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FileMaker 19 Under the Hood – Javascript & Add-ons

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The first few sessions of the first ever virtual Claris Engage conference were all about some of the new features of FileMaker 19, namely JavaScript integration, add-ons, and the Execute FileMaker Data API script step. These exciting additions to our favorite platform have the potential to change the way FileMaker applications are developed and deployed. Curious to learn more? We summed up everything we heard about these new features during the first day of Claris Engage

Code Reuse

Code reuse is the practice of using existing code in a new application, and can noticeably improve both the quality and speed of development. Reusing code can also allow a novice developer to push the boundaries of what they’re capable of. FileMaker developers have reused code for years, but the practice has been largely limited to copy paste operations involving a carefully orchestrated series of steps to move code from one FileMaker file to another. Todd Geist and others have championed modular development, but those efforts focused on changing the way that we develop solutions to achieve easier and more compartmentalized copy/paste operations with our code. Add-ons are here to streamline the code reuse process, and lower the barrier to sharing code.

What are add-ons?

Add-ons and JavaScript integrations are two separate features. The ability to use JavaScript functions from FileMaker and vice versa allows creating small integrated applications inside a FileMaker database. A good example would be a JavaScript calendar built entirely in a web viewer, or other applications like charts, Kanban boards, or drag and drop interactions. These are all examples of JavaScript integrations, but this doesn’t address the complexity of actually getting this code into your solution. This is why add-ons are a game changer.

Add-ons are just a delivery technology created to eliminate the need to copy fields, scripts, objects, custom functions and other small application elements from one file to another.  They can be built with or without JavaScript and can be easily shared. In other words, add-ons are just building blocks that allow easy addition of small or large application modules to your FileMaker application.

A new add-on can be created in FileMaker using only one script step – Save As an Add-on Package. This script step will create a reusable bundle out of a FileMaker file that will contain all data but none of the security settings. Claris already promised adding 9 JavaScript based add-ons to FileMaker 19 in the next few weeks along with a guided add-on creation template.

While the add-ons are already available in FileMaker 19, the add-on development is still in preview so you won’t find a lot of documentation on the Claris official website. Instead, you can find all information and a guide that explains how to build an add-on at Geist Interactive:

https://www.geistinteractive.com/engage2020/add-on-docs

https://www.geistinteractive.com/engage2020/add-on-docs-relationships

Execute FileMaker Data API

The new script step Execute FileMaker Data API is also a powerful addition to FileMaker 19. While it will play a big role in JavaScript integrations, it can be used on its own for a variety of other tasks. Execute FileMaker Data API might sound similar to FileMaker Data API but there are a number of key differences:

 

  • You don’t need a server in order for it to work
  • These requests don’t count toward your Data API quota
  • The requests don’t go through the HTTP Server
  • No additional login is required
  • This script step returns a response in JSON format
  • Handles its own context
  • Returns metadata about the FileMaker file not available with other methods

 

Now you might agree with us that the name of this new script step is misleading. Execute FileMaker Data API doesn’t actually have not much to do with API requests to the FileMaker database. This is an entirely new way to access a file’s metadata. If you’re curious to learn more, we recommend checking out this link.

What’s next?

FileMaker 19 is Claris’ first Open Platform release and this is exciting news. With version 19, the FileMaker platform is truly open to the massive possibilities JavaScript brings to the table, and offers an open invitation to developers coming from other platforms to join the Claris community.

We are rapidly moving towards a global marketplace of reusable code. Modules will be built with or without JavaScript, shipped as add-ons, and easily connected to FileMaker data thanks to the Execute FileMaker Data API function. Anyone, regardless of skill level, can take advantage of the best that Claris FileMaker has to offer.

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