FileMaker Pro 7 enhances relational features, more

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FileMaker Inc. on Tuesday announced the release of FileMaker Pro 7 and FileMaker Developer 7. The most significant change in this release is FileMaker's transition to a new relational database engine architecture, although that's only one of more than 100 new features in this new release.

"This is the most significant release of FileMaker Pro ever," said FileMaker Vice President of Marketing and Services, Ryan Rosenberg. "It's the result of three years of development, tested externally."

Rosenberg told MacCentral that FileMaker Pro has been developed for "knowledge workers" who aren't programmers, but use technology to solve problems. Typically, they're self-reliant folks who don't have IT staff to work with, and they turn to FileMaker Pro to solve a particular kind of problem because what they already have doesn't suit their needs. And while the software is particularly popular in small and medium-sized workgroups, organizations of all types use FileMaker, including 70 of the Fortune 100 and all of the top 250 K-12 districts in North America and 49 of the top 50 undergraduate universities.

What's new

Perhaps of most significance is FileMaker Pro 7's switch to a new relational database architecture. FileMaker Pro 7 now makes it possible to store up to a million tables within a file.

The relationships between those data are maintained visually, using a map of the database that users can edit by clicking and dragging their mouse. The use of the new relational architecture also makes it possible to store about 4,000 times as much content in a FileMaker Pro 7 database as well -- it can handle up to about 8 Terabytes (TB) of data.

FileMaker Pro 7 gains the ability to store and retrieve any kind of file, including documents, spreadsheets, PDFs and more, inside of new Container fields. You can also now open multiple windows in the same database.

Security gets a major overhaul in this new release as well. Account and password security has been added, as well as role-based "Privilege Set" security. Databases run using FileMaker Server 7 can also be configured to use external authentication through LDAP and NT domains.

Classic support ends

This is the first version of FileMaker Pro to eschew support for "Classic" Mac OS: FileMaker Pro 7 runs exclusively on Mac OS X and Windows. FileMaker doesn't anticipate that this lack of Classic support will represent a long-term problem. "At least 50 percent of our user base has migrated to Mac OS X already," said Rosenberg, who cited FileMaker's strong support by technologically savvy users, many of whom are early adopters of new technology and avid Mac users.

FileMaker still plans to support older versions of Mac OS for a few more months, though. Even though FileMaker Pro 7 comes out Tuesday, all components of the old FileMaker Pro 6 product line will remain available until at least September 17, 2004. Customers who only need to add a new seat to their existing license or who have no plans to migrate to Mac OS X will be able to buy their software until then.

Web publishing improved

Replacing FileMaker Pro 6 Unlimited is a new product called FileMaker Server 7 Advanced.

FileMaker Pro 7 also simplifies publishing content to the Web. More FileMaker functions are supported and Web users are treated to the "full" FileMaker look in a browser. Seventy new script steps can now be accessed in Web-based content as well.

FileMaker Developer 7 also released

Hundreds of developers are registered as part of the FileMaker Solutions Alliance, and thousands more use FileMaker Developer to create custom solutions for clients or for the office intranets they manage. FileMaker Developer 7 sees its release on Tuesday, with many new improvements including everything that's changed in the "regular" version of FileMaker Pro 7.

More custom functions have been added to FileMaker Developer 7, for example, along with better design database reporting. The built-in script debugger has been extended with new features, and runtime applications can be can be enhanced with new capabilities. Maintenance, security and conversion utilities have all been improved.

Server software overhauled

FileMaker Server 7 is coming early this summer. It's still limited to 250 concurrent clients and 125 hosted databases, but Wide Area Network (WAN) performance has been dramatically improved, according to FileMaker, and data transfer can be encrypted using Secure Socket Layer (SSL). FileMaker Server 7 is also now optimized for dual-processor machines.

Remote administration is now done using FileMaker Server Administrator, which replaces the plug-in that had to be installed in older versions. FileMaker Server Administrator enables admins to remotely configure and maintain servers, and a new event log keeps track of who's accessed the server and what they've done.

You can also limit users' access privileges based on account and authentication type. Accounts can also be externally authenticated through Active Directory or Open Directory services.

FileMaker plans to make available a preview version of FileMaker Server 7 prior to release, so users can test it out before the product goes final. Further details about the public preview will be forthcoming.

For industrial-strength Web content sharing, FileMaker Pro 6 Unlimited is being replaced by FileMaker Server 7 Advanced. Publishing using FileMaker's CDML markup language is gone, and is being replaced with Web publishing using Extensible Style Language Transformation (XSLT) and Extensible Markup Language (XML).

FileMaker Pro 7 product manager Marc Dubresson told MacCentral that users who have already invested in CDML-based solutions can migrate to XSLT using a converter. People who are new to XSLT will have a built-in assistant to help them get started.

The new FileMaker Server 7 Advanced product also supports JDBC and ODBC, making it possible to share data with other applications or provide data for reporting tools. This connectivity will be missing from the initial Mac OS X release, according to FileMaker, which cited "delays in implementing the technology."

"We are committed to implement technologies cross platform when possible and intend to provide full support for ODBC/JDBC on the Mac as soon as possible but can't provide dates at this stage," said FileMaker spokesman Kevin Mallon.

Mobility services improved as well

Coming about the same time as the new server products is FileMaker Mobile 7, a companion version of FileMaker developed to help users take their data on the road. The new version now supports FileMaker Pro-based runtime applications, as well as the ability to synchronize multiple devices to the database -- making it possible for several users to share data together on their PDAs. Script events can also be executed before and after data synchronization.

New product, old price

FileMaker Pro 7 costs the same as previous versions: It's US$299 for a new license, $149 to upgrade. The Developer release costs $499 or $399 after a $100 upgrade rebate. FileMaker Server 7 will cost $999 or $499 to upgrade, and FileMaker Server 7 Advanced will cost $2,499 or $1,499 to upgrade from FileMaker Pro 6 Unlimited. FileMaker Mobile 7 will cost $69 or $35 for the upgrade.

FileMaker also plans to release FileMaker Pro 7-based versions of its applications: Tasks and Meetings are planned for a May launch, while Donations and Recruiter will come this summer.

FileMaker is also planning an "amnesty program" for users of older versions who haven't upgraded. The company has made upgrade prices the same for users of version as old as FileMaker Pro 2.1. That's a limited-time offer, however -- after September 17, 2004, only FileMaker Pro 6 users will be allowed to upgrade for $149.

Update: MacCentral checked with FileMaker regarding FileMaker Pro's core database architecture in previous versions. The company replied:

"FileMaker Pro 3 to FileMaker Pro 6 would allow users to relate to data one table or record only. Additional scripting by developers could extend thenumber of records.

"FileMaker Pro 7 now allows users to relate data to multiple files without the need for special scripting."

In order to avoid confusion, MacCentral has updated the article.

This story, "FileMaker Pro 7 enhances relational features, more" was originally published by PCWorld.

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