It has been awhile since I had a Tech Friday… a day almost exclusively devoted to tech stuff as opposed to accounting, finance, marketing, whatever.

I spent the day installing Filemaker Server Advanced version 12, on a repurposed Dell workstation running Windows 7 and the Windows IIS web server.

Although the FileMaker Server web page claims you can install it in eight minutes, I was actually at it for much of the day, troubleshooting the installation and then trying out as many of the features as I could.

Just what is FileMaker Server? 

FileMaker Server is host software for FileMaker databases, that facilitates running one or more shared databases from a single dedicated server machine.

It includes a backup program to safely back up FM databases even when they are open, a major source of corruption when attempted by standard backup software.

Databases can be accessed in several ways:

  • You can use a Mac or PC desktop workstation running a standard copy of FileMaker Pro. 
  • You can access using PHP, or XML. 
  • You can access through a web browser using “instant web publishing”, which provides a similar interface  to a standard Filemaker Pro interface in a web browser.  This is available only with FileMaker Pro Advanced. 
  • You can access using Filemaker Go, on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch over a wireless or 3G connection. 

I opened a sample database on the server showing with a couple records, and instantly had it open on an iPad, a Mac and Windows PC via the web browser interface.

The sample file displayed  on the iMac. Click to see full-sized.

Here is the same file displayed on the iPad.
The iPad display does away with the project index to the left, but easily displays the full project and task information for a single project. To choose which project you want to see, you can either tap the little index icon in the upper right, (next to the “Tasks” button), or you can scroll through the projects by using the arrow buttons at the bottom of the screen.

Click to see full-sized.

Here is the same file as displayed in Firefox on a Windows XP workstation.

Click to see full-sized.

The web browser version displays the same controls for adding, searching and deleting records that the native Filemaker client displays (top image). In fact the native Windows and Mac clients are virtually identical from the user’s perspective.

Filemaker is perhaps one of the most elegant cross-platform database development systems available.

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