Tag Archives: FileMaker

Odds and Sods: WeTransfer, TeamStation

Transfer Large Files

WeTransfer is a slick application which allows you to send large files to a friend or colleague, and which completely eliminates the process of sharing a file in Google Docs or Dropbox.  The free version allows you to send files up to 2Gb in size. A paid version allows you to send files up to 20GB in size, and you can have a custom download page.

Remote Access

Boss works from home. Boss wants to have access to QuickBooks accounting, running on Windows.  Boss is a Mac person.  So, we have two problems…one of access to the QuickBooks data file, which is running on a dedicated server, and the cross-platform problem of running Quickbooks on a Mac. After talking this through (VPN?,  Shared file on Google Drive?,  Buy dedicated laptop for Boss?),  remote access software comes to the rescue.

I love/loved LogMeIn.  It got pricey though, so I found that TeamViewer does the job for free.

FileMaker Buy 1 Get 1

FileMaker is offering their Buy 1, Get 1 deal through December 20th.  The offer is for desktop versions of FileMaker Pro, or FileMaker Pro Advanced which runs on Mac or Windows.` Buy one at the full or educational price and get a second license for free. In the U.S., this lowers the cost of workstation licenses to $164 each for FileMaker Pro, which is a killer deal.

 

 

Odds and Sods: MailClark is out of beta, etc.

screenshot_102816_104525_amMailClark, the eMail robot for Slack came out of beta on October 27th. They have instituted reasonable pricing and even include a single eMail address for free, which should work for us at least temporarily. I was hoping that they would introduce nonprofit pricing,  but with the free address, and a price of $9.00 per month for unlimited inbound and outbound emails   we can probably afford it if necessary.

filemaker_cloudJust after buying our FileMaker 15 server license, FileMaker announced FileMaker for the Cloud. Essentially it looks like Amazon Web Services running an instance of FileMaker server.  Oh well. We’re pretty happy with our server running on a Mac mini,  with up to five users and have been deploying our nonprofit CRM to production, adding users one-by-one using desktop licenses for FileMaker Pro.   I still think there is a case for reasonable fixed pricing as opposed to subscription pricing,  and this is what we’ve got through TechSoup.

screenshot_102816_104818_amApple announces new MacBooks.  Fair enough.  Expensive though…. the least expensive MacBook, without the OLED touch bar is $1500 for 256GB SSD disk and 8 gigs of RAM.  The OLED touch bar adds $300.00 to the price! Oh and they upgraded Apple TV.   What about the MacBook Air,  Mac mini,  and the iMac?  Nichts, nada, silence….

 

Progress with MailClark, Slack, FileMaker, WordPress

Somemotor-1381998_1280times you just have a week where you are grinding away at things, and nothing particularly new or spectacular happens, and no new revelations are on the horizon. This was one of those weeks.

MailClark and Slack

The MailClark experiment is moving into its third week. As I hoped, it  appears to be working well as an application for low-volume  email customer support. In another couple of weeks, I will introduce this to the rest of the customer support team, so that more than one of us can respond to emails and questions sent in to our help address.

FileMaker CRM

Our FileMaker CRM is taking shape. I have built the basic tables, and am working on the data entry screens. I’ve hosted it on a new Mac Mini with an SSD drive using FileMaker Server. This is the first time I’ve ever used an SSD up close and personal (all Linodes are SSD based), and I’m impressed with the speed.

FileMaker has been steadily improving the web client of the application called WebDirect. This is an effective implementation of the regular FileMaker desktop interface, but rendered in HTML5 and CSS for a web browser, which eliminates the need to install the FileMaker software client on your desktop workstation.  My thought is that we will provide access to the CRM via a virtual private networking connection rather than allowing direct access through our firewall.

Similar to FileMaker Go, the FileMaker client that runs on iPhones and iPads, I  expect to build dedicated data entry screens for the web clients. This means that each platform gets its  own screens….desktop,  iDevice, and web.  The startup script for the application will contain a CASE statement which determines which platform you are connecting with, and point you to the correct screen.

