By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2005-10-24 Print this article Print

In the latest release of its namesake database application, FileMaker Inc. has included improvements that make it easier for end users to work with and share data.

Released at the end of August, FileMaker Pro 8 and FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced are priced at $299 and $499, respectively, with FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced replacing the FileMaker Pro Developer version.

In eWEEK Labs tests of both editions, we found enhancements that bolster FileMakers standing as a good solution for small teams that must quickly deploy an application for organizing and sharing data.

Not only are many of the updates handy for current FileMaker users, but they also make FileMaker an appealing choice for new users facing ever more options for workgroup and personal database development.

FileMakers competition has expanded beyond Microsoft Corp.s Excel and Access: Alpha Software Inc. has introduced Version 6 of its Alpha Five database application, and Intuit Inc. has improved its hosted QuickBase application. In addition, the OpenOffice.org Foundations OpenOffice.org 2.0 productivity suite has a personal database application, Base, that can be considered a free alternative to FileMaker.

Click here to read more about OpenOffice.org 2.0 and its cousin, StarOffice 8. For client-based workgroup database applications shared via the Web, FileMakers primary rivals are still Alpha Five and 4D Inc.s 4th Dimension 2004.2. A key client-side advantage for FileMaker is its ability to build and deploy database applications for Pocket PC- and Palm-based mobile devices.

Both FileMaker and QuickBase bundle a good variety of prebuilt applications. FileMakers 30 included applications cover basic CRM (customer relationship management), defect tracking and task management applications. FileMaker sells vertically oriented add-ons for FileMaker Pro as well.

FileMaker Pro 8 has made strong progress in the area of data sharing, particularly in the way Adobe Systems Inc.s PDF has been incorporated as a way to generate reports. We could create PDF-based reports from any record view, thereby creating single-record reports as well as reports based on multiple records.

In addition, the PDF library used to build the reports supports PDF document, security and view data. FileMaker Pro 8 enabled us to directly export data to Excel, saving external users the step of importing structured text into Excel.

We used FileMaker Pro 8s new integrated e-mail client to send reports in PDF and Excel format and to create mass mailings directly within the application. We could define the recipients and message content based on record set. This allowed us, with a couple of clicks, to send recipient-specific data, such as a customer ID, to individuals based on the e-mail address stored in the database.

Although this is a handy feature, wed like to see FileMaker Pro 8 pass relevant information to Outlook and other e-mail clients. This would allow communications to function in the structure of an enterprise messaging environment, with a record of outbound e-mail saved on the e-mail server.

Next Page: Databases made easier.


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