Archive

Archive for 2017

New Utility Tool: Outlook Manipulator Mac Template

April 26th, 2017

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Now available on our website is a free utility tool for Macintosh-based developers that works hand in hand with the Outlook Manipulator for Windows.

The Outlook Manipulator Mac Template plug-in is a template file that allows Mac FileMaker developers to write scripts from a Mac operating system to be used with the Windows-based Outlook Manipulator plug-in and Windows’ Outlook and Exchange applications.

All functions available to the Outlook Manipulator plug-in for Windows are also available in the Outlook Manipulator Mac Template. However, one important difference is that the Mac Template has zero functionality implemented within it. The Outlook Manipulator Mac Template will not perform any actual data transfer between FileMaker Pro and Microsoft Outlook.

The intent of the Outlook Manipulator Mac Template plug-in is to provide a useful tool for Mac-focused developers and integrators of the Outlook Manipulator plug-in to carry out their development from their preferred environment. For example, a Mac-based FileMaker developer could use the Outlook Manipulator Mac Template plug-in to write up an entire script for pulling emails from Outlook into FileMaker or pushing calendar events from FileMaker to Outlook on their macOS development machine and then access the same script in FileMaker Pro on a Windows machine and perform testing and refinement to ensure the script is functioning as intended. There is no need to rewrite the entire script or comment/uncomment every plug-in function call.

The Outlook Manipulator Mac Template plug-in requires no registration, no extra installations or required resources. To get started, simply download the Outlook Manipulator Mac Template from the link below. Unzip the bundle and place the “PCEMOutlookManipulator.fmplugin” file into either the FileMaker global extensions folder or the direct FileMaker Pro extensions folder in your Applications folder.

Placing the plug-in in the global extensions folder will allow you to open any version of FileMaker and start scripting.
 
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If you place the plug-in in your FileMaker Pro 15 extension folder, you will only be able to script in FileMaker 15.
 
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After you have placed the plug-in in your preferred location, start FileMaker and you are ready to being scripting.

For the Outlook Manipulator Mac Template click here.

For more information regarding Outlook Manipulator for Windows please visit: http://www.outlookmanipulator.com/ and check out the overview video below.

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Important Note: The Outlook Manipulator Mac Template is for development purposes only. For full functionality to communicate directly with Outlook for Windows the full version of the Outlook Manipulator plug-in is required. Unfortunately, communication of any kind to the Macintosh version of Outlook is not available.

Inspiring a New Generation of FileMaker Developers – PCI Focuses on Hiring Local Talent

March 17th, 2017

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Back in February, Productive Computing’s CEO, Marc Larochelle, was invited to speak to the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) club at California State University San Marcos.

During his talk, Marc showcased the FileMaker platform, including the numerous connection points to other database systems, technologies, and plug-ins. He also explored the new FileMaker Cloud hosting option that is available through Amazon Web Services (AWS).

As a live demonstration of the capability of FileMaker, Marc created a database that would track a list of member names and the group attendance across the school year. The database featured a dashboard that displayed the data – complete with graphs and charts. Marc accessed this database on a desktop, iPad, and via the web – showcasing the variety of access points available with FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, and FileMaker WebDirect and just how quick it is to create and deploy an app.

The president of the ACM club, Omid Azodi, remarked, “After taking a database course, I can see how powerful FileMaker is, how visual it is, and that it is low on the coding side for queries, etc. All the students I talked to really enjoyed the demo and learned a lot from it.”

One of the goals of the speaking engagement was not only to expose students to FileMaker, but also to expose them to Productive Computing as a potential employer. Productive Computing has hired over half their staff from local universities. Five of their current 15 employees were hired from Cal State San Marcos.

When asked why he enjoys these types of presentations, Marc said, “As a resident of North County for over 25 years, I love this place and I want to give back in any way that I can. We work hard to hire local talent from our universities, and we make a point to do these kinds of presentations – because it not only showcases the FileMaker platform to a new generation of developers, but it also demonstrates to students that the skills they are learning in their classes have a very real, direct application once they graduate. Productive Computing believes in investing in its community and supporting the strong economy in North County.”

