With the highly anticipated release of FileMaker 19.5, we at Direct Impact were eager to experience the new features included with this update.

In addition to nearly 400 bug fixes throughout the ecosystem, this release brings some exciting new elements and improvements. Here are the release notes from Claris listing all of the new features.

In this article, we’d like to provide you with additional explanations for major changes to help you understand how these new features can be used in your solutions.

New Client-Side Features

On the client-side, you will be able to enjoy several new features, including :

New JSONGetElementType Feature

This new JSON function will allow you to validate the type of an element specified by an object, array or path.

For example, we have the following JSON object to delimit different pastries:

{
  "No trace of peanuts" : true,
  "id" : "VA3",
  "name" : "Lemon cake",
  "price" : 17.5
}

Use the formula JSONGetElementType

JSONGetElementType ( JSON ; "price" )

Will return a result of 2, which is the JSONNumber type (Source: JSONSetElement )

You can also use this function to validate that your entire JSON object is valid:

JSONGetElementType ( JSON, "" ) = JSONObject

This function will be handy to handle parsed data from JSON better, especially when the JSON content might be unknown or subject to changes, like an API call response from a web service.

(Mac only) Live Text and QR Code support

If you are using the latest versions of Apple macOS (12) and iOS (15), you will now be able to use the GetLiveText () function, to transcribe text (printed or handwritten) from an image.

This feature gives you a native option to do OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and HCR (Handwritten Character Recognition). Consider this feature if you are currently paying for a 3rd party service or 3rd party plugin to do those and you are using your FM app on Mac or iOS.

In the example below, we have a FileMaker app. The user can insert a scanned document into the container field on the left, hit the “Transfer Text” button, which calls the GetLiveText() function and set it into the text field on the right side:

Similarly, we have another new function, ReadQRCode(), which will recognize a QR code presented in an image, and translate it into the text string that the QR code carries for further processing. Keep in mind that this is supported not only on FileMaker Go but FileMaker Pro running on Mac too.

As of 2022, the marketing and retail industries are the biggest users of QR Codes. A FileMaker developer could use this function in an inventory system by using a QR code on an item to easily take a picture of a packaged item with your phone, enter it in a database, and search for items instead of entering the item code or UPC. The code’s content would be read directly from the code scanned in the picture, even if the code is not perfectly lit or is not the main subject of the picture.

GS1 Barcode Support

Claris FileMaker 19.5 includes the ability to scan barcodes in the GS1 standard. GS1 barcodes combine data to create a unique prefix for each company. This prefix guarantees authenticity, which is why GS1 barcodes are very popular for vendors selling their products on large e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Alibaba and eBay.

Suppose your business is tightly integrated with these e-commerce platforms. In that case, you can easily build a Claris FileMaker app that uses an iPad or an iPhone to scan GS1 barcodes into your inventory or retail systems.

FileMaker Data Migration Tool Updates

The FileMaker Data Migration Tool (commonly referred to as FM DMT) was only available to developers who subscribed to the FDS (FileMaker Developer Subscription). It is now available for free.

We have been using FM DMT for years to handle data migration as part of our deployment strategy. The FM DMT takes care of many activities in one command. It automatically does field mapping and can find the correct fields even if field names have been changed. It automatically increases the next serial number for all of your serial number fields. It can also carry all of the user accounts and value lists over.

The FM DMT makes it feasible to have separate development and production environments, which has saved us much trouble when working on complex projects.

Besides all these wonderful features, the latest FM DMT comes with an enhancement that allows the target file (the migrated file) to take the local setting specified in the DMT command instead of inheriting it from the source file.

What does this mean? When you create a new FileMaker file, it will inherit the local setting of the computer that created it. This local setting will affect many formatting options, like how dates are presented by default, the default language for text data, etc. With this newly added feature, you can easily change the local setting of the target files right before deployment.

It will be handy for international or multi-cultural companies (like us) that can benefit from multiple copies of the same solution but with different local settings.

New Server-Side Features

WAN Performance Improvements

Claris has introduced many features that will improve the WAN performance of your FileMaker solutions (solutions accessed by users outside of the company network remotely). With more and more employees working remotely, the following features will improve their user experience with FileMaker apps.

Update Summary Fields on the Server-Side

This reduces your summary fields’ waiting and calculation time by allowing the calculation process to run on your FileMaker server directly. This reduces the performance impact on users.

