capsule review

Panorama V

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There’s good news for devotees of ProVue’s Panorama: Panorama V (or version 5) runs in OS X. And this version adds a boat-load of enhancements—including live clairvoyance (similar to the easy search feature in OS X’s Finder), more ways to get information from the Internet, extensions to Panorama’s programming language, custom functions, and a great new way to create custom menus—to the great features Panorama has had for years, such as cross-tab reports, charts, and quick subtotaling of groups.

Is Panorama V Right for You?

If you’re developing even moderately complex databases, or if you need to share your databases with many users over a network, Panorama can’t compete with FileMaker Pro 7 (   ; October 2004 ), 4D 2004, Servoy, or other excellent client-server relational database systems. Panorama V is currently only for single users. (ProVue says that it’s working on a server version, but no release date has been announced.) Panorama does have tools for linking files using lookups, but defining these links is not as easy as defining relationships in FileMaker Pro or 4D, and Panorama provides no way to keep track of relationships after they’ve been defined. Panorama’s programming language is not as powerful as 4D’s (you can’t compile a Panorama database), not as well docu-mented as Servoy’s (which uses standard JavaScript), and not as easy to learn as FileMaker Pro’s.

If your needs are simple, Panorama may not be as good a choice as FileMaker Pro or even Excel (   ; August 2004 ). After all, Excel can also do cross–tab reports, charts, and quick summaries. Panorama V’s documentation is extensive (three full volumes!), but at times it seems to be a labyrinth of cross–references.

However, Panorama can take you way beyond Excel’s database features. You can link files, build attractive forms and reports, and exchange data with Web sites such as FedEx’s online tracking system. I especially liked Panorama’s new elastic-forms feature, which lets you create fields that get wider or narrower as a user resizes the window. With Panorama’s programming language, you can manipulate your data in almost any way you can imagine. And ProVue provides free online tech support.

Quirky Interface

Panorama V can’t directly import an Excel spreadsheet, and most of its import and export options are hidden in a wizard rather than readily accessible in the File menu. And its user interface is peculiar. For example, there are three different commands in three different places for deleting records. To delete one record, you use a button in the toolbar; to delete all the records in a database, you use a command in the Edit menu; and to delete the records currently displayed, you first use the Select Reverse command, which hides the records you want to delete and displays the ones you want to keep, and then use the Remove Unselected command to delete the records that are not displayed.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

If you’ve used and liked previous versions of Panorama, you’ll want to upgrade to this version. Otherwise, Panorama V is best suited to people who work mainly with flat-file or only moderately complicated relational databases, who want ready–made data analysis tools, and who occasionally need a powerful programming language.

[ William Porter is an independent database developer and author of an upcoming book on FileMaker Pro 7 for No Starch Press. ]

This datasheet was organized with the Group command, which is in the Sort menu, and the Total command, which is in the Math menu. But why is the Style & Color command in the Math menu?
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