Microsoft recently released Visual FoxPro Version 9.0. Although outside of the normal “office” applications from Microsoft. VFP remains one of the best performing database programs available. It connects to anything and everything. It can form the basis of a web-based applications, functioning as a back-end database, or providing an attractive front end to databases hosted elsewhere, such as SQL-Server and Oracle, or data provided as a web service.
Microsoft positions VFP as a developer’s tool, and it shows. In terms of leverage you can do things in VFP with a fraction of the effort required in Access, especially once you want to do some reporting, or file conversion, or querying. In short, for data manipulation, VFP is king.
So, where does this leave Access, and “the other desktop database”…FileMaker Pro? Access is “just there”…bundled with copies of Microsoft Office Professional. The current version is Microsoft Access 2003, and it offers incremental improvements from previous versions, including greater reliability. Access is is cheap, when bundled, you barely notice the cost. If you need to build a modest application quickly, Access will do the job.
FileMaker Pro is a convert from the Macintosh world. Databases created in Windows can be shared on the Mac and vice-versa. For sheer logic and ease-of-use, Filemaker wins my vote hands down. Filemaker saved the day when we built a photo database of 8,000 photos for a city code office… allowing rapid access to any photo. This application was stored on a Mac server, and served to Windows desktops.
Bottom line: For a quick and dirty single-user desktop database, I would use FileMaker Pro, if I could afford it, or Access if I had it. Once I had to scale up to a real multi-user database, I would seriously consider working with an experienced database developer. Once you establish trust with that person, you are probably best served by using whatever the developer is familiar with. Indeed with a well-designed custom program, users won’t be aware of the underlying development tool used to create the database program.
For ad-hoc data manipulation, using the SQL query language Visual FoxPro is ideal.