Just days after FMrobot came out (see my last post), .com Solutions Inc. updated FMPro Migrator to include the ability to convert multiple FileMaker 3, 4, 5 or 6 files to multiple *tables* within a single FileMaker 7 file. And it only costs $99.
Keep in mind as we go through this comparison that FMPro Migrator does many other kinds of migrations (to MySQL, Oracle, Access, SQL Server, DB2 and Sybase), so its ability to consolidate multiple FileMaker files into a single FM7 file is just one of its many features. FMrobot, on the other hand, is by comparison a one-trick pony. It focuses only on migration to FileMaker 7 and associated functions.
FMrobot, at $199, is twice the price of FMPro Migrator. Bottomline, FMrobot offers at least twice the value of Migrator’s FM7-related capabilities. The serious developer and anyone else who has a big need for migration (read lots of files and/or files with lots of fields), will pay the extra money for FMrobot. Besides the extra $100 for FMrobot, you’ll also need FileMaker Developer 6 or 7. Most serious developers and corporate FileMaker installations already have a copy of Developer which is $499 vs. FileMaker Pro’s $299. FSA Associates and Partners get Developer as