FileMaker Inc. on Monday introduced the FileMaker Pro 8 family of products. With an emphasis on improving the user experience and extending its sharing capabilities, FileMaker 8 has added numerous features including PDF and Excel makers and fast matching tools. In addition, the high-end FileMaker Developer has been replaced with FileMaker Advanced to appeal to a broader audience. ( Macworld has a first look at both FileMaker Pro 8 and FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced that explores the new features in this upgrade.)
One piece of news that will please many FileMaker users is that owners of previous versions of the application will not have to go through any conversion process in upgrading to the new version.
“I’m very pleased to say that there is no conversion required whatsoever to use FileMaker Pro 8 — we have retained the FileMaker Pro 7 file format,” said Ryan Rosenberg, FileMaker vice president of Marketing and Services. “You can open and run your solutions and you will have instant access to all the new features.”
With the release of FileMaker 8, Adobe’s PDF technology will be integrated into the application and accessible through the File menu. Using the PDF functionality users will be able to produce a PDF document while preserving the original look of their FileMaker information. Additional options also give users the ability to password protect the PDF file, as well as other security features.
While the ability to import Microsoft Excel files has been a feature of past FileMaker releases, users were not able to export to an Excel spreadsheet. With Excel Maker, the ability to save records to an Excel ‘97 and above compliant file will be a simple menu click.
“Our research has shown that there are roughly 100 million Excel users,” said Jay Welshofer, FileMaker product manager. “Although we would argue that 40 percent of them should be using a product like FileMaker instead of a spreadsheet, that’s a lot of excel spreadsheets.”
FileMaker 8 now provides a way to find information much more quickly than in previous versions by adding Fast Match. This feature allows the user to select the information from the current field and with a click find all matching records. A Fast Match search can be refined or broadened directly from the contextual menu.
A few items added to FileMaker that Welshofer said users expect to see in a modern application include auto-complete, Calendar drop-downs and a visual spell checker. Mouse wheel support has also been added, allowing users to scroll through records or fields.
FileMaker Developer gets a name change
In addition to adding new features, FileMaker Developer has a new name — the product will now be called FileMaker Advanced. The move, says the company, is to appeal to a wider audience.
“We surveyed our install base and found out something that surprised us,” said Ryan Rosenberg. “There are a lot of users out there that are advanced — they could certainly make use of the advanced features in FileMaker, but they were afraid of the name. They felt they weren’t professional developers and therefore didn’t buy the product. We wanted to make sure they knew this product had features they could use.”
A new name is not the only change in FileMaker Advanced. FileMaker added the ability to modify FileMaker menus to execute scripts from menu items. Now a user can rename, add or delete menu items, customize keyboard shortcuts and add or delete entire menus.
While Tooltips are not new, FileMaker hopes to extend their use by linking tooltips to the applications internal calculation engine. This means that you could display a helpful hint when a user mouses-over an item or you could instead display the result of a calculation based on the records in the database.
FileMaker Advanced also added a new data viewer, enhanced script debugger and the ability to reuse fields, tables, scripts or script steps.
FileMaker Pro 8 will be available on August 29, 2005 for US$299 or $179 upgrade. FileMaker Pro Advanced is also available on August 29 for $499 or $299 upgrade (For users of FileMaker Pro 6, 7 & 8 and FileMaker Developer 7).
FileMaker Mobile 8 ($69, $19 upgrade download); FileMaker Server 8 ($999, $299 from FileMaker Server 7 and $599 from FileMaker Server 6 and 5.5); and FileMaker Server 8 Advanced ($2499, $749 for FileMaker Server 7 Advanced, $1499 for FileMaker Pro 6 Unlimited, and $1499 for FileMaker Server 8 Option Pack) will all be available in the Fall of 2005.