Former Cal State San Marcos students and current Productive Computing employees include: Francis (hosting and tech support), Jeff (hosting and solution development), Chris (plug-in development), William (developer), and Stephanie (marketing and product coordination).

“When I was going to school back in 2012, I had the opportunity to see Marc present on FileMaker. I was really intrigued and approached him after the presentation to inquire about employment opportunities. Productive Computing allowed me to work part-time while I was in school and then I had a full-time job waiting for me when I graduated.” Chris, plug-in developer.

The transition from school life to the “real world” can be difficult for students, many wonder what a typical day in the life of a career professional looks like or if they will be able to apply the skills they have learned in school to their daily jobs. Francis, who graduated in 2015 with a B.S. in Computer Science, reflected that many of the classes he took at California State San Marcos have helped him perform his job at Productive Computing. “Intro to Networking helped me with basic troubleshooting techniques and my Database Management Systems class taught me about working with general database systems and how to develop ERDs (entity-relationship diagrams) to plan out and design databases – especially FileMaker and SQL.”

“While the classes I took at Cal State provided me with a great ground work of valuable knowledge, the one real takeaway from CSUSM was that my classes always put an emphasis on working as a team to accomplish something.” Francis remarked. “That’s something that I find is a big part about working here at Productive Computing. You will hear everyone in the office asking each other questions and tapping into one another’s knowledge and experience to help come up with the best possible solution for a given issue.”

Our solutions architect and main hosting engineer, Jeff, was an active member and officer of the ACM club during his time at CSUSM and attended two presentations by Marc Larochelle during his four years there. “I was pretty amazed by the capabilities of FileMaker 12 when I attended Marc’s first presentation. Then, a year later, Marc and Chris returned to present the latest features of FileMaker 13 and demonstrated how quickly a developer could create and deploy a solution that was accessible via FileMaker Go. When the ACM club hosted a job fair for the Computer Science community, Productive Computing was the first company that I gave a resume to. Within my first month working with FileMaker, I was working on client solutions doing custom development for desktop and mobile environments. FileMaker, in my opinion, is a simple to learn platform with great scalability and almost endless opportunity.”

Reflecting on his education at CSUSM, Jeff commented, “While I was a student, I took a job as a learning assistant and grader for the Data Structures course. Reviewing code written by other students was an eye-opening experience. I graded so many different solutions for a single problem that it made me realize there are always new ways to improve existing code, schema, or design. This realization drives me to solve problems and build solutions that bring Productive Computing’s products to the next level. Efficiency is key and I’m always looking for better ways to process data, enhance user interfaces, and strengthen workflows.”

When asked about his hiring practices, Marc said, “Keith and I are so proud and lucky to be in a position to offer career opportunities for computer science graduates from universities right in our own backyard. It has been so satisfying to watch these candidates go from being a college student to a first-time career employee in a job that is in-line with their degree. Our training program, which gives new developers the ability to learn FileMaker quickly, allows us to offer full-time positions to graduates right out of college, whereas other high-tech employers are typically only able to provide an internship to the same college grad.

“There’s really nothing more rewarding than seeing the next generation of FileMaker developers come alive with the same enthusiasm and inspiration I first had when I learned FileMaker back in 1991.”

Vessel Service Solutions – The Perfect Example of the Flexibility of FileMaker

February 23rd, 2017

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When someone unfamiliar with FileMaker asks me what we do here at Productive Computing, I first try to explain that we work with a software that allows users to build solutions, databases, and apps custom to their needs, and that we also build “plug-ins” that enable those solutions to talk with other third-party programs – such as QuickBooks.

When all I get back is a blank face or the, “well how does that help me and my business?” question, I immediately remember what my college professor told me about job interviews – when the interviewer asks you what your strengths and weaknesses are, you don’t just say, “I’m a team-player”, you tell them an anecdote about a time when you worked with a team to achieve a desired goal. That’s when I talk about VSS (Vessel Service Solutions). VSS is a perfect and concise example of what FileMaker can do. It is a vertical solution that solved a big problem for a niche industry.

So what is VSS?

Similar to how you call AAA when you have an issue with your car, a boat owner calls TowBoatUS when he has a problem with his boat. The captain that responds to the call is part of the marine assistance and towing industry.

