The FileMaker database enjoys pretty much the best of both worlds. It runs on Windows PCs and Macs, is powerful enough that some people and companies can make a living off the back of developing bespoke databases using it, yet remains friendly enough for Joe Schmo to knock up a simple contacts database, inventory or invoicing system without too much trouble.
Where version 10 revamped FileMaker’s slightly eccentric interface and beefed up searching and scripting, this concentrates elsewhere. The headline new features are the support for charts so you can compare and contrast data graphically, quick reporting which makes it easier to produce quick-’n'-dirty spreadsheet-style reports, a beefed up Layout/Report Assistant which walks users through the creation of more complex reports, and what FileMaker calls ‘recurring import’ so for example, you can suck in data from Excel and have it update whenever changes are made to the spreadsheet.
Elsewhere we found ourselves using the Quick Find feature all the time: it’s like the find window you get in a browser and means you can search a data set without having to go into Find mode, and then deciding which field to search on. The re-vamped Inspector puts all of FileMaker’s commonly used database design features into a single tabbed panel and saves space on smaller screens at the same time, while the ability to organise layouts into folders using drag and drop (and then edit, copy and delete them from the same window) is much more convenient.
The charting module supports horizontal and vertical bar charts, pie, line and area charts and, while not the most sophisticated offering we’ve seen, is well implemented and easy to use; more importantly it adds a valuable new way to analyse data without having to leave the program.
Things to be aware of? The recurring import feature is read-only and any edits can only be made using the original data source: this makes it useful for reporting and analysis but it’s less convenient than proper two-way dynamic updating.
Similarly, advanced users may find the new reporting assistant a bit long-winded and smothering, although obviously once created, reports can be saved and simply re-used. More unhelpfully, the screen flicker reported by some Windows users hasn’t been eradicated in version 11 so if you suffer from it now it’ll probably continue to be a problem. (It’s also worth noting that the Advanced version of Pro 11 has had substantial negative feedback from Windows developers experiencing problems with creating runtime versions).
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