All About Claris Connect

by Valerie Muradian - Application Developer

On March 14th, Claris launched the first release of its new workflow automation tool, Claris Connect. For the past few months, our team here at Codence has had the opportunity to test and work with this tool, and we are excited to share our initial thoughts. Although this is not the first flow-based application available on the market, it is unique in that it offers a built-in FileMaker connector that allows us to re-imagine the way we use and integrate third-party systems and services with FileMaker based applications.

One of the first things to catch our eye was the intuitive user interface. Whether or not you’re a seasoned FileMaker developer, the clear presentation will allow you to quickly begin building custom workflows that take advantage of a myriad of pre-built automated actions created for a variety of external applications and services. Here is a list of the connectors currently available:

What impressed us most, however, is how easy it was to set everything up and begin using Claris Connect right out of the box. What typically might take FileMaker developers dozens of hours can now take less than a day.

To demonstrate this, let’s show you how to manually construct a direct API connection to Twilio using previously existing methods, and then, how to do it the “easy way” using Claris Connect.

Twilio and FileMaker: Manual Integration

Twilio is a powerful service that enables voice and text communication between various applications, services, and systems. Thanks to their pay-as-you-go model, using their API is one of the best ways to handle sending SMS notifications directly from your FileMaker solution. Whether you need to send event reminders or order updates, Twilio is one of the best tools available to get this done. Manually sending SMS notifications from FileMaker using their API can be accomplished using the following script step:

Insert from URL [Select ; With dialog: Off; Target: $result;”httpspost://” & $account_sid & “:” & $auth_token &”” & $account_sid &”/Messages.json?To=+1″ & $ToPhoneNumber & “&From=+1” &$FromPhoneNumber & “&Body=” & $MessageBody]

However, before we can continue, there are a few pieces of information we will need to obtain from Twilio. First, we need to get the account SID and authorization token as well as register a phone number on Twilio’s website. They do offer free plans and trial phone numbers if you would prefer to test the service first.

Back in FileMaker, we will need to spend a bit more time setting up our script and scheduling it to run at set intervals on the server to allow these notifications to be automated. Additionally, error checking and parsing the returned data will need to be set up to verify the SMS message was sent successfully. Our single-line of code is quickly getting more complicated. If you want to send images, this will take a few additional hours. While this is all very involved, it’s even more challenging to configure FileMaker to receive an SMS response.

Imagine that you sent appointment reminders to your clients. Some of them will not be able to make it and, as such, will need a way to cancel or reschedule the appointment. This is where things become significantly more tedious. Constructing a mechanism to receive and parse incoming responses as well as storing all the data received requires a substantial amount of additional configuration. Since you are using FileMaker to handle appointments, it makes perfect sense to store your clients’ replies and automatically change the status of the appointment based on their response. But how will you handle incoming calls or texts? A Twilio number will need to be configured to send a GET or POST request to a custom-built web application every time a new SMS response is received from the client.

Twilio has a detailed tutorial online that explains how to code a web application that can receive the in-bound input from incoming text and calls. Once your web application is set up, you will need to use an app called ngrok to publish your app to the web. Your app would need to be available to receive requests 24/7. Finally, you will need to configure your web app to publish data back to FileMaker utilizing the FileMaker Data API. This collection of web-based scripts would use the Data API to create new records each time a new SMS is received as well as analyze the response and update the appointment status field accordingly.

Depending on how familiar you are with the concepts listed above, and how perfectly the requirements are defined, this sort of a project without Claris Connect could take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks.

In addition to saving time in development, Claris Connect — in keeping with Claris’ focus on problem-solvers and innovation — allows its users to more easily experiment with workflows, logic, and the nuts-and-bolts of connections.

Twilio Integration using Claris Connect

What if I were to tell you there was a way you could accomplish everything described above with just a couple of hours invested? In addition, you wouldn’t have to download or configure anything or write any code. Here is how this workflow would look in Claris Connect:

IF new appointment record in FileMaker is created
    THEN send a reminder to this number.
IF there is a new incoming message
    THEN examine the body of text.
IF there is a word CANCEL, 
    THEN open FileMaker and change the status to CANCELLED.
ELSE IF there is a word RESCHEDULE,
    THEN open FileMaker and mark this appointment as RESCHEDULED.
    THEN open FileMaker and create a new record to store the text of this message. 

Alternatively, if you wanted to simply receive and save messages, you would only need the following two steps:

This looks significantly easier, right?

In a world where companies use 16 apps per day on average, we see an urgent need for a tool like Claris Connect. When you store your clients’ contracts in several locations, use a separate app to communicate with clients, and use various other services to keep in touch with your employees, it becomes increasingly more challenging to find the information you need. While all those applications may increase productivity, they can also add chaos to workflows. Claris Connect offers a solution to these problems ina simple, intuitive package that will allow both basic and power-users the ability to solve these problems in both a time and cost-effective manner.

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