While other databases have either been brushed aside by Microsoft Access or sidelined in favour of products that handle specific tasks like inventory, contact management and time billing, FileMaker Pro just keeps on going, courtesy of a relatively friendly interface that doesn’t send novices running for the hills and a set of features under the bonnet that make it attractive to anyone in need of a more serious database.
Version 10 adds a selection of new features that should appeal to both groups of users. First, the interface has finally been re-designed to give it a leg up into the 21st century. So the side panel, which held so many of FileMaker’s controls and commands, has been dumped in favour of the kind of top menu/button bar arrangement that everyone else has been using for years.
Seasoned FileMaker users may scratch their heads at first, but the change makes sense and delivers more screen space for the stuff that counts (records and reports) while bringing all of the menus and button bars together, where they belong. It’s a pity the developers couldn’t have added finer zoom control while they were at it, because this remains miles too clunky.
Elsewhere, searching’s been improved and it’s now possible to create complex searches and save them so they can be re-used later; in addition, your most recent searches are now stored on a drop-down list under the Find button. FileMaker’s reporting has been beefed up and is now ‘dynamic’, which means instead of using the data to create a static report, the information in it stays ‘live’ so it can be edited there and then without having to switch back to the database proper to change it; this is a more intuitive and altogether more sensible way of handling report data.
Scripts – where FileMaker is programmed to go off and do something unattended like assembling a monthly report and then printing it out – have always been an important part of the program but until now required users to actually do something, like clicking a button. With version 10 they can be triggered by a range of actions, for example when you change or exit a field or when a file is opened or closed.
Add other extras, like more ways to get going with templates, the ability to import and export Excel 2007/2008 files, SMTP so you can e-mail directly from FileMaker (there’s no HTML support so these are plain text only) and cleverer sorting, as well as some features that developers will appreciate, like customisable tooltips that tell users what fields and buttons are for, more support for external SQL data sources and improved error reporting for scripts, and you’ve got a substantial upgrade.
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