To improve the performance of summary fields on reports, we had to manually move some of the calculations to run on the server-side via scripting. This new feature automatically does that for us and makes it easier to optimize our solutions’ WAN performance.

Increased Scripting Engine Cache Usage

Complex FileMaker Server scripts can contain hundreds of lines of code and processes that are very memory-intensive for your server.

With an increase in the amount of cache memory available to FileMaker Server (from 64MB to 256MB), your server can now handle larger and more memory-intensive tasks. This gives more capacity to scripts that run via the Perform Script On Server script step and server-side schedules.

Please note that this scripting engine cache is different from the server memory cache that we can configure within the FileMaker Server Admin Console (or via the command line). The script engine cache discussed here is used by server-side scripts to store intermediate products temporarily. In contrast, the server memory cache is used to store the database and its data for sharing.

Improved Performance for FileMaker WebDirect

FileMaker WebDirect now runs faster thanks to a new feature that allows FileMaker Server to cache CSS data from a WebDirect application.

With many devices that can access WebDirect from different browsers, caching CSS on the server will help reduce display errors when adding an image to a container, for example, or even real-time visual changes to the solution, without changing users’ habits.

Save an XML Copy on FileMaker Server

Creating an XML copy of your database is now possible on FileMaker Server.

This export was already available from the FileMaker Pro client. It allows users to compare and identify differences between two versions of the same FileMaker file once it has been imported into a compatible analysis tool.

The difference in performance for this type of task is significant. An export that used to take minutes from the client-side takes only seconds on the server-side.

You can also automate the XML export from a server script or even integrate it into your FileMaker server backup tasks.

OData Integration on all Platforms

OData (Open Data Protocol) was previously only supported on FileMaker Cloud and the Linux version of FileMaker Server. FileMaker 19.5 introduces this immensely powerful feature to the Mac and Windows versions of FileMaker Server.

OData makes it easier to share data between business applications such as Microsoft Excel and Tableau that run on desktop, mobile or cloud. You can learn more about OData in this presentation.

For System Admins

Support for Ubuntu 20.04 LTS

Ubuntu 20.04 LTS is now compatible with FileMaker Server 19.5 and allows you to create a state-of-the-art Linux server with security and performance by adding NGINX web server software.

Parallel Backups

Now when configuring a backup schedule, you can enable parallel backup. Turning this option on will tell FileMaker Server to try to leverage multi-thread to do backups of multiple files in parallel. Turning the parallel backup option on reduces the downtime created by backup schedules and improves the overall performance.

Cancel Backups

Have you ever had a backup schedule that just won’t finish? With FileMaker Server 19.5, you can cancel a running backup schedule either from the FMS admin console or the command line.

fmsadmin cancel backup

It’s not something we should use all the time, but it is a great option to have.

Enhanced support for OAuth with FileMaker WebDirect

OAuth is an authorization protocol that allows applications to give access to their users without using a username/password combo. You may have seen it either with FileMaker apps or other applications that use “Login with Microsoft/Google/Apple/Facebook” options. OAuth provides better security than the traditional username/password method and is becoming the mainstream and standard authorization method for modern applications.

Two things are happening to OAuth with WebDirect.

First, on the login screen, you can disable the username/password option from being displayed and only allow your app to be accessed via OAuth. Making your app only accessible via OAuth is a good option for those that want to improve their app’s security further. It aligns with the trend of major tech companies (Apple, Microsoft, and Google) dropping support for basic authentication and moving to OAuth and other password-less authorization methods.

Second, if your solution uses OAuth to log into WebDirect, you can use a set of JavaScript files to automate your OAuth authorization process. These files are added with our FileMaker Server 19.5 installation under the directory FileMaker Server/Web Publishing/publishing-engine/jwpc.war.

Leveraging this feature allows your app to bypass the FileMaker WebDirect OAuth login screen, creating a more streamlined experience for integrating your WebDirect app with other web applications/services.

These enhancements help FileMaker keep up with modern organizations with a higher demand for security. Perhaps they are the reasons you can use to convince you or your boss to include FileMaker in your IT infrastructure.

Add These Features to Your Solution

There are other changes introduced in FileMaker 19.5, including bug fixes. For a complete list of changes, please refer to Claris’ release notes: Claris Community (English)

In the upcoming months, we will be publishing more content targeting individual features to provide more in-depth explanations, examples and sample files. If you are interested in implementing any of these new features, don’t hesitate to contact us.