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FileMaker 18: Assisted Install – read this BEFORE you install FileMaker 18

Did you just finish installing FileMaker 18 on all the machines in your workgroup? If so, you’re reading this too late, come back and read it again before you install FileMaker 19 next year.
If you haven’t installed the new version yet and you are not looking forward to how long it will take you to do so, you are in the right place.

When you’re setting up FileMaker Pro Advanced on one or two machines, you probably don’t give much thought to how long it takes to enter your license information and run the installer, but you don’t have to do this very many times before it becomes tedious and deploying a new version to even a moderate-sized workgroup can become a huge time suck. For this reason, FileMaker provides installation options that allow you to automatically provide your license information to the installer so that it doesn’t need to be manually entered on each user’s machine. This same feature also gives you additional options that aren’t available when running the installer normally. With a new version of FileMaker just released, now is the time to learn how to use the assisted install so you can spend all of those hours you told your boss it would take to install FileMaker doing something else.

Picking an installation method

There are several methods that you can use to streamline your installation process. Which one you pick will be determined by your OS and your company’s IT policy. Covering the full range of installation methods in depth is beyond the scope of this blog post, but I will do my best to give you an overview of the methods for each platform and cover the methods that I’ve used more thoroughly.
Before I launch into an explanation of these methods I want to point out that most of these require you to save your FileMaker license information where the installer can find it, which means that it is also available to any user who can access the installer. Take appropriate precautions to make sure your license information cannot be easily stolen.
While both the Windows and macOS installers can make use of a file named Assisted Install.txt don’t be fooled into thinking that they are the same. Each platform has its own version of this file and they are not interchangeable.
Also, it goes without saying that you must have admin-level access to install FileMaker Pro Advanced on any workstation.

Windows installation methods

  • Installing using a networked volume (Recommended)
  • Installing from the command line with msiexec
  • Silent assisted installation
  • Saving the license key in the .msi installer

Installing using a networked volume (Recommended)

This method stores the installation options in a plain-text file named Assisted Install.txt that resides in the Files folder inside the unzipped Windows installer folder. The customized installer folder is then placed on a volume where it can be accessed by the workstations where you need to install FileMaker Pro Advanced. Please note: while FileMaker documentation refers to this as a “networked volume” install, this can also be run from removable media.
See the section below that details the contents of the Assisted Install file for more information on the options available here.
Pros: Fairly easy to set up. FileMaker provides you with an Assisted Install template file that you fill in. Provides the most installation options of any method.
Cons: License information is stored in plain text so anyone with access to the installer can copy it if they know where to look. Still requires some input from the user to install.

Installing from the command line with msiexec

Using the command prompt run as an administrator you can enter the license information at the command line. It’s also possible to write a batch file that calls this for you.
Pros/Cons: Honestly, I’m not sure on this one. It doesn’t seem like less work than entering the license info as you run the installer. If you use a batch file to automate it then it becomes no more secure than the assisted install file. I’m sure there are certain IT environments where this works best, but I don’t know what they are. Also, it’s unclear from the documentation whether you can enter all of the assisted install options from the command line or if it’s limited to the licensing information.

Setting up silent assisted installations

After setting up the options in the Assistant Install.txt file as described in the Installing using a networked volume option above, you can then open the command prompt as an administrator and call the setup.exe file with additional arguments that will cause it to run with little or no interaction from the user. This is my preferred option on Windows.
The full list of available arguments is available from the FileMaker documentation referenced earlier in this article. I use the following command which shows an installation progress bar with a cancel button but otherwise requires no user input.

"pathname\setup.exe" /qn+

Pros: Requires the least user interaction from the installer.
Cons: Requires a user to interact with the command line.

