FileMaker’s WebDirect offers some exciting deployment opportunities. However, not being able to create PDFs or print like we can with Pro and Go is a big limitation. For many of us, an invoice may exist in a database, but until it’s represented as a printable document, it’s just not a real invoice. Finding a solution to this for the new SeedCode Complete was a high priority for us.
We looked at some plug-ins out there that allow FileMaker Server to generate PDFs: MonkeyBread and 360Works’ Scribe are two that come to mind. These work fine, but Filemaker Server is headless; this means it can’t read layouts like the client can as far as object positions, etc. so these PDFs made by these plugins can’t be based on FileMaker layouts like we’re used to doing in Pro. We’d need to have the server use templates independent from FileMaker layouts to create these PDFs.
Our friend and colleague John Renfrew has been doing some very impressive work bridging this gap between server PDF generation and FileMaker layouts. We’re looking forward to the final results of his work here, set to be released early 2015 as we think basing PDFs on FileMaker layouts is an important part of the platform for all deployments.
For SeedCode Complete, we’re recommending that folks go with the tried and true approach of setting up robot station of FileMaker Pro to generate the PDFs for the WebDirect clients. In the past we could have done this with a plug-in or have the station run on a continuous loop looking for PDF requests coming from WebDirect clients and generating them as needed, but this year at DevCon (2014) we learned of a great technique from the folks at ClickWorks, so the robot client can do this natively with no continuous loops. The general idea is that by deleting a record (something I can do from WebDirect), I will change a found set on another client’s machine, which in turn causes the OnRecordLoad script trigger to fire! Basically I can trigger a script on another client natively. Here’s the ClickWorks blog post on this really clever technique.!
And here’s a video of the SeedCode Complete PDF Robot in action.