Some of us at TidBITS have been using FileMaker for over two decades, which isn’t something we can say about many software products. Apple subsidiary FileMaker, Inc. has now released version 13 of its eponymous database tool, focusing heavily on mobile integration (with the free FileMaker Go apps for iOS) and a completely revamped Web publishing approach.
If pushed, I’d say that the focus for FileMaker 12 was its vast improvement in design tools for building attractive and navigable database user interfaces, and the theme forFileMaker 13 is making the database accessible everywhere.
FileMaker on the Web — Since the very beginning of the World Wide Web, we’ve wanted to publish our databases on it, and for the first few years, getting FileMaker data onto Web sites required creative scripting with WebSTAR, or using third-party tools like Lasso. With FileMaker WebDirect (available in Filemaker Server 13) replacing the company’s previous Instant Web Publishing solution in the latest release, FileMaker has built a completely new tool for making databases available in a Web browser.
Making a Web interface behave more like a desktop interface was a major goal for FileMaker 13, FileMaker senior product manager Eric Jacobson told me, and perhaps the most dramatic example of that is the ability to drag images or other content into suitable fields in a database layout, right in your Web browser, eliminating the need to select a field, click an upload button, and navigate around a file selection dialog. That may sound like an obvious feature, but it’s one that the company added to the desktop version of FileMaker only last year.
Even better, and more important, is that a change to data anywhere in a FileMaker database is instantly transmitted to, and reflected by, views of that database on any platform. Edit a record at home before leaving for work, and that change is pushed right out to everyone viewing that record in the field, whether they’re accessing the source database via the FileMaker Pro desktop application at the office, a Web browser while on the road, or an iOS app on the train.
FileMaker acknowledges mobile Web support still has a way to go. WebDirect officially supports Safari, Chrome, and Internet Explorer, but not mobile browsers at this time. The company says there’s no reason you can’t access the Web version of a FileMaker database using a mobile browser, but it has put its energy thus far into compatibility for desktop Web browsers — and iOS app support via FileMaker Go. Full mobile browser support will come in a future release. Similarly, FileMaker says you can use Mozilla’s Firefox on the desktop, but it’s not certified to be fully compatible.
Handheld Data — FileMaker Go, the iOS app for iPhone and iPad for accessing and updating FileMaker databases, became free last year with the release of FileMaker 12; FileMaker rightly saw the iOS app not as a separate product, but as a vital avenue for working with databases (see “FileMaker 12 Adds Power, Clarity, and Free iOS Apps,” 4 April 2012).