Filemaker Pro is simpler than Microsoft equivalents
First published in Business in Vancouver,
August 14, 2001, Issue #616: The high-tech office column
by ALAN ZISMAN
Last week, we started looking at databases; a
product for personal computer users that somewhere along the way
from most people's desktops.
We looked at Intuit's Quickbase, a database
that, hosted on the
company's Web servers, is easy to create and use and free, at least for
the first three databases per user.
Quickbase is affordable and, being online, accessible
anywhere you have
Web access. But its simplicity can be limiting and online can mean slow
and too often not accessible.
Many people have Microsoft Access and Paradox
included in the professional versions of Microsoft Office and Corel
Word Perfect office suites. But the keyword here is professional.
Neither of these products is particularly easy to work with; more
own them than use them.
Trying to balance database power with ease-of-use is a
The product that best pulls it off is Filemaker Pro, now with a new
5.5 from Filemaker Inc. ($400, $250 upgrades). Although
Inc. is an Apple subsidiary, it's available for both Mac and
In fact, version 5.5 runs on Windows 9x, NT and 2000 and natively on
the new Mac OS X and classic Mac OS versions.
Filemaker makes it easy to design attractive forms.
Visual layout tools
allow you to drag datafields around the page and add graphics.
are included to allow for fast start-up and customization. It's also
to import data from other databases or spreadsheets; just drag your
file and drop it onto the Filemaker icon. Filemaker data files can be
between the Mac and Windows versions of the programs.
After your data is arranged in an attractive form,
many advanced features. While similar features in Microsoft Access or
require knowledge of database programming, they are more accessible in
Filemaker. Tables can be linked, mailing labels created, data can be
and more, all without programming. Relatively simple scripts can be
for example, automatically notifying creditors of overdue accounts.
Note that phrase "relatively simple." While
accomplishing these sorts
of tasks with Filemaker is easier than with Access or Paradox, expect
have to put in learning time.
New to version 5.5 is the ability to work with
Now, it can be used to generate attractive graphics-laden reports from
business data sources using real-time SQL queries. This, along with the
program's network support, may make the new version of Filemaker more
to the IT departments in large organizations.
As well, Filemaker boasts of its ability to publish
its databases to
the Internet or a corporate Intranet. This, however, is not as easy as
might be hoped. Users cannot simply send their database files to any
host. Instead, the Web server must be running a copy of the $1,500
Server and each data file must be configured to be Web-sharable. Once
done, however, data can be viewed and optionally modified from any
With the $800 Developer version, databases can be
created that can be
accessed by users who don't have a copy of Filemaker; they can add and
modify data, without being able to change the database design. The
to create both Mac and Windows versions of these stand-alone databases
is an added bonus.
Finally, there's an $80 Mobile version, which gives Palm
users the ability to view and modify Filemaker data.
Trial versions of the basic and server versions are
available for download