FileMaker Pro Retools Database

Update offers tighter data security, better management.

The changes in FileMaker Pro 7 make it a compelling upgrade and earn the database eWEEK Labs Analysts Choice recognition. However, its major changes will make the upgrade process cumbersome for some users, particularly for workgroups sharing databases under ITs radar.

FileMaker Inc. has changed the database structure significantly in its $299 FileMaker Pro 7, which shipped earlier this month for Windows and Mac OS X. In tests, we found that this change, as well as the new database-sharing engine, makes FileMaker Pro 7 a worthy competitor to Microsoft Corp.s Access and a worthwhile upgrade (for $149) from versions going all the way back to 2.1. FileMaker Pro is limited to five concurrent Web or FileMaker sessions, so to upgrade, some workgroups will need the $999 FileMaker Server 7 when it ships this summer.

The database has been retooled to allow multiple tables in a single file. This can significantly reduce the administrative overhead associated with managing databases, since some applications can consolidate multiple files. Migrating complex FileMaker Pro 5 files into the new data structure can be arduous, but the benefits will make it worthwhile. This release enables users to work on multiple databases simultaneously.

Managing the relationships among fields is easier using the new relationship graph, a visual tool for mapping fields across tables. The feature will enable companies to easily tap existing databases to build new applications. FileMaker Pros visual nature gives it a competitive advantage over Access in ease of use: The relationship tool enhances that advantage and makes FileMaker Pro a justifiable expense even for companies that get Access as part of Microsofts Office bundle.

This release supports role-based security, which made it easier for us to manage user access, particularly as it related to the Web Publishing model. FileMaker Pro 7 enabled us to tune security at the record, script and value-list levels. This flexibility allowed us to create scripts that helped a user perform database maintenance without having to grant that user broad access to data.

FileMaker Pro also does a good job of securing data at the connection level. It provides password support, including password management, and the forthcoming server will perform server-based authentication. Sessions can be encrypted via Secure Sockets Layer.

FileMaker Pro 7 can manage impressive amounts of data. Container fields can now handle files as large as 4GB; text fields can now store more, up to 2GB; and field names can be longer. These changes will make it easier for companies to manage multimedia data as well as build applications that include long text fields.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at