FileMaker Go 12 (for iPad) review

FileMaker Go is a well-designed iPad app that lets you access database information from the palm of your hand. It lacks the ability to create and truly sync files, but it's a very solid iPad business app.
Photo of FileMaker Go 12 (for iPad)

FileMaker Go, which originally began life as a very solid $30 iPad app, should now be considered must-have mobile database software among desktop FileMaker Pro users. The database program’s excellent design, multiple file layouts, integrated search, digital signature capture, and charting capabilities made it a compelling offer when it debuted, but FileMaker Go 12 ups the ante with enhanced multimedia capabilities, multitasking support, and best of all a new price: Free! A few niggles still linger—you still can’t create new files and there’s no true two-way synchronization—but FileMaker Go 12 is an iPad database app that can keep you productive while on the go.

What’s It All About?
FileMaker Go 12 is designed to do one thing: run FileMaker Pro 12 software (both the regular and advanced versions) on Apple’s slate. You cannot, however, create new files using FileMaker Go; that’s reserved for the Windows and Mac desktop software. That sting is a bit easier to deal with now that that FileMaker Go costs absolutely nothing to download.

FileMaker Go 12 looks and functions very much like its FileMaker 1.2 predecessor. By default, FileMaker Go displays a very basic two-column interface that contains the heading “Files on Device” in the left column, and “Remote Files and Hosts” in the right column. This setup remains the same regardless of whether you hold the iPad in vertical or horizontal alignment. The “Remote Files and Hosts” column lets you connect to a remote host, and lists recently used FileMaker Pro 12 files. When you open a single file or multiple files, an icon appears in the upper-left corner that displays the number of open windows. Tapping that icon lets you effortlessly navigate through the open windows using a finger swipe.

The FileMaker Go Experience
After transferring a FileMaker Pro 12 database table to the iPad using iTunes’ File Sharing feature, I tapped the file, causing it to open in full screen mode. I was pleased to see that the layout hadn’t been altered in the transfer, and that I could edit any of the fields. You can have multiple records (think of them as pages) within a single database table, which you can smoothly navigate between by moving the slider at the bottom of the screen, or by tapping the forward or backward arrows. An options icon resides in the upper-right portion of the screen which you can use to change the view (“Form,” “List,” and “Table”), activate/deactivate the toolbar, print to an Airplay-enabled printer (or use AirPrint), and tweak other settings. Tapping “Save/Send” and then “Database” lets you email, save, or save and open a file, while tapping “PDF” lets your e-mail, view, or save a print-ready file. You can also export data in one of several new file formats including Excel, CSV, TAB, and HTML—very useful.

At the bottom of the interface are three icons that give additional functionality. The first, located to the far left of the navigation slider, lets you select one of 40 themes, including several iPad-friendly designs. The second, located to the right of the navigation slider, lets you add a new set of records to a pre-existing database table, duplicate a database table, delete a database table, or delete found records. The icon to the far right lets you search by file name, omit records from a file, and sort by various criteria (age, amount in stock, item, and much more). In addition, you can now add audio or video that you recorded with your iPad to a container field with just a few button taps. In my time with FileMaker Go 12, I found that all of the options worked smoothly, but FileMaker cautions that there may be some calculation and script behavioral differences when porting files into its mobile app.

Chart Support and Synchronization
FileMaker Go 12 supports Charts created with the desktop FileMaker Pro 12. You can view, edit, and update chart bar, line, and pie charts, but you can’t create them from scratch  within FileMaker Go.

The previous version of FileMaker Go let you transfer FileMaker Pro files from your desktop to your iPad using iTunes (or, alternately, by opening and saving an e-mailed file), but the changes weren’t synchronized; you needed to use FileMaker Pro on the desktop to import data, which was annoying as it resulted in multiple entries. But if you had files stored on a hosted FileMaker server, any changes that you made using FileMaker Go were automatically saved to the original database file. Overall, the experience was less than ideal.

The situation has been (somewhat) addressed. The Charts feature introduced in FileMaker 12 “syncs” FileMaker Pro data within the chart itself; it isn’t, however, a true sync between the local file and the remote file as the changes aren’t immediately reflected within the server or desktop software (you must export the changes you’ve made back to the FileMaker Pro 12). It’s a decent first step, but true synchronization would be marvelous.

Digital Signatures
FileMaker Go now lets you accept digital signatures, which will prove a vital offering for those that signing contracts, confirming the receipt of goods, conducting field surveys, and more. Accepting a signature is as simple as having someone John Hancock the “Receiving Signature” field (either with a finger or iPad-compatible stylus). You can then export the captured signature to FileMaker Pro 12 or upload it to a FileMaker Server database. FileMaker 12 now supports multi-tasking so that when you leave the app and then return to it, you’ll pick up exactly where you left off.

FileMaker A-Go-Go!
FileMaker Go 12, despite some limitations, is a useful tool for businesspeople who want to access databases on the go, as it gives them the option of shedding a laptop or roaming free from a desktop PC. The ability to create new files and charts from scratch would be a huge benefit (as would true synchronization), but even without those features, FileMaker Go 12 is a more than worthy download for FileMaker Pro 12 and FileMaker Pro 12 Advanced users who need to quickly retrieve, or input, important data on the go.

Specifications
Type Personal
Free Yes

Verdict
FileMaker Go is a well-designed iPad app that lets you access database information from the palm of your hand. It lacks the ability to create files, but it's a very solid iPad business app.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc