Whether a project lends itself to development in phases doesn’t necessarily need to be determined during the discovery process, but it can be a helpful part of the conversation. The idea is to look for potential ways to create early benefit while development continues. The Blessing Planning is done. Approval has been given. Time for the coding to begin … Look for the final wrap-up to our series (Part 7) coming soon. If you missed previous installments, find them here: Part 1: Embracing the Development Mind-Set Part 2: What Should You Consider When Selecting a Development Partner? What Questions Might You Ask a Potential Developer? Part 3: Quotes, Estimates and Change Orders, Oh My! — Understanding Pricing & Billing Models Part 4: Making the Plan for Planning Your Plan of the Project Plan — What Do We Need to Get This Development Party Started! Part 5: Rassling with the R’s: Roles and Responsibilities The post Survival Guide (6 of 7): Find, Hire & Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
  25. Part 4: Making the Plan for Planning Your Plan of the Project Plan – What Do We Need to Get This Software Development Party Started! You’ve decided that custom app development is for you. You’ve vetted software firms, sorted out your contract and hired a developer. You’re ready to start creating the ideal solution for your business. Now what? As you start a custom software development project, it is important to gather as much of the necessary information up front as you can to be certain that you account for everything you know. Then you can better define the details of your business requirements and workflow for the developer. Define the Project Important elements of any software development project need to be clearly defined. Where are you starting and where do you want to end up? It helps to know what you are using now, but it’s equally important to understand how it falls short of your needs. Are you updating an eXisting solution or do you want to replace it? Will it, could it, should it integrate with other systems you use? What business processes do you wish you could tie together? Anything you do on paper or in spreadsheets is a candidate for being built into a software solution. Anything you wish you could automate could be included. Bring all of these parts into the conversation with your developer because the developer can determine what can be automated and integrated. Don’t presuppose that something can’t be done because more than likely, there is a way. After discussing all of the possibilities you get to decide what features will give you the most bang for your buck based on your budget and time. The following questions can help you define the project: Which Technology Is Right for You? Many people come into a development project with a preconceived idea about what should be used to create their application. That might come from a recommendation from a friend or another business owner, or it might come from research or personal eXperience. It’s helpful to eXplore the range of options enough to get an idea of what is available to help facilitate conversations with your developer, but ultimately your developer is a technology eXpert and should be able to make recommendations about the best development methods, programming languages and tools for your needs. That said, there are a couple of considerations for determining the right technology. The first is what you are currently using. The second is what is most appropriate for your needs. If these are the same, that simplifies the process. The new solution can be created in the technology you currently use. This is common — and more often than not, the best-case scenario — but it isn’t always the best answer to take your business to the next level. To figure that out takes some input from both you and your developer. Remember, you are the content eXpert and the developer is the technology eXpert. You should feel comfortable relying on your developer’s eXpertise to make technology recommendations based on the scope of your needs. Don’t be married to something that isn’t the right fit. You may regret it later. This is where conversations with multiple development firms can help so you can be confident you have made a good decision in the end to get the right type of solution built by the right company. Input Even if the developer is familiar with your industry that doesn’t mean the developer is familiar with your particular business model. You will need to eXplain it in detail, maybe multiple times, before they understand it well enough to translate it into a software solution. Whatever concrete elements you can provide will help draw the picture of what you are trying to do. Old reports, data input forms, spreadsheets, diagrams, needs analysis and a list of requirements all help the developer understand what you are trying to achieve. The earlier those things can be gathered, the better the planning process will be. However, don’t eXpect that those resources can stand alone without any eXplanation of how they fit into your workflow. The developer will not know the nuance of how they are used in your business. You will need to eXplain that. Working through the resources with your developer will help you be more clear in your eXplanations about how things should work and will bring into focus the overall scope of the project. As you begin to eXplain how each element fits into your workflow, you may recognize inefficiencies that you want to change during the course of development. Being patient with this part of the process will improve the final solution and likely your business processes overall. Timeline Everyone wants it yesterday because it’s a huge issue today. But what is a realistic eXpectation based on the size of the project and its complexity? Your developer can help you work out a timeline once the project has been well-defined. Development always takes longer than eXpected, so build in a time cushion if there is a rigid deadline for getting your app deployed. Once all of the information has been gathered and a realistic timeline has been set, it is time to put the project in the hands of those who will be responsible for making it a success. In the next installment, we will define the necessary roles to complete your project efficiently. Coming soon, Part 5 —Rassling with the R’s — Roles and Responsibilities If you missed the previous installments, find them here: Part 1: Embracing the Development Mind-Set Part 2: What Should You Consider When Selecting a Development Partner? What Questions Might You Ask a Potential Developer? Part 3: Quotes, Estimates and Change Orders, Oh My! — Understanding Pricing & Billing Models To read more about eXcelisys’ software design, development and consulting services, click here. The post Survival Guide: Find, Hire and Work with a Software Developer, Successfully! (Part 4 of 7) appeared first on eXcelisys. View the full article
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