A Closer Look at FileMaker Pro 10 AdvancedBy Frank Ohlhorst | Print
With the release of FileMaker Pro 10, FileMaker aims to breathe new life into the relational database market by incorporating Web-centric features and improving ease of use.
Whether you are a first-time user or intimately familiar with previous versions, FileMaker attempts to keep things as simple as possible. The product is installed via a wizard and doesn’t require any special considerations, except that Apple’s Bonjour file-sharing service must be installed for the product to function; luckily a copy of that piece of software is included and auto-installs.
When launched for the first time, users will be presented with a splash screen that aims to keep everything as simple as possible. New users will appreciate the introductory video tutorials, visual product tours and in-depth "how to" examples. All of which strive to eliminate the need for a manual or printed reference material. If new users are willing to invest the time, the included training/tutorials/examples could potentially save countless hours for first-time users and even teach old pros a few tricks about the updated product.
While the product does offer some 30 example applications, users probably will look to those applications only as examples on how to do certain tasks. The real magic of FileMaker Pro 10 Advanced starts with the database itself, not the various forms, menus and lookups. Users will want to approach creating a new database from a "data dictionary" point of view; basically, a user will create an empty database and then define tables, fields, keys and so on. Then users will go on to create relationships between the various tables by linking fields together.
While many of those features are rather pedestrian in the world of advanced databases, what’s important to recognize with FileMaker Pro 10 is the auto-creation of the logic behind each field and the ability to create data validation rules at the field level. That alone will save hours of manual programming or scripting when it comes to creating entry and edit forms. It’s features like those that make the product foolproof for most newbies and also save time for seasoned coders, who no longer have to worry about the little things when it comes to database and field validation rules.
While creating and designing the relational database is the foundation of any FileMaker application, it’s only one step in the process. Users will also need to create ways to input, access and use the data. To do so, they will turn to FileMaker’s Layout design tools. Layouts are a representation of the data and are available as a record table, record list or record detail (form) views. Those familiar with other databases (and rapid application development tools) may find FileMaker’s approach a little confusing, since a record table, record list and a record detail are all part of the same layout. Other products usually treat those three elements as separate entities, a concept that many find more desirable. That said, FileMaker diehards have come to love the layout structure offered by the product. It all comes down to a matter of taste.
All layout elements can be quickly populated with fields and designed with simple click and drag options. Users can also embed scripts or access additional field properties with a right click. The options offered on a field are extensive, and, in almost all cases, users will not have to write a single line of code or script entry to accomplish any given task.
The idea is to "paint" the forms and tables and have the logic behind them controlled by the properties associated with fields. All in all, it works very well for both the novice and the expert. FileMaker Pro 10 Advanced makes it very easy for end users and developers looking to create robust databases. While the product is unique in the way it accomplishes that task, the end result remains the same—an easy-to-use database.