FileMaker 9

FileMaker Pro 9 Roadtested

Filemaker Pro 9 Advanced

It’s been over four months since FileMaker Pro 9 was released in July. The first 30 days or so, I used FileMaker Pro 9 with some hesitancy to be sure no serious bugs would be found. I am happy to say that FileMaker Pro 9 and 9 Advanced have held up like champs. They just work. I highly recommend FileMaker Pro 9.

To be clear, there will always be bugs and issues with any large, complex piece of software. You never squash all bugs because changes have unintended consequences that may only show up in extremely rare situations. So, don’t stop backing up. If you have a complex installation, you know it and know to (1) have an impeccably thorough and frequent backup system that matches that complexity and (2) do a lot of testing when you upgrade to new software to make sure everything works. I will say, though, that in these hectic times, corners are cut in the testing department more often than I would like. So, this is the disclaimer/reminder.

That said, I would not hesitate to recommend FileMaker Pro 9 as the basis for the work of all of my customers who have upgraded beyond FileMaker Pro 6. Maybe you still haven’t crossed that hurdle. Even though FileMaker keeps getting better and better at conversion of FileMaker 6 with each new release, you still need to test and prep the files before you convert. The minimum you want to do is use the File/Save a Copy as… command on each file you have before you convert. That goes for anyone upgrading to FileMaker Pro 9, whether from FileMaker 5 or FileMaker 8.5!

So, you’ve fluffed up your files with Save a Copy as and done some testing commensurate with the complexity of your database, system configuration and deployment (how many users do you have?). Then you are ready to experience a great, great piece of software.

You can sleep easier at night with FileMaker Pro 9. Remember how I was saying that a surprising number of people don’t test and backup as much as they should? Well, FileMaker Inc. hates it when a database is damaged or lost because a hard drive goes bad or something else goes wrong and there’s no good, current backup. They don’t like tearful phone calls anymore than the rest of us do. Besides spending a lot of time making sure the FileMaker community knows about backup best practices, they’ve put a special new feature into FileMaker Pro. FileMaker Pro 9 spot checks the quality of your files for you. When you open up a file in FileMaker Pro 9, a quick check is done to see if the file is OK. This is not a foolproof test, but I like the due diligence.

You can sleep even easier at night with FileMaker 9 Server. Geared to larger installations where more is at stake, FileMaker 9 Server takes this data checking and notification way further. You have the option to receive automated emails when the Server’s automated backups occur. You have the option to be notified when and whether verification is successful. This isn’t sexy but it is new and really helpful. If you are using a mission critical FileMaker database, you want this stuff!

Most of us FileMaker users are like other software users, we don’t scratch the surface of what the software is capable of. We don’t take the time and effort to learn what the software can do. It’s often just that we can’t find the spare time. If there’s anything you should do to improve your database after you upgrade, it is to use the new Conditional Formatting command to make your database more expressive. In a couple of minutes, you can make your overdue invoice numbers automatically turn bold red when they need attention. conditional formatting will make your users aware of important discrepancies and missed deadlines.

But, I’m a FileMaker Professional and I’m enamored of all the little things FileMaker did to make FileMaker Pro sing. The little touches that make all the difference. All the heavy FileMaker users who get under the hood on a regular basis are thrilled that now they can have script windows open while they test those scripts or add or modify calculated fields. You can keep the ScriptMaker window open and do other things and come back and it’s still right where you left it. You don’t know the time that saves!

I took a 1/2 day course on PHP and FileMaker and took many additional hours of sessions on PHP and FileMaker at the FileMaker Developer’s Conference this year. There was huge excitement about FileMaker making it easy to use PHP when you want to deploy a database on the web. I have to admit that I have not yet ventured to the web with PHP with my Studio Manager product. But, give it a little more time – I hate being an early adopter when mission critical systems are at stake. We should see some amazing stuff in the next year or two.

In my memory, I can’t remember a release of FileMaker that inspires such devotion in the FileMaker developer community. It seems that a lot of these developers refuse to work on systems that are based on anything but FileMaker 9. FileMaker 8.5 just won’t do!

FileMaker Pro is a seriously mature database development environment these days. It’s still easy to use at the entry level for quickie database needs, but it has graduated to the big leagues. And, of course, there will be more where that came from. I am so impressed with the commitment of FileMaker, Inc. They’re like Apple (big surprise, they are a subsidiary of Apple)! They do great things for a living.

The magic is still there and growing with my use of FileMaker Pro Advanced. I recommend everyone who gets FileMaker Pro 9 makes sure they have a copy of the Advanced version. I see FileMaker Inc. has caught on and now include a copy of Advanced with their multi-user bundles these days. Debugging, copying script steps, copy and pasting tables and lots of other things make the Advanced version a must have.

Before I end this little rave, I just want to mention FileMaker Inc’s new product, Bento. From what I hear it is sexy and it is meant for personal applications, not the bigger, more elaborate stuff that FileMaker is often pointed at. I’m so busy at the moment, I haven’t taken much of a look, but I’ll be back with my take on it soon.

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