Magazine article Technology & Learning

FileMaker Pro 8: A Versatile Database Tool Grows Up

Magazine article Technology & Learning

FileMaker Pro 8: A Versatile Database Tool Grows Up

Article excerpt

FileMaker was once a simple, inexpensive database development tool which could be used to handle very lightweight and basic database tasks. Rarely deployed for high-volume use, FileMaker found a niche in settings like schools and classrooms. However, along the way to its newest release, version 8, FileMaker became a much more powerful database development platform.

FileMaker 8 is a winner, and it deserves strong consideration if you're looking for a tool that capably bridges the gap between high-end platforms like Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server and pure end-user tools like Excel.

FileMaker has some other specific advantages; its cross-platform compatibility between Macintosh and Windows is particularly versatile, and it has a history of use in K-12 environments. Chances are someone in your school is already using it for classroom or administrative purposes.

FileMaker 8 offers some entirely new functionality and features previously available only through third-party add-ons. The PDF options are extremely useful. You can save files and data in PDF format, which guarantees that data will be viewed in exactly the same format you see on your end. You can also save output from a FileMaker application as a PDF form, which can be e-mailed to be filled out by anyone with a PDF reader. Easy Microsoft Excel import and export, potentially a huge timesaver, is another out-of-the-box option. And e-mailing data from any field inside a FileMaker application is a quick and easy operation. This is particularly useful for quickly firing off data from a query or report to a colleague.

Other key enhancements include a simplified table import capability, a clean entity-relationship editor for more powerful database design, and several features that enhance and simplify data searching, sorting, importing, and exporting. A new tab control helps make application layouts cleaner and easier to use, and the layout alignment tools, allowing simple alignment of text and fields on a form, are drastically simpler than before. Some of the more subtle enhancements can make your FileMaker applications significantly easier to use: auto-complete of field contents, calendar drop-downs, mouse-wheel support, and a visual spell-checker all make end-users' jobs easier. And FileMaker Pro still allows for one-click deployment of applications to the Web, one of its most powerful features for the novice developer. Instant Web Publishing can be accessed remotely with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6. …

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