New Tricks, Fewer Clicks

FileMaker (800/325-2747, was among the first major Mac developers to offer support for OS X, coming out with the native FileMaker Pro 5.5 less than two months after Apple shipped its next-generation operating system. Its upcoming release -- FileMaker Pro 6 -- continues to refine its OS X capabilities, while maintaining support for OS 8.1 and higher. But more important, the updated version of the database program sports a number of productivity boosters that should allow you to assemble and maintain databases in fewer steps. It also includes fully integrated XML support, making it easier to exchange data and integrate with other applications. FileMaker Pro 6, available in next week, will ship for $299. Existing FileMaker users can upgrade for $149.

The Sharper Image

You'll notice a change as soon as you launch FileMaker Pro 6. The application has 21 new templates, now organized by category. A drop-down menu lets you choose between templates filed under Home, Education, and Business.

The new version of FileMaker features batch-import capabilities that let you import any folder of files into a FileMaker database with one click. Importing downloaded digital images has also been streamlined; version 6 imports everything in a single step, instead of one image at a time.

If you're using OS X, you can import images and data, such as aperture, exposure length, and flash setting, directly into a database from your camera, in a single step. Version 6 recognizes cameras supported by OS X, so there's no need for any driver software.

A Real Find

FileMaker's find-and-replace tool is now more like a word processing program's, capable of finding and replacing text throughout a database. You can use the tool to change a specific text string, which is all or just part of a field's contents. It can also replace field labels and text that appear in multiple layouts and fields, respectively.

FileMaker's Find tool performs OR and AND finds more easily. The application also lets you choose a sort criterion with one click in a field's context menu. A new Format Painter tool lets you copy text-block and object attributes such as color, font, and size and apply them to other objects and text in a matter of clicks.

As Easy As X, M, L

Version 6's major addition -- fully integrated support of Extensible Markup Language, or XML -- isn't as immediately visible as digital-image capture and new productivity tools. But it's just as important when it comes to allowing FileMaker users to share data with colleagues and other applications.

The lingua franca of data organization, XML provides the means for communicating exactly how a data set should be organized. And thanks to FileMaker 6's new XML capabilities, any program that can accept XML-supported data can share information with FileMaker.

Version 6 is capable of exporting XML data to any text-based format. It can also import XML data from the Web, corporate data sources, XML-aware applications, and other FileMaker databases. That makes it easier to share reports and data, even with users who aren't running FileMaker.

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