FileMaker upgraded its database application once again, and version 12 is a hit in terms of design capabilities. In terms of database power, the application hasn’t changed. It still is capable of handling many thousands of records. However, there are seven new scripts, new chart types and a an easier way to create reports with charts and the Advanced version can now handle custom menus as well as different window types.
For the first time in many years, FileMaker has a new file format. All older database files need to be converted in FileMaker 12 format before you can manage them with the new application. Conversion is no big deal: you just open the file and let FileMaker do the rest. The file format change was necessary as FileMaker 12 has had a complete architecture re-design.
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The most visible results of the re-design are seen in FileMaker 12’s design features. The new FileMaker resembles Bento in that it supports themes, but there the resemblance ends. FileMaker has 40 themes to choose from, but unlike Bento’s they are all completely customisable. Additionally, there are themes especially created for “touch” devices such as the iPhone and the iPad.
Themes being fully customisable means just that: you can not only change font, font size and colours, but everything that makes up for the theme, including buttons, position of screen elements, etc. With regards to screen elements, there’s more good news. Until this new version, buttons looked like they came from back in the Mac OS 9 days, and so did most other screen elements.
Not anymore. Screen elements look like iPad or Web design elements: with the same polish. Creating a button in FileMaker 12 Pro is easier than pie: create the button shape, in the Inspector select how the button should look when hovered, clicked on, how the corners should look, where the shadow should be, etc, etc.
If you have ever worked with Keynote, Numbers or Pages, you’ll appreciate FileMaker 12 design tools in general. They are all located in an Inspector, offering not just button design, but also gradients, rounding, and even accessibility features that allow you to make your database accessible to people who have difficulty reading on-screen.
More capable fields
FileMaker Pro 12 also comes with more capable fields. Especially the binary container field type is much more powerful than its predecessor. You can store JPEG, PDF, Doc, XLS, and even QuickTime movies in containers. File format that are dynamic in nature, such as PDF and QuickTime can be made dynamic: a PDF thus becomes scrollable and text can be selected from it.
You can now even use FileMaker Pro 12 as a database that points to files on your file system, instead of having to store the files inside the database. You could do that in FileMaker 11 as well, but if you would drag a file to the field, it would then display the path to the file instead of the file itself. In version 12, the file itself is shown — e.g. an image.
Especially for images, FileMaker Pro 12 has become more powerful; for example, thumbnails are automatically generated by setting an option in the database management dialogue.
Finally, installing FileMaker plug-ins has become much easier; there’s a special installation dialogue within FileMaker itself.
More capable reporting
Reporting on database content is what sets the big guys like MySQL apart from solutions like FileMaker. Well, in this department I think version 12 may have overtaken solutions such as MySQL by the sheer simplicity with which a chart (a good number of types are included) can be created.
Additionally, there is no longer a need to export data to Excel and see data in lists in the Microsoft spreadsheet application that was often used for this purpose. You can now create table views with headers that behave exactly the same as in Excel. And yes, this includes dragging columns to where you want them!
FileMaker Pro 12 Advanced
FileMaker Pro 12 Advanced is targeting developers; the Advanced version always has. The new version now lets developers set window types — you can choose between modal, non-modal and pop-up windows, with full control over how the window can be closed, etc.
The Advanced version lets you create, change, or delete specific menu items or entire menu sets, and you can specify certain custom menus to display when using an iOS device. Creating customised menus isn’t very difficult.
You can either edit a copy of a standard FileMaker menu — that’s the easiest method in my opinion. However, it’s only really useful if you want to make minor changes to existing menus. More complicated is writing a completely new menu system, but it’s still much easier than what other database systems would require from you in terms of programming skills.
The Advanced version also lets you build your own functions and copy, paste, and import them into any FileMaker Pro database.
Kiosk mode is new for version 12. It allows you to display your database or your runtime database solution on a full screen, without any toolbars or menus. Also new in version 12 is the ability to turn off Script Triggers when debugging to fine tune the troubleshooting process.