The flexibility, capability, and simplicity of FileMaker allowed us to create a beautiful, easy-to-use, customizable, and highly mobile solution for this industry – all at an affordable cost.

Utilizing FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Go, captains and dispatchers have the ability to work in the office or remotely from their homes, their son’s football game, while traveling, or down on the docks.

Here is how it works, when a distress call is received any employee can assign that case (using a desktop or iOS device) to a captain. The captain then receives the case on an iPad or iPhone and, after assisting the boater, he updates the case with customer and service information, grabs a signature, and submits the case back to dispatch for final processing.

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Above and beyond the basic tow order processing functionality, VSS is integrated with QuickBooks and can perform single or batch pushes and pulls of invoices, items, invoice balances, and payment information. The solution also includes Fuel Log, Maintenance, Time Sheets and Reports modules for 360-degree management of the business.

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VSS has been a collaborative effort since its inception. We were thankful to have a lot of support from industry leaders when we released version 2; and when we started working on this release, we asked for feedback from our current customers. We wanted to know what was working well, what processes and features could be improved, and if there was anything that could enhance their team’s workflow. The responses we got back were tremendous and the end result is a great new version with some exciting improvements.

New features in the version 2.4 release include:
– Accessibility on iPhones using FileMaker Go
– Ability to manage multiple tower IDs and assign one ID to each port of operation
– Ability to dispatch orders from an iOS device
– Ability to create a new order on the iPad with no internet connection
– Warnings and catches for fuel and maintenance log entries with bad or missing data
– Improvements to the tow order form for easier boater assistance and record keeping
– QuickBooks status icons to indicate when an order is ready to push to QuickBooks, needs to be updated in QuickBooks, or is up to date in QuickBooks.
– Improvements to the Reports module for easier business analysis and payroll processing
– The ability to automatically create a timer entry when submitting an order from the Remote file to the Central dispatch file

We all know that one size never fits all. Every business, even in the same industry, has different business standards and practices. Building VSS in FileMaker has allowed us to create and continue to improve upon a comprehensive solution that is also easy to customize specific to a client’s needs.

For more information on this product, please visit www.vesselservicesolutions.com or call 760-510-1200.

6 Reasons to Switch to FM Books Online Server Side Plug-in

February 3rd, 2017

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You asked. We listened.

The main driving forces behind your business are clients and revenue – so why not connect the two?

The FM Books Connector Online Edition plug-in connects FileMaker with QuickBooks Online and enables users to push and pull contacts, invoices, and other sales transactions.

A FileMaker and QuickBooks integration not only eliminates double entry but also provides your staff with quick access to pertinent financial data (like customer balances and invoice information) without multiple people accessing your sensitive QuickBooks company file. Check out the video below for an overview of the FM Books Connector Online Edition plug-in features and benefits.
 
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Now we have six new reasons for you to love our FM Books Connector Online Edition.

1. It is compatible with FileMaker Server 14 -15, Mac and Windows.

2. Now, multiple users can post to QuickBooks from multiple devices. Your front office staff can connect on their desktops with FileMaker client, your accountant can update items in FileMaker from her house – using a web browser and FileMaker WebDirect, and your sales reps can update client information or push invoices to QuickBooks on the road – from an iPhone or iPad via FileMaker Go. A server-side plug-in allows users to truly capitalize on the mobility of QuickBooks Online.

3. Faster load times than client-side plug-ins, meaning you get more work done in less time.

4. The convenience of only needing to install the plug-in one time in one location, versus having to install it on every users’ computer (and no more having to deal with reinstallations or transferring licenses from machine to machine).

5. For just $450 a year, you can have unlimited users per server – no more need for five, ten, or 20 users licenses. Now it is painless and easier than ever to add new users as your company grows.

6. Ability to connect with multiple QuickBooks Online company files. This is especially helpful if you are an accounting agency that is contracted to manage multiple clients or your company recently acquired a second firm and is undergoing a merger, or if you are a corporation that has multiple divisions that require their own dedicated company files.

The possibilities are endless.

This version release (2.0.1.0) includes:

– An updated demo file to introduce and familiarize users and developers with the new server functionality.
– New video for step by step instructions on how to install the plug-in on the server.
– Updated documentation for easier development and integration.

