FileMaker 15 features enhancements in five key areas: mobility, automation/integration, ease of use, security and performance. Targeted at small- to medium-sized businesses and teams within enterprises, the FileMaker platform enables users to build custom apps across the iPad, iPhone, Mac, Windows and the Web.
“This new release represents our ongoing effort to simplify the development and deployment of custom apps that work seamlessly across mobile devices, PCs and the Web,” Ann Monroe, vice president of marketing at FileMaker, in a statement.
New mobility features in FileMaker 15 include Touch ID support, which enables developers to securely access their custom apps with the touch of a finger. New 3D Touch support enables quick access to specific apps. And new app extensions offer content customization and cloud-based file sharing.
In addition, the new iBeacon support in FileMaker 15 provides location-based data from the custom app and FileMaker WebDirect enables customers to use a mobile phone to access FileMaker apps in a web browser.
With the advent of its 15th release, FileMaker has been around for a long time, launching in the 1980s. Andrew Lecates, director of solutions consulting at FileMaker, said the product has evolved dramatically from the early days. Lecates has seen the product’s evolution from a single-user list manager for the Macintosh—with the original GUI database—to a client/server-era business platform to a cross-platform Mac and Windows solution.
“The core idea of FileMaker is to allow for custom app development by citizen developers—to help folks solve problems, to build their own business apps rather than waiting for the enterprise of the app store to fit their needs,” Lecates told eWEEK.
Market research firm Gartner defines a citizen developer as “a user operating outside the scope of enterprise IT and its governance that creates new business applications for consumption by others, either from scratch or by composition.” A 2009 Gartner report projected that by 2014, citizen developers would build at least 25 percent of new business applications, and said this advance would enable end users and free up IT resources. However, Gartner also warned that IT organizations that fail to capitalize on the opportunities citizen development presents will find themselves unable to respond to rapidly changing market forces and customer preferences.
In that regard, Lecates noted that FileMaker’s focus is a bit different than some of the other custom app platforms out there, which are predicated around large-scale development houses within enterprises or professional developers. “We believe in the citizen developer self-solving problems and we focus where the rubber meets the road.”
FileMaker 15 is a continuation of the direction the company has been moving toward, which is increased mobility, Lecates said. The company’s customers asked about instant credentialing through Touch ID, 3D touch support, app extensions for integrating FileMaker with other apps on the iOS platform, even direct API support for things such as iBeacons—which have traditionally been out of the realm of touch for small businesses or teams within enterprises, he said.
“We make iBeacons easy to tap into,” Lecates said. “We also have a browser-based client for our platform called WebDirect and it allows you a no-code development exercise to get a good HTML5 output. This has been optimized for phones in FileMaker 15.”
Meanwhile, new security features in FileMaker 15 include a concealed edit box that hides sensitive information users don’t want displayed on their screen. New proactive security warnings include notifications that appear when a user tries to connect to a host or Website with an invalid security certificate. And FileMaker Server now supports SSL certificates from nine popular vendors and supports intermediate, subjectAltName (SAN), and wildcard certificates, the company said.
FileMaker 15 Brings New Mobility, Integration to Custom App Dev
New integration and automation features include in-product updates and the ability to recover scripting work instantly with multiple undo. Red highlighted text helps easily identify problem areas in the Script Workspace, Lecates said. And with release 15, the FileMaker External SQL Sources (ESS) Adapter connects to even more External SQL Data Sources including PostgreSQL and IBM DB2.
“For me, the expansion of support for SQL sources with the addition of support for PostgreSQL and IBM DB2 with the ESS Adapter was huge,” said Cristoffer Ippolite, a consultant with iSolutions and a FileMaker trainer. “This now gives FileMaker live, two-way connectivity options for five of the largest SQL sources—SQL Server, MySQL and Oracle were already supported.”
Ippolite, who told eWEEK he has trained hundreds of students in his classroom and thousands online over the years, said he has always seen FileMaker as a “sleeper tool” for corporate IT as the “glue” that can bind multiple different systems together while still providing an approachable yet manageable front end for users to interact with data.
“If I told an IT manager that there was a tool out there that could bind SQL Server, MySQL, DB2, PostgreSQL and Oracle together with live connectivity, and that that same tool could allow you and even end users to create apps that could be deployed on OS X, Windows and iOS to hundreds of simultaneous users, any IT manager would be compelled to learn more,” he said. “Although FileMaker swings a big axe on connectivity, it is still the same approachable app development platform that it has always been. Like other Apple products, great detail has been applied to ensuring that end users of all skill sets can crack open FileMaker and create custom apps without a computer science degree.”
FileMaker 15 also has a host of new ease-of-use and performance features, as well as new licensing for teams. FileMaker 15 introduces a new, simpler way for teams of five or more people to license FileMaker software. Each user can access FileMaker Pro (for User Connections), FileMaker Go or FileMaker WebDirect—all hosted on FileMaker Server—to securely share information in real time, the company said.
Meanwhile, FileMaker recently released its SDK for iOS, and updated it for version 15.
“This may have been the biggest game-changer out there,” Ippolite said. “Because now you only need to know how to create a FileMaker app in order to create apps for distribution on MDM [mobile device management] or even on the iTunes store. No Swift or Xcode needed. It is mind-bending, really. For literally pennies on the dollar and in days instead of months, you can go from idea to iPad using FileMaker to build your app.”
When asked what level of technical expertise a user needs to build a FileMaker app, Ippolite replied: “Well, my 66-year-old father built his own app last year and didn’t even reach out to me for assistance. And he still has a flashing ’12:00′ on his VCR because he can’t figure that out. And yes, he still has a VCR.”
For his part, Lecates noted that when it comes to a build-versus-buy decision for a business, FileMaker tries to fit a niche between the two.
“It’s easy to buy an app, but it may not do what you want,” he said. “And custom apps can be expensive and time-consuming to develop. We believe FileMaker bridges those two things and allows the best of both worlds.”