FileMaker 10 looks to be the real deal

FileMaker 10 looks to be the real deal

Summary: Customers will point to FileMaker's friendly new interface in Version 10. However, some significant improvements in the database's programming support may drive sites to upgrade, according to several FileMaker consultants.


FileMaker 10 looks to be the real deal

Customers will point to FileMaker's friendly new interface in Version 10, for good or bad depending on how welcoming a site is to change. However, some significant improvements in the database's programming support may drive sites to upgrade, according to several FileMaker consultants.

FileMaker is the venerable, cross-platform database for workgroups that started on the Mac and moved over to include Windows way back when. But FileMaker may not get the respect it deserves, first, because it's going up against Microsoft Access, and second, because of its static interface, which has been frozen in time for more than a decade, reminding me of classmates who haven't moved on from the haircut and style of high-school days. FileMaker's interface was once cutting edge, but that was a long time ago.

Still, both of these wrong perceptions should change with the release today of Version 10, which sports a totally rewritten interface, as well as with the realization that the product is used by 70 of the Fortune 100 companies. According to Ryan Rosenberg, FileMaker's vice president of marketing and services, the database outsells Access in a number of non-Mac market segments.

Ryan said the new "modern" interface would avoid the problems for the installed base when Microsoft introduced Ribbon Bar that replaced many menu commands and buttons in MS Office. Instead, FM10 retains all its menus and keystroke commands.

"It's all compatible. There is no file format change and that was tricky. Compatibility that was a big reason that [the update] took a while]. We had to make sure that we nailed it," Ryan said.

There are many themes that customers can apply to their databases. According to Ryan, "beauty matters" for data entry and analysis. If users accept the interface, it can improve compliance.

However, a couple of longtime FileMaker developers I spoke with said a better interface wouldn't necessarily drive upgrades.

"My main client is still stuck on [Version] 6," said one developer, who declined attribution. "[The interface improvements] might be worth it, but the upgrade fees really add up," he continued.

A single user license of FileMaker Pro 10 costs $299; the upgrade from versions 8 to 9 are $179 and upgrades from Version 7 and earlier is the full $299 price, the company said.

However, what excited them were the many new script trigger conditions for when entering or exiting fields or scheduling events. For example, FM10 will run scripts automatically when users enter a field with the cursor, or when a layout becomes active. Developers can use this to easily improve data input with auto-correction, something that was much more difficult before.

"This means you can really build an app with it," said another db consultant who specializes in FileMaker. "These interface limitations have had to be coded around forever."

This might get his client to converts, he said.

In addition, I bet they will also appreciate the new embedded mail service that can talk directly to an SMTP server. In the past, all email had to be routed to the host's mail client, clogging up the Sent Mail log with merge mail blasts.

Version 10 looks to have the feature set that can spark an upgrade cycle, even in these tough times.

Topics: Storage, Data Centers, Data Management, Enterprise Software, Hardware, Software

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  • PDA sync?

    Have they still left out syncing databases to a PDA? They removed that at one point (9? 8?), and that's the only feature my wife cares about.
  • RE: FileMaker 10 looks to be the real deal

    I can't believe that there are still companies stuck on 6.0.
    Since the major upgrade from 6 to 7 most of the
    improvements aside from PHP have been minor. Hopefully
    they didn't follow their normal cycle of larger buggy improvements on the 1.o upgrades followed by the bug fixes
    on the .5
    • STUCK on 6.0?

      Hell, where I work, most of the databases are in 4.0 with a few in 5.0. Stuck, indeed! :-)

      (But I'm not kidding about the 4.0)
  • Costly to stick with older versions

    With all due respect, the newer versions of FileMaker Pro (especially starting with version 8) blow away previous versions. They make the program a whole lot more powerful and actually easier to use -- increasing productivity. Any company that is mired in versions before 8 would be incredibly prudent to upgrade FM Pro and make up the cost of the upgrade through increased productivity. (I have no financial interest in the FileMaker company -- I've just been using FM Pro since version 3.)
  • Ribbon Bar - Waste of desktop

    I've hated every application that has adopted the RIBBON
    BAR interface. We have all those features in the menu
    dropdowns. If Apple would leave the keyboard shortcuts
    alone you wouldn't need all the ribbon bar hints. In days of
    old all applications had their standard features positioned
    in the same menus with the same almost identical
    pulldowns and keyboard shortcuts. Not today!! I really hate
    the waste of desktop to show off features, I turn them off
    every time I have the opportunity and use the
    Keyboard/Mouse System Preference pane to add keyboard
    shortcuts Apple or developers have graciously left out.
    THose of us who might Remember OS 6 and the word
    processing company that used "Command P" to access a
    previous page and the furor it raised. We should be equally
    as outraged with being forced to give up desktop space to
    redundant commands.
  • Big Deal

    If 70 of the Fortune 100 companies use FMP then I guess that means that all 100 must use Access.

    Access has been able to run functions and procedures when cursors enter and exit fields (and scores of other events) for over a decade. FMP can only do this now...?
    • Failed Logic

      Filemaker through plugin architecture has had triggered events for many years, They have spent considerable effort on web enabling the db and in most upgrades have managed to include as native, features once only available through plugins. Perhaps you ought to try it.

      Could you explain the logic that brought you to guess that 100 (all) of the Fortune 100 use Access, maybe that's why I use Filemaker because I'm not clever enough to make such assumptions.
  • All FMP versions.

    It's crap. Always was, always will be. Develop on a real platform.
    • Silly Talk

      Access is software for developers. Filemaker is software for users and folks who do not want to wait for developers and their cost to instantly do simple things that make enormous differences in usability.

      I tried Access several times since 1985 (Filemaker was then owned by Nashoba)and it is so archaic and complex for 'get the job done and make a profit changes' that I just go back to what works, Filemaker.

      By the way, Filemaker was first a PC program that was developed early in it's history into the Mac user interface. It has thrived ever since, especially after they made it totally cross platform between the PC and Mac (see if you can do that with Access).

      Yes, there may be large database needs that can be better handled by another platform but they are disappearing as Filemaker continues to add new capabilities and outperform in the 'dammit, just get the job done' database needs field.

      I think we will be going from 6 to 10 primarily because of the integrated e-mail.