FileMaker's Expo showcase

Software created for FileMaker developers is never going to be a big draw on the Macworld Expo show floor—well, it is for FileMaker developers, I suppose, but the general populace is likely to just keeping walking past the booth. And that’s a shame, really, because I saw some pretty impressive things from the developers who set up shop in the FileMaker Pavilion, a group of kiosks just off to the side of FileMaker’s large display on the show floor.

Dr. Ron Smith is a Fayetteville, Ga., pediatrician who created a FileMaker-based paperless medical information system for his own practice a few years ago. Now he sells the program, PaperCutPro to other primary care physicians. Another developer, Christian James, was making its Macworld Expo debut to show of its PayGo SP point-of-sale software for FileMaker. It had one of the more clever names for a feature that I saw all week—the customizable aspects of PayGo are dubbed OpenSorta because they’re “sorta” open source. And .Com Solutions —which was on hand to show off the latest version of FMProMigrator software for migrating FileMaker Pro databases to MySQL, SQL Server, Access and other formats—was also showcasing software from another FileMaker developer, Actual Technologies. That product, Actual ODBC Driver for Microsoft Access, lets OS X users import data from Access databases using either FileMaker Pro or Excel. It sounds like an ideal way for Mac users in multi-platform settings to grab Access data quickly and easily.

But the FileMaker-based product that impressed me the most at Expo was a database analysis tool called Inspector from FM:Nexus. Sold and supported by fellow FileMaker developer Beezwax Datatools, Inspector analyzes a FileMaker database’s metadata, highlighting problem areas in a visually arresting way—namely a red dot. Hover over one of those dots, and a tooltip shows you what the problem is.

Inspector’s interface is so straightforward, it almost makes me think I could sit down and debug a complex FileMaker database with only the analysis tool as my guide. I can only imagine how powerful and effective it would be in the hands of someone with more database competence than myself.

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