It wasn’t so long ago that Apple was a little short of cash -- back in those dark days FileMaker must surely have helped keep the mothership afloat. Things have changed at the iPhone company, but as FileMaker celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, the all-new FileMaker 14 announced today boasts numerous improvements for an increasingly Apple planet.
What is it?
FileMaker 14 is a cross-platform solution business users can deploy to develop or create, manage and share information with teams using iPad, iPhone, Windows, Mac and the Web.
FileMaker was originally developed by Massachusetts startup Nashoba Systems 30 years ago. Since launch, more than 20 million copies of FileMaker Platform products have shipped. The FileMaker Go for iPad and iPhone apps recently surpassed 1.5 million downloads. The range consists of FileMaker Pro 14, Advanced, Server and Go 14.
It makes sense to recognize FileMaker as an early Apple enterprise success story – not only is it used in both public- and private-sector companies, but it’s available in 15 languages and boasts a strong developer community, the FileMaker Business Alliance.
So what’s new in FileMaker 14?
There’s dozens of features and customer stories here; I’ve chosen just a few for this report.
FileMaker wants to empower users with this release. To this end, the software is festooned with tools to help even novice users quickly develop new solutions. Script Workspace makes it much faster to automate common business processes, such as assigning new tasks to employees with the most availability.
The help system, “can guide you to create scripts more easily and much faster than it did before,” FileMaker Project Manager Robert Holsey told me last week. “We even had script creators find new scripts they didn’t know existed."
“With auto-complete, favorites, shortcuts and more, the Script Workspace gives us quicker, smoother development. Developing in FileMaker isn’t my main job, so it’s important that I can evolve our solution quickly,” said Carson Lind, vice president at Annex Medical Inc.
Desktop-style Web apps
FileMaker has redesigned WebDirect, introducing built-in support for the latest tablets, so apps on mobile devices are as easy to work with as those on the desktop, and equally powerful. Enabling mobile device feature parity is a big deal as enterprises go all BYOD. In this case, it means FileMaker’s toolbar will automatically adapt to the screen size of a user’s browser on desktops or tablets, and on-screen menus set themselves appropriately to make best use of screen real estate.
FileMaker WebDirect is up to 25% faster when opening most web-optimized layouts. It also has doubled the number of supported concurrent connections (from 50 to 100). Automatic reconnect from FileMaker Pro 14 solutions to FileMaker Server 14 helps users recover quickly from a lost or unreliable network connection – in the past, if you had spent time digging into a database to find a particular item and the connection dropped you’d have to dig through to the data again once you got back online. In version 14, it will remember where you were and return you to that spot.
“WebDirect is freaking awesome now,” said Joe Scarpetta, CEO of Scarpetta Group.
FileMaker has replaced dialog boxes and pull-down menus with an app-like interface and large icons in Launch Center. When you create a new FileMaker solution, you can choose pre-built icons or create your own, and icons will appear consistently on all supported platforms or device. “Apple has really changed its visual design and we have worked to match it,” said Holsey, pointing to additional controls for touch keyboards.
The little things
Dozens of small improvements help make FileMaker solutions more familiar to anyone used to working with online apps. These smaller improvements include support for the insertion of placeholder text into empty fields and numerous developer-focused tools.
Developers can easily make solutions full screen by using scripts or swiping to hide the user interface. They can lock in portrait or landscape views using the new set-screen orientation, display helpful information when capturing signatures, enable touch keyboards, enable richer text formatting, and use new video and audio playback controls to create self-paced training applications.
The pace of data capture is not fixed and enterprise users are gathering far more of it than they ever have before – and the value of that data is changing. Not only this, but communication-enabled business processes work at their best when they are enabled for collaboration. That’s why there’s “more accent” on collaboration within this release, Holsey said. “Notifications within the app help boost collaboration,” he said.
One more thing, pricing – FileMaker seems keen to switch customers to subscription, though purchase remains an option.
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