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  • Examined: FileMaker Pro 15 ecosystem for macOS, Windows, and iOS

    There were so many inaccurate statements, both in the article and in the comments; I'm a Certified FileMaker developer and have a hosting company that specializes in FileMaker hosting (for 18 years now), so I do know the platform and can speak to some of the errors:

    To begin with, FileMaker WebDirect is NOT a "cloud version of FileMaker;" it's a way to access and use a database solution from a web browser, but it doesn't allow the user to modify the database schema or make design changes. It's an excellent tool (albeit a little pricy), but it's not the same as Adobe's web-based apps like Dreamweaver and so on.

    Second: having used 4D and Access over the years, I see nothing about either of these that is, as the article said, more powerful. FileMaker connects easily with a wide variety of external data sources, including MySQL, Oracle, and lots of ODBC sources; it's much faster to design than Access, and much easier to navigate than 4D. In addition, the wide user base of the FileMaker platform means that there are lots of FileMaker consultants all over the world, many more than can be found in the 4D world. This translates to more innovating, more places to look for programming assistance, and lots of places to go for FileMaker hosting.

    Third: FileMaker Pro Advanced doesn't allow for more programming options than FileMaker Pro; what it DOES do is to provide a couple of tools that aid the designer--a debugging tool, a tool for watching variables and field values, a tool for creating standalone runtime solutions, and a tool for creating custom menus. Using FileMaker Pro (not Advanced), one can write and implement the same scripts as with FM Pro Advanced, and the graphical tools are identical in the 2 versions of the application.

    LARRYJW said this: "In FileMaker it's impossible to actually build an application in which the tables are true relations (which is what it means to be a relational database: table == relation)." That is pure nonsense, and he clearly has no experience with FileMaker; I have solutions with over 100 related tables in them; one can either put all the tables into a single database file, or have them spread among multiple files. In either case, the tables can be as relational as one might wish. The tables don't have "common fields;" the design schema allows the user to relate tables just as one would with SQL. LARRYJW needs to look at it before he makes incorrect assertions.

    In fact, FileMaker also has the ability to use SQL queries for finding and using data. For the record, FileMaker became fully relational back in the early 90s.

    FileMaker is also extensible using a wide variety of plugins that do all sorts of things, like allowing users to write PHP or Javascript and use it from within their solutions (for things like geopositioning maps and more complex design), or for processing credit cards, generating and manipulating PDFs (combining, trimming, etc.), a wide variety of dialog boxes, PBX (phone) integration, and much more.

    FileMaker 15 has seen lots of improvements both in its design tools and in its extensibility; I can write a single solution in FileMaker, and deploy it across Macs, Windows, iOS devices and in any web browser. What this means is that the client can pay to have a solution written ONE time and use it on multiple platforms--something that is certainly not possible elsewhere quite so easily.

    Finally, the FileMaker platform allows for extensibility using custom web applications; I've written dozens of them, from shopping carts to registration systems, POS systems, blogs and other tools. Using a combination of FileMaker's API for the web (or another that is also PHP-based and works great) and JQuery, PHP and smart HTML programming, a good app designer can write some amazing tools for the web. 

    If you're interested in getting your FileMaker database hosted or need consulting advice, look at the Longterm Solutions website for lots of useful information (http://www.longtermsolutions.com).