Saturday 28th October, 2000
One of the most serious flaws in FileMaker Pro is the lack of a programmable export function. Which is a shame, really, since the ability get information out of a database is as important as being able to get it in. Yes, there’s an ‘export’ script step, but this limits you to: (a) providing a dialog box and hoping the user picks the right location and name to save your file; or (b) only ever exporting data to the same place and having some external function (say Troi File Plug-in, or an AppleScript) rename and/or move the file afterwards. Even if you use this method, exporting text is your only option. If you want to handle pictures or, Heaven forfend, QTVR movies, you’re stuck with AppleScript and horrendous pathname calculations.
ExportFM is a plug-in that gets around all these problems with a deft piece of programmatic sleight of hand. The software allows you to export any type field data: text, sounds, pictures, and movies. Text can be exported as ‘styled’ text, and pictures can be exported in their native formats or converted to JPEGs.
Instead of handling field data internally, the plug-in hands over the problems of storing the data and getting hold of it in the first place to the user and the Clipboard. The export functions simply export whatever’s on the Clipboard. So to script the export of a picture, simply copy the contents of your picture container field and then use the Export function, specifying the filename you want to export to and the file type and file creator for the new file.
Depending on your view, this may seem either ingenious or sneaky; in either case it simplifies the export task enormously. In fact, the plug-in has only 10 export-related functions. ConvertImage takes the image on the Clipboard and converts it to a JPEG with user-specified size, bit depth and quality. This is great for creating thumbnails, or a JPEG gallery of images. GetTypes tells you the various file types available on the Clipboard. Often when you copy an item to the Clipboard, you get more than just a single picture format - if you’re copying an EPS, say, then you might have the EPS file data as well as the preview picture.
By interrogating the Clipboard in this way, you can easily determine what file formats are available for exporting the image you’re dealing with. So you can either choose to export it as an EPS file, or have it converted to a JPEG instead. Because the conversion process (but not the pure export process) requires QuickTime 4 or later, the CheckQT function is there to tell you whether or not it’s installed. If it’s installed, you have the additional benefit of the GetImageInfo function, which lets you access the height, width, bit depth, compression quality, resolution, file size and image type of the Clipboard. There are also some of the more essential file system functions that you might need for any robust export functionality: SetDestinationFolder, GetDestinationFolder, NewFolder, RenameFile, DeleteFile do exactly what you’d expect them to.
It’s clear from both the function list and the fairly simple documentation that ships with the plug-in that it’s been expressly designed for exporting static Web sites. Functions for exporting both text and JPEGs, handling nested folder hierarchies using the destination, and new folder functions, cover all the bases. However, being able to deal with the Clipboard also lends it to other approaches. For instance, you can copy each page of a report preview and have that exported as a JPEG, which you could then email. Or if you were running a copy of FileMaker Unlimited, you could upload it to a more dynamic Web site. These scenarios are explored in the documentation that comes with the plug-in.
When you first download ExportFM it’s in demo mode. This allows you 20 exports per application launch, and places a white oval over all exported images. If you want to enable the plug-in, of course, you have to pay for it - and here’s the sting. The single-user licence is about $100. The cost per user falls to $10 for 100 users, but this is still pricey for a market where more extensive plug-ins retail for around $30. However, if you want static HTML and JPEG export functionality, this is currently the only plug-in that provides it in a single package.
Straightforward plug-in that lets you export text and pictures with the minimum amount of fuss.
|Get Further Info|
|Manufacturer||New Millennium Communications|
|Pros||Easy-to-understand functional model ˜ JPEG conversion ˜ Styled text export|
|Cons||Expensive for single users|
|Originally Published||MacUser, Volume: 16, Issue: 20, p32|