Saving the license key in the .msi installer

Using the Microsoft Orca editor you can edit the .msi installer file to directly embed the license key and personalization information. This eliminates the need for the Assisted Install.txt file.
Pros: This is the most secure option for your license information since it is no longer stored in a plain-text file.
Cons: While you can store licensing information in the .msi installer you can’t include any of the other information from the assisted install file so some user interaction is still required.

macOS installation methods

  • Installing using a networked volume (Recommended)
  • Silent assisted installation using Apple Remote Desktop

Installing using a networked volume (Recommended)

This method stores the installation options in a plain-text file named Assisted Install.txt that resides in the root of the disk image containing the FileMaker Pro Advanced installer for Mac OS. You will then create a new disk image where you copy the installer, the License Agreements folder and the modified Assisted Install.txt file.
Please note: while FileMaker documentation refers to this as a “networked volume” install this can also be run from removable media.
Unlike the Windows version, you can not specify which language version is installed. If you need to change the language version go the to System Preferences and change your default language before running the installer, then change it back after installation completes.
Pros: Fairly easy to set up. FileMaker provides an Assisted Install template file that you just need to fill in. Provides the most installation options.
Cons: License information is stored in plain text so anyone with access to the installer can copy it if they know where to look. Still requires some input from the user to install.
See the section below that details the contents of the Assisted Install file for more information.

Silent assisted installation using Apple Remote Desktop

Similar to Installing using a networked volume, but after editing the Assisted Install.txt file you also create personalized remote desktop install script that you can then use to install FileMaker Pro Advanced silently on workstations under your control.
Pros: Provides a silent install with no interaction from the user needed.
Cons: License information is stored in plain text so anyone with access to the installer can copy it if they know where to look. Requires Apple Remote Desktop which is an additional cost.

Options in the Assisted Install file

Most of the installation methods above rely on the Assisted Install.txt configuration file to tell them what options they should use during installation. The most commonly used options allow the installer to automatically provide the user’s license information and suppress the installation dialogs that require user input, but there are also options that allow you to control some of the features available in FileMaker Pro Advanced after installation. The full list of installation options includes the ability to:

  • Accept the End User License Agreement (EULA)
  • Enter a user name for all installations
  • Enter a company name for all installations
  • Enter a valid license key for all installations
  • Specify the language version of FileMaker Pro Advanced (Windows only)
  • Specify whether FileMaker Pro Advanced is available to all users or to the current user only (Windows only)
  • Create a shortcut for FileMaker Pro Advanced on the desktop and in the Quick Launch toolbar (Windows only)
  • Suppress the Personalization dialog box during installation
  • Disable the Software Update dialog box
  • Disable the New Version Notification dialog box
  • Disable option for plug-ins to be installed by solution files
  • Hide the Enable ODBC/JDBC command
  • Hide the Configure for FileMaker WebDirect command
  • Disable the FileMaker Pro Advanced development tools
  • Specify a custom app to open when FileMaker Pro Advanced starts (New in FileMaker 18)

For full details of the installation options available in the Assisted Install file click here:

Network Install Setup Guide – Personalization options

FileMaker Server assisted install

It should be noted that there is also an assisted install option for FileMaker Server. Having to deploy large numbers of FileMaker Servers is not as common as deploying large numbers of FileMaker Pro Advanced, but if it is potentially useful. Please note that you will still need to run the FileMaker Server Admin Console to configure most options. The assisted install does provide the ability to automate the following installer choices for FileMaker Server 17 and later:

  • Organization – Your organization name as it appears on your license
  • Deployment Options – Single machine deployment vs WebDirect worker machine
  • FileMaker Server User
  • Admin Console User
  • Admin Console Password
  • Admin Console PIN
  • Launch Deployment Assistant
  • License Certificate Path
  • SkipDialog – Choose whether or not you want the installer to suppress dialogs as the installer runs

For a full rundown of the FileMaker Server assisted install process click here:
Assisted install of FileMaker Server 17 and later
While the assisted install process is often overlooked for smaller installations the time spent mastering this tool can quickly pay for itself. With new versions being released on an annual basis, it’s a good investment in productivity.

Alan Kirtlink is a FileMaker Certified Developer at Skeleton Key in St. Louis, MO.

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