FileMaker Pro 11: Database Software Review - Page 2

By Gerry Blackwell | Posted March 18, 2010

Simplified Record Keeping

A couple of new features make it easier to save actions you perform in a database to eliminate the need to repeat steps or to preserve original results.

The Snapshot Link, for example, lets you save a search (with its subset of records) as a link you can then click to repeat the same search instantly. You can also e-mail a Snapshot link to a collaborator who uses FileMaker so that person can see exactly the same found set.

Every time someone clicks a Snapshot Link, the search results are updated, so that if someone has added new records to the database they appear, too.

database table view in Filemaker Pro 11
The new table view in FileMaker 11 shows the drop-down menu button and field addition (plus sign) link.
(Click for larger image)
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Similarly, the new Recurring Import function will repeat the action of importing records from a Microsoft Office Excel spreadsheet. This is handy if you want to continue to maintain and update the data in Excel, but occasionally need to manipulate it in FileMaker.

When you set up the import as recurring -- it takes a few mouse clicks -- FileMaker creates a new layout to present the imported data and a script for importing it. The next time you want to work with the imported data in FileMaker, the script executes automatically, repeating the import to ensure data is up to date.

Refining Database Management

Filemaker Pro's other new features, which refine the process of creating and managing database applications and their components, will appeal primarily to advanced users and developers.  

The new Layout Manager feature, for example, makes it easier to organize multiple reports and layouts into folders and to search for them quickly. A layout is any unique display of data from the database. Some people create many different layouts and, according to FileMaker, they wanted a better way to organize them.

Similarly, the Object Inspector centralizes functions related to objects -- the elements in a layout, such as fields, labels, data sources, etc.-- and makes it easier to see them and quicker to make changes.

The Sociable Database

FileMaker already had a Web viewer -- basically a browser window -- that you can add to a layout. Now it’s easy to add your Twitter or other social media page URL and work on it right within FileMaker.

We’re not entirely sure who would want to do this or why, though. Maybe hard-core users who live in the program, or an application based on it, the way other people live in Outlook or Salesforce.com?

Pricing

If you’re already using a version of FileMaker Pro earlier than version 10, the good news is that upgrading to 11 will cost no more than it would have cost you to upgrade to 10.

Retail prices remain the same: $179 (upgrade) and $299 (new) for FileMaker Pro, $299 and $499 for FileMaker Pro Advanced, $599 and $999 for FileMaker Server, $1,799 and $2,999 for FileMaker Server Advanced.

FileMaker Pro Advanced includes additional features mainly of interest and value to developers building custom applications using the program. The Server edition is for companies that run FileMaker applications for several or many users to access on a central server.

Bottom Line

If you were already toying with upgrading from an earlier version of FileMaker such as 8 or 9, FileMaker Pro 11 offers enough added inducements to make the plunge worthwhile. And if you’re planning to buy a new relational database product, FileMaker is clearly stronger for these changes. But the program isn’t a game-changer or enough to warrant an upgrade from version 10.

Gerry Blackwell is a freelance technology writer based in London, Canada. Read his blog, AfterByte

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