FileMaker Add-on Totes Data

Mobile version works with Palm devices, Windows PCs, Macs; requires FileMaker Pro 5 Version 3

FileMaker Inc.s FileMaker Mobile, an add-on for that companys popular database application, enables businesses to extend the availability of their data smoothly to employees with Palm OS-based handheld devices.

However, although FileMaker Mobile integrates tightly with FileMaker databases on both Windows- and Mac OS-powered desktop PCs, its Palm client application lacks the range of functionality found in other database applications for the Palm OS, such as DDH Enterprise Inc.s HanDBase.

Whats more, the $49 FileMaker add-on is designed to synchronize a single device with single-user FileMaker databases only. FileMaker Mobile cannot be synchronized using Palm Inc.s HotSync Server product.

Nevertheless, FileMaker Mobile, which started shipping in December, performed well in eWeek Labs tests and is a painless, inexpensive way for FileMaker users to hit the road with their data.

FileMaker Mobile is an add-on for FileMaker Pro 5 Version 3 and will not work with earlier FileMaker versions. FileMaker Pro runs on Windows 9x, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Mac OS 8.1 to 9 operating systems. In addition, FileMaker Mobile requires HotSync Manager 3.0.1 or later on Windows machines and HotSync Manager 2.5 or later on Mac OS machines.

On the handheld side, FileMaker Mobile works with devices running Palm OS Version 3.1 or later with at least 2MB of memory. The handheld device component itself is about 100KB in size.

FileMaker Pro is the only Windows/Mac OS cross-platform database that allows developers to create a client/server or stand-alone database application on either platform and deploy it on both without any changes.

In tests, we were able to select databases for synchronization with a Palm device by first enabling the Palm OS access plug-in for use with a particular FileMaker database and then selecting the subset of fields and records from the database that we wished to transfer over to the handheld. We were able to select as many as 20 fields from a test database.

The required commands lie within a couple of FileMaker preference menus, each a few clicks deep in the interface. Wed rather have seen a wizard interface that grouped the required configuration steps together, perhaps accessible from a button on the tool bar.

The FileMaker software converts the selected database into a sparer, more Palm-friendly version of itself. We could view our records in list mode and edit them in a form view, but wed like to have the option of seeing individual records with empty fields omitted for easier viewing on the small handheld display.

As is the case with the full version of FileMaker Pro, database files can be sorted alphabetically on any field. FileMaker Mobile is also equipped with a search function that allows users to conduct a search of the individual fields within a database.

Although we could modify individual records on the Palm device, we could not create or modify the structure of the databases themselves—adding and removing fields from forms, for example—on the Palm device. We had to make these changes with FileMakers desktop component.

In previous tests with the Palm OS database application HanDBase, we were able to create and modify database structures on the device in this way.

In addition, HanDBase let us beam records or whole databases between devices, as well as export records to text for manipulation in other Palm applications. Neither of these actions was possible with FileMaker Mobiles handheld application.

FileMaker Mobile synchronizes databases via a standard HotSync Manager conduit. Upon selecting the database and fields to be synchronized, we were able to transfer our database by performing a HotSync.

The synchronization is bidirectional, and conflict resolution between records on the desktop and the handheld is carried out according to rules that we could set while configuring the link. We could choose to skip synchronization of conflicting records or assign precedence to either the records on the handheld or those on the desktop.