Test Center review: Thumbs-up to FileMaker upgrade
FileMaker Pro 10 is significantly improved with a smoother GUI and winning new features, but faces stiff competition on Windows
As a work-around, we dumped the FileMaker database into CSV files and loaded it into Access; the Python program then generated the site from the Access database. The client loved FileMaker for editing and maintaining the data and refused to switch to Access, so the multistep process for regenerating the site had to remain and was carried forward at least to FileMaker Pro 7. (FileMaker Pro 10 has a newer ODBC driver, but I haven't yet tested it against the old databases.)
FileMaker Pro 5 and 7 looked to me very much like the Mac FileMaker I'd used in 1985, albeit with greatly improved capabilities. FileMaker Pro 10, on the other hand, looks more like Safari. When I first saw the new interface last December, I admired its appearance and the way it put functionality where the user and developer could see it, but I worried that die-hard FileMaker developers would find their fingers going to the old places. According to several of these folks that I queried recently on Twitter, that hasn't been the case; they have adapted easily to the new interface.
Which SKU do you need?
FileMaker Pro handles most of the basic tasks you'd want from a desktop database program, and most users will be perfectly happy with that edition. FileMaker Pro Advanced adds several developer-oriented capabilities that DBAs, developers, and the office technologist will like: custom menus, a script debugger, a database design report, and multiple-table import. In addition, FileMaker Pro Advanced can create single-user stand-alone runtime databases and kiosk-mode applications.
FileMaker Pro and Advanced allow up to nine simultaneous clients to share a database over a network, and up to five simultaneous Web clients to share an Instant Web Publishing site. Instant Web Publishing attempts to make the database look about the same on the Web as it does locally; it's easy, and it works fairly well, but it's not very flexible.
FileMaker Server allows for 250 simultaneous client connections; FileMaker Server Advanced allows for 999. Both Server versions can publish databases to the Web using PHP or XSL, and they provide a PHP Site Assistant to make this relatively simple. FileMaker Server Advanced also has Instant Web Publishing for 100 simultaneous Web clients and can act as a SQL database through ODBC and JDBC.
Should you upgrade?
William Porter reviewed FileMaker 10 for our sister publication Macworld from the point of view of a Mac user. William did a good job of discussing the differences between FileMaker 9 and 10, and he concluded that "saved finds, dynamic summary reports, and script triggers make FileMaker Pro 10 a very desirable upgrade for current users." I concur; those three improvements are all huge wins. William worried about experienced users learning the new interface; as mentioned before, this has not been an issue.
I'd point to the ability to send SMTP mail without a separate e-mail client as a desirable new feature, although this might be more a case of fixing something that was broken. (FileMaker used to send messages into your mail client's inbox to be mailed, which isn't exactly an efficient design.) The same logic applies to the improved support for external SQL sources; if FileMaker 10 didn't support the current versions of Oracle, SQL Server, and MySQL, we'd think it was unsuitable for use in an enterprise. Fortunately, it can query and display data from all of these sources.
Should you upgrade from FileMaker 9? The short answer: yes!