So far the data design and use cases appear to be pretty accurate and for the most part remain unchanged. One thing I have done is add a “reference” section. This will provide a front-end for the National Center for Educational Statistics database of public and private schools.

WordPress and Apache

I spent a couple days faffing about with my Apache / WordPress installation, trying to figure out what what slowing down our blog. It turns out to be hidden in plain sight, and here is one explanation.

 

FileMaker 15

filemaker

FileMaker has updated to version 15 for all platforms. This version includes a ton of bug fixes, heightened security, and some internal changes, as opposed to visual changes. In fact it almost looks and acts the same as version 14.

There is a fair amount of grousing going on in the FileMaker forums about the paucity of new features and (yet another) increase in the effective price. I’m afraid that FileMaker is pricing themselves completely out of the low-end market, although a single copy can be had for education or nonprofits for $197 on Amazon. (Regular price $329).  This is a perfectly respectable deal, and you might want to consider at least one copy for end-user database needs especially if you use Macs, or loath Microsoft Access. FileMaker is my database of choice for front-ends for mySQL (via ODBC), managing eMail lists, and creating tables and inspecting data of all kinds.

FileMaker comes with some pre-built database applications called “Starter Solutions”. Some of these  have been updated for version 15.  I did my expense reporting for a recent trip in the Expense solution, and it makes an attractive listing sorted by categories of all your trip expenses.  Here’s the data entry screen.

Screenshot_051716_035903_PM

Here’s the report:

Expense Report

The application can be hosted on FileMaker server and accessed in a web browser, or run within a standalone copy of FileMaker on a Mac or PC, or run on an iPhone or iPad using the free FileMaker Go app.

There is provision for storing an image of each receipt.  If you run the application on an iPad, you can snap a picture of a paper receipt, or enter a bar-code.  Pretty slick!

 

Nonprofit CRM Overview

NonProfitCRMIn designing our non-profit CRM, we have been looking at all of the functions that we’d like to track.  At a minimum, we think each of the entities above will use one database table. In practice each entity will have an associated “interaction” table and “look-up” tables that feed picklists of options.

A little background. Our organization makes grants to schools and community groups. Many of these grants are funded through commercial sponsors, or through philanthropic individuals or organizations. Thus we have both Grant Prospecting and Grant Application Management functions.

Grant Prospecting — This is us prospecting and managing the workflow involved in applying for a grant. Recently when it gets  down to the application process itself  we have we have worked in Slack.

Grant Application Management — As we receive grant applications we have to process them and eventually evaluate them. We currently use LimeSurvey for our online grant application.

Sponsor Prospecting — If we don’t have an individual or foundation donor, we may fund a program through a sponsor; a company that wants to promote their community engagement or charitable contributions.

Contact Management — The contact table part of our design includes all the usual information about contacting a person In our database design, this may actually turn out to be  a hidden many to many table. One of the objectives that I want to address is the ability to look at a single person’s contact information and determine what our relationship(s) are with that person. A person could be a donor, a member, a volunteer, a member of our board, member of our advisory board. and our lawyer. This is really what CRM is all about, as well as the ability to track the relationship steps with the person at any stage of the relationship.

Membership (Donor) Management. We used to do this in Little Green Light. We’re not sure our business model going forward lends itself to membership.. but if it does, this is where we’d like to track members.

Media / Outreach Lists — We have 3782 media contacts to which we send press releases etc.

Admin — Could we provide forms for our usual HR functions like time sheets, vacation accrual, expense reimbursement, travel schedules, etc?

Note that this design exercise is independent of any particular kind of software. We have bits of data scattered in spreadsheets, word-processing files, online applications such as LimeSurvey and Little Green Light, FileMaker databases and of course eMail.

Update: I’ve added two additional tables; one for “contacts” (which will feed its contact and address data to the other tables), and  “projects” table which contains data about each project.

 

 

 

Pseudo-Sync for DropBox and iPad

I’m a Dropbox partisan. Dropbox works really well between multiple platforms as “personal cloud”. The wonderful thing about Dropbox is that it allows you to work locally on a file, whether you are connected to the internet or not, and then it will synchronize any changes that you have made to the source file in the cloud. This can legitimately be called syncing, because you end up with the same version of the file on all devices (and the cloud folder), once the changes have been made.

Except for iDevices. At least for Dropbox,

Even with the Dropbox app installed, the familiar syncing process that works so smoothly on desktops and laptops isn’t present on the iPad. The reason for this is that on actual computers Dropbox maintains copies of all files on all devices and the cloud. On the iPad that might be both a problem with storage space, and also a problem with the amount of data that is transferred.

This has come up with FileMaker files that are opened using the FileMaker Go app on the iPad. I’d prefer to go to the Dropbox app, find my FileMaker database file, and “Open in FileMaker Go”, which is, in fact the procedure that one uses to download and use the FileMaker file on the iPad for the first time.

1. Here’s the file shown in the Dropbox App.  It is called UCHealth.fmp12 and it is an exercise tracking application.

2. Choose the file, then, choose the Open icon (third from the right on the top, the box with the arrow).

Here FileMaker isn’t shown,  but if you tap the “Open In” application icon ….it will bring up additional options:

Tap the FileMaker Go icon, and the file is downloaded from Dropbox, and will be displayed in  FileMaker Go’s file listing for local files on the iPad

However, once the file is opened, it is copied to the iPad and it stays on the iPad. Changes to the file (new records, edited records, etc), are NOT synced back to the Dropbox cloud file.

The fix for this is a bit convoluted, but at least it works. It involves a manual copy of the file back to the Dropbox cloud.

1. In Dropbox, Delete the cloud version of the file. (If you are doing this next to your desktop computer you may see a notification on the desktop telling you that the file has been deleted from Dropbox.

2. In FileMaker Go – be sure to close the file.
a. Select the upper left menu, and choose Windows

Close the application window. (in this example, close the UCHealth application.)
That will bring you back to the file browser.

3. In FileMaker Go, choose “Device”  This will show the list of files that on the iPad.

4. Choose the upper right icon to “mark” the file. This is the (turned down page).
5. Choose the upper left “export” icon to export (square with arrow)

6. Choose “Open in Dropbox”

 7. Choose “Save”

Depending on the size of the file there may be a delay as the file is copied to the Dropbox. And of course, this process doesn’t work unless you are connected to the network.

This whole process isn’t elegant, and is only workable for a single person moving files around.  But it works.

A Database for Grant Research

I put together a grants database screen (click to view full size) to consolidate information for funding sources, and to track dates and interactions.

It is definitely an evolving project, but contains the basic information need to contact the funder, the deadline dates involved, the funder’s areas of interest, and the typical range of a grant award.

So far, I’ve been concentrating on foundation funding. Many foundations typically ask for a letter of interest before you put together a full proposal. So, I’ve included multiple date fields, a deadline for a letter of interest, a deadline for a full proposal, and a date when they announce their award.

Originally I thought that this database would be mostly for research, but after working with the online grants database, Grantstation, I think I will reserve this database for funders that I really expect to submit to. Some ideas for future enhancements include:

  • Links to standard “boilerplate” paragraphs that are used in an application. 
  • Links to edit the proposal or letter directly in Word. 
  • Links to the PDFs of the proposal. 
  • Reports that create a grants calendar. 
Before anyone comments that “you should really use X software” for this purpose, I just want to say that I’ve used several in the past, including DonorPerfect and Blackbaud, and evaluated many others. Right now, I’m in the process of rethinking my entire workflow automation from the ground up, and this very lightweight approach is just what I’m looking for. Plus its in FileMaker, so I can run it on my Windows machines at work, or my Macs at home.