FileMaker Pro 10 is a robust database application. New users will like the intuitive database design and look. This review is an overview of FileMaker from the perspective of the experienced database user who may want a cross-platform alternative to Microsoft Access 2007.
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FileMaker vs. MS Access
Experienced MS Access users will probably be interested in how FileMaker Pro 10 (hereinafter referred to as FileMaker) stacks up against Microsoft’s “flagship" database application. Here are some quick comparisons:
♦ Like MS Access, FileMaker is a database application where users create tables from fields and layouts (forms and reports in Access parlance) from tables.
♦ FileMaker goes about database creation taking a somewhat different tack relying heavily on scripts and a somewhat tighter but more forgiving approach:
◊ Field design is more menu driven. If you decide to change some characteristic of a field, FileMaker updates the database everywhere the changed field resides.
◊ Instead of objects and queries (as in MS Access 2007) FileMaker relies on layouts (and their views) along with scripts. (See next section.)
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The FileMaker Approach
An Easy Learning Curve
Experienced MS Access users will have no trouble building a new database with FileMaker.Tasks such as setting new field properties and restricting the type and format ofdata are similar to MS Access, but are menu driven. Like MS Access, field attributes can be controlled both at the table and layout design. The Screenshot below illustrates the field design interface in FileMaker:
Layouts vs. Forms and Reports
FileMaker database architecture differs from MS Access once you get past the the table-building process. Specifically, after the first table is ready, FileMaker generates its first layout or form-like "object" that serves as an input form, report or data viewer. FileMaker uses the same layout for data entry forms as it does for reports. Layouts have three views: design, browse, and find:
♦ The design view allows for editing the design of the layout. Layout designs are similar to the MS Access form and report and have header, body and summary sections. Layout design is intuitive and similar in its user interface to MS Access.
♦ The find view is used to search for records displayed by the layout.
♦ The browse view displays the active records.Scripts vs. Queries and Macros
A FileMaker Script is much like a combination Access query and macro.Scripts are an array of embedded commands that FileMaker uses to run a database in a variety of ways. Among a vast variety of uses, scripts can be attached to a "switchboard" layout to run a FileMaker application; they can embedded in buttons on layouts in the same way Microsoft Access uses buttons on forms, or they can be used for display sorts or finds when a layout opens.
The screenshot below is an example of a simple sort script that can be executed every time a specific layout is opened:
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Microsoft Access is not available for Mac users. FileMaker, on the other hand, is a cross-platform application. FileMaker and the database files it generates can be used on both a Mac and a PC. Software developers who use FileMaker will have a wider range of database customers.
Microsoft Access has a somewhat steep learning curve. New FileMaker users will be impressed with how quickly they can begin designing database applications as soon as they install the software. FileMaker also has an exceptional support network that helps new users get a fast start with a non-technical and intuitive interface. New users get 30 days of free on-line tutoring and instruction. See the FileMaker Resource Center for further information.
FileMaker loads quickly and comes with 30 out-of-the-box readymade files.The files can adapted for immediate use or “reverse engineered" to learn some of the more advanced programming techniques. New users can run tutorials from FileMaker's Quick Start Menu.
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Quick-start Features of FileMaker
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FileMaker is somewhat pricey. The full version retail price is $299 (as compared to $229 for MS Access 2007 -- buy MS Office Professional and pay about $100 for Access).FileMaker also has two “upgraded" and costlier versions: its advanced and server products that go for about $500 and $1,000, respectively.
FileMaker's advanced version has features that will appeal to database developers, but experienced MS Access users will notice that many of the “upgraded" FileMaker features are already available as free add-ins with Microsoft Access 2007. For example, if you are planning on making a database for customers who do not have FileMaker installed on their computers, you must buy the advanced version.
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Try the Free-Trial Version
Download a free trial copy of FileMaker Pro 10 here. Click on the Try Now link below the product. You will be asked to fill out a survey form online, and you will receive a follow-up e-mail with a link to the download site.
FileMaker Pro 10 for Windows is a database design application that works on the Windows and Mac computers. Microsoft Access users will have no difficulty learning FileMaker and will quickly learn to create robust database applications. This series presents FileMaker basics, from fields to layouts.