Thank you for your post.
If the responses are into a FileMaker Pro file, you would know the name of the fields, so the import script would be fairly straight-forward.
If the responses are in a text file, depending on the results, it could also be a straight-forward import, or you may have to bring the results into a temporary file and do some parsing.
Ideally, I'd like to send out something the user can enter simple responses into, then Email back so I can script an import into FM Database.
Any ideas would be appreciated.
Several questions that you will need to answer in order to work out the details:
Are you using Mac or Windows?
Are your respondants Mac, Windows, both... users?
Will they have filemaker on their machines?
Are you dealing with a few dozen respondants, 100's, 1000's ?
The big issue here will be how you handle the multiple files that come back to you.
With text or Excel files, you might be able to set up a utility that merges the responses into a single large file which then becomes the source file for your data import into filemaker.
With individual files, you'll have a challenge selecting one file at a time to import into your database. If you have a few dozen responses, that's manageable. If you have thousands, it's a significant challenge and you'll need to automate the process.
The form would be going to Windows and Mac users who do not have Filemaker. I've had experience with parsing text responses in a "holding area" (separate FM table) then importing the cleaned up data into the main FM table and yes, it can be done, but it does get ugly.
Sending them an Excel file to fill out has the limitation of they (end users) need Excel or OpenOffice or Numbers to even get the file open. Importing the Excel file once it's completed would be likely less troublesome than a simple text file.
I keep drifting to something like a PDF form created in PDF Pen Pro or Acrobat Professional that gives the uses an nicely intact form with specific areas (i.e. fields) to fill out and then email back to me. However, there's the issue of extracting only their responses and importing those responses into Filemaker. Since this will be an ongoing function and it will involve about 100+ response per month, it's at the ragged edge of practicality to be cutting and pasting out of their sent-back PDF forms into FM. Way better if I could automate the import.
If you have a version of FMP adv, you could send each person a run time database system. They'd get two parts, the crippeld FMP App that opens your Questionaire and the Questionaire file. The users could fill out the form and then email back to you just the DB file and not the FMP Application. Or a script in your questionaire file could export the data into a text or excel file for emailing back to you. (The text file will be smaller and you might be able to find a utility for merging all the text file into a single file for importing.)
That fixes one problem but now you have 100's of identically named fmp files returning to you for importing into your database and you'll need to automate that to make this practical.
Phil, thanks for the runtime idea. I was remiss in that I didn't mention I had evaluated that option already. I do have FM Advanced. The runtime file I created, even zipped, was too big a file size to make for a practical email.
PDF is a good choice, but the extraction requires a third party application or a plugin. Another option is to set up a web site (or use one of the existing survey services). Finally, you could send out a simple HTML form that will send the form data as e-mail. The processing of received mails is relatively easy, because they're formatted uniformly. In OS X, you could automate this completely using Applescript.
Sound cool, but beyond my skills. Is this as simple as setting up a FM layout with fields and exporting as HTML table? Or is there an app to dummy this down. I've got zero Applescript skill.
Is this as simple as setting up a FM layout with fields and exporting as HTML table?
Which part are you referring to? To set up a form, you need some basic HTML skills. This has nothing to do with Filemaker.
To process the incoming, you set a rule in Mail to run an Applescript. The script parses out the data and tells Filemaker to create records. Perhaps you could use an Automator action for this, too. If you google for filemaker +mail +applescript, I believe you'll find plenty of stuff.
OK, so the form you're suggesting is created in an HTML editor or WP, not as an export from FM? Thanks for the link. I'll check it out.
Right. It's just a 'helper' that creates a structured mail message (that the user has to send from their mail application).