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PHP Site Assistant

New to FileMaker Server 9 is a snazzy little tool called the PHP Site Assistant (PHPSA). The PHPSA walks you through a wizard-type interface and ultimately outputs basic PHP pages that allow you to interact with your FileMaker database.

These pages are normal text documents that you can manually customize to your needs. Even after you are comfortable coding PHP from scratch (which we get into in the next section), the PHPSA is a powerful resource that can get you up and running in a pinch, give your "from scratch" site a head start, or just give you some good ideas.

Launching the PHP Site Assistant

The PHPSA can be found on the master machine of your FMS installation. To launch the Site Assistant, open the Admin Console and select Server, Open Start Page from the Server menu. A browser should open up to the Admin Console Start Page. In the lower-right quadrant of the page is a link to the PHP Site Assistant and XSLT Site Assistant Tools (see Figure 5.15). Click the link to open the Web Publishing Tools page (see Figure 5.16). After the page loads, click the Start PHP Site Assistant button. A file called phpsa_webstart.jnlp should download to your download directory. If the Site Assistant doesn't launch automatically, double-click the .jnlp file to launch it.

Figure 5.15

Figure 5.15 You can launch the Web Publishing Tools page from the FileMaker Server Start Page.

Figure 5.16

Figure 5.16 Click the Start PHP Site Assistant link on the Web Publishing Tools page to download and launch the PHPSA.

Building a Search Site

When the PHPSA first launches, you are presented with an overview page that outlines the seven steps to creating your website. Click the Create a New Site link in the lower-right corner to proceed. You are prompted to specify a name for your new project. This name will eventually be used as the name of the export folder for the site.

On the following page, you are asked to connect to a FileMaker Server machine, to select a file that is hosted there, and specify an authentication method (see Figure 5.17). If you have been following along at home, the Product Catalog file will be available. Select it by clicking once. Then select the Store Database Account Name and Password in Site option and click the Open Database button. You are asked to provide a valid account name and password for the Product Catalog file. Be sure to use an account that has the PHP extended privilege enabled. Click the Choose a Layout Group link in the lower-right corner to continue.

Figure 5.17

Figure 5.17 The Database Settings page allows you to establish a connection to a file on the database host.

On the Layout Group page, you will see a list of table occurrences (TOs) from the Product Catalog file. Clicking the disclosure arrow next to the table occurrence name will reveal all layouts that are based on the selected TO that are accessible via PHP (see Figure 5.18). For this example, select the Product TO and click the Choose a Site Profile link in the lower-right corner to continue.

Figure 5.18

Figure 5.18 The Layout Group page allows you to select from table occurrences (TOs) in the selected file. Doing so will establish the context for the Site Profile pages to come.

The Site Profile page allows you to pick a flow for your site from a list of typical website paradigms. I encourage you to experiment with all of these so you will be familiar with the capabilities of the tool, but for now, select Search Page with Record List and click the Apply button. By doing so, you are telling the PHPSA that you want a three-page site: a home page, a search page, and a record list page. Click the Configure Home Page link in the lower-right corner to begin configuring your pages.

The Home Page does not have a lot of options. It's really just a splash page for the user. You can give it a title and description, which will both be displayed to users when they first visit the site. Click the Configure Search Page link to continue.

The Search Page configuration is a bit more complex. First, specify a title for the page. Then, select a layout from the Layout pop-up menu. The layout that you select will determine the fields that appear in the Fields list below. Using the buttons above the Fields list, you can include, exclude, or reorganize the fields in the list (see Figure 5.19). When you are satisfied with your selections, click the Configure Record List Page link to continue.

Figure 5.19

Figure 5.19 The Search Page allows you to select a layout and one or more fields from the layout to include on the search page of the site.

On the Record List Page, you are selecting the layout and fields that should appear on the search result layout. You don't have to select the same layout or fields that you selected on the Search Page. The fields on the Record List Page are going to be laid out left to right—fields at the top of the Fields list will be leftmost on the result page. An additional option on this page is that you can specify the default sort order of the found records, and the default maximum number of records to display per page (see Figure 5.20). Click the Choose a Theme link to continue.

Figure 5.20

Figure 5.20 The Record List Page looks just like the Search Page, with the addition of the Specify Default Sort Order button, and the Maximum Number of Rows to Display per Page setting.

The Theme page simply gives you a list of preconfigured styles from which to choose. Select whichever you like and click the Specify Output Settings link to continue.

On the Output Settings page, you can opt to preview the site, or output the files to a directory on your hard drive. If you preview the site and decide that you want to go back and change some things, you can jump back to any step in the process with the navigation in the left sidebar.

If you want to output the files, browse to and select a location on your hard drive, and then click the Generate Site button. You will be notified that the site was successfully generated, and asked whether you want to save the PHPSA project file.

If you want to come back and edit this site later via the PHPSA interface, then save the project. If you are going to edit the generated PHP files manually with a text editor, there is no real need to save the project.

Reviewing the site in a browser reveals just how cool the PHPSA is (see Figures 5.21, 5.22, and 5.23). Note that the Search Page allows you to specify the type of search in each search field, as well as an AND or OR search. Also note that the Record List Page supports sorting with clickable column headers, and it has First, Last, Next, and Previous links for paging through long sets of data.

Figure 5.21

Figure 5.21 The Home page displays the title and description specified in the PHPSA, and has top-level navigation links to the other pages on the site.

Figure 5.22

Figure 5.22 The Find Records page allows you to specify search criteria in one or more fields, each with its own operator (begins with, ends with, contains, and so on). You can also indicate that you want to find records that match ANY or ALL of the criteria, and you can override the default number of records to display.

Figure 5.23

Figure 5.23 The Record List Page supports sorting with clickable column headers, and it has First, Last, Next, and Previous links for paging through long sets of data.

In literally less than 5 minutes, you can have a useful, if utilitarian, site up and running. If nothing else, you can learn from reading the generated code. The PHPSA is new, so it remains to be seen how—and how frequently—it will be used. That being said, this is no toy. FileMaker did a very good job with this, and I would not be a bit surprised if the majority of FileMaker/PHP developers used it to build their starter files for a solution.

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