FM Books Connector Online Edition is available for an annual rate of $200 for a single user (Client license – no server-side functionality) and $450 for unlimited users (Server license). Every Server license includes a client license for developmental purposes.

For more information on the FM Books Connector Online Edition plug-in, visit www.fmbooksconnectoronline.com or call 760-510-1200.

How VSS Helped TowBoatU.S. San Diego Go Mobile, Paperless, and Save Money

January 19th, 2017

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TowBoatU.S. San Diego, founded in 1987, is the most established Towboat company in San Diego. Their experienced staff assists thousands of boats a year off the coast of Southern California and Baja, Mexico. Rob Butler’s company is ranked number four in the U.S. in terms of caseload volume. TowBoatU.S. San Diego is 100% mobile and 100% paperless.

Q: What challenges were you experiencing prior to purchasing VSS?
A: While we’re at sea, it’s hard to keep track of new service requests coming in by phone and it is difficult getting invoice details back to the main office. Imagine those busy days when you barely get a chance to write up an order or the paperwork gets lost. It’s easy to misplace, lose the invoice or forget to write up the order. How do you follow up with a client weeks or months after the service was done? We knew we needed to change something to become more organized and remain competitive and responsive in the marketplace.

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Q: What led you to decide to use Vessel Service Solutions?
A: We needed a way to streamline our method of receiving and processing orders to improve business, turnaround time, and efficiency of service. Before VSS, we were using a work order software that allowed us to dispatch orders to a captain’s iPad, but since the majority of our orders come from BoatU.S., we wanted something that would actually import the BoatU.S. order information directly into a form in the system. With the old solution, our staff had to copy and paste the email into the database, which was labor intensive and slow.

We were also using a completely separate software to track all fleet maintenance, but the solution was too complex for our needs. The Fuel Log and Maintenance modules in VSS are very easy to use and perfect for our needs – we only record the information we want to track.

Q: What goals were you hoping to achieve with a new solution?
A: We wanted to provide our captains with a simple, paperless, easy-to-use system. We needed the ability to quickly update the data needed for an order (times, services, etc.) and get the customer’s signature all while assisting a boater. Making sure we could do this without an internet connection was very important. VSS did all of this and it has an incredibly short learning curve. The captains can pick up an iPad and start using VSS confidently in a day or two.

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Q: How has VSS helped your business?
A: It’s been great. We’ve been using VSS since 2014. And since then we’ve seen an improvement in payment processing and an increase in customer satisfaction. Now all towing orders go in and out through our iPads – keeping everything up to date and our office completely paperless. My boat captains are able to receive an order on their iPad, edit and update the order at sea, and send their orders back to the main office for invoicing. Paper forms are completely eliminated, customers in distress are assisted faster, and the payment process with BoatU.S. or non-member customers has been greatly improved. The system tracks all orders, so it’s easy to follow up and collect payment. I would estimate that VSS saved us at least $60K in 2016.

Q: What about VSS do you use the most?
Probably the remote dispatching feature. With VSS, I – or anyone else – can dispatch tow orders on the road. No one has to be sitting down at a computer to send out a tow dispatch. With VSS, it’s easy to work on the go – we don’t really have an office anymore. Our entire operation is mobile.
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Q: What is your favorite feature of VSS?
A: My office manager really appreciates the fact that you can instantly push invoices from VSS to your QuickBooks file and send completed orders directly to BoatU.S. This ensures that the main office stays up-to-date and completely eliminates manual re-entry of data. Sending orders directly to BoatU.S. without having to scan or fax anything has helped reduce the time spent in the office and helps us get paid faster. I’d estimate we’ve reduced our office work by 90%

I also really appreciate the maintenance message pop-ups that remind staff when a service is due on a boat.

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Q: You’ve been using VSS since 2014, is there anything you’re excited about with the release?
This solution has just continued to get better and better. There is a lot to be excited about, but if I had to pick one new feature, I would say it is the fact that captains can create an order on the iPad while at sea. We used to send captains blank order from the central dispatch file. Now, when my captains come across a stranded boater in the middle of the ocean, they can create a new order themselves, instead of having to call into dispatch to get a blank order.

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For more information on Vessel Service Solutions please visit: www.vesselservicesolutions.com