FileMaker Pro V. 11: Desktop Database Redux

Although I periodicallly lament the death of the desktop database program, I now find that I may have exaggerated. Consider FileMaker Pro, one of the earliest database systems available for the Mac, originally sold by an Apple subsidiary, Claris.  Now in version 11, FM Pro comes in several different flavors which work on multiple platforms.

  • Mac 
  • Windows
  • iPad
  • iPhone
  • iPod Touch 

The product for the iOS systems, called FileMaker Go is especially interesting.  It is essentially a runtime version that allows applications developed on either the Mac or Windows computers to run on an iOS mobile platform. What’s more, is that it eliminates the whole issue of learning to write native iOS apps; you develop on the desktop and can deploy directly to the iPad/iPhone.

FileMaker Go is purchased individually for each device from the app store. (I tried asking about volume discounts of 100 devices, but so far haven’t gotten any discount).  Still, considering the cost of developing a native iOS application, the price is pretty reasonable…. $40.00 for the iPad and $20.00 for the iPhone, or iPod Touch.

FileMaker has a server version which allows sharing of data between desktops and mobile devices. I am still finding my way around the desktop and mobile versions, but it looks quite promising.

One early project is to convert an existing health-care screening application, written in Access, to FileMaker, to deploy on Windows desktops and iPads. Since the systems analysis has already been done for the Access application, the effort is a straight screen for screen port to FileMaker. While there are a few quirks (radio buttons and checkboxes are especially weird), so far, things are going smoothly.

With almost any development system, I always eventually end up with some kind of show stopper which requires substantial workarounds or research to get past. So far with FileMaker, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. At least on the development side, things that would take hours in Access take minutes in FileMaker, and of course things that would take days using the native Apple iOS development tools are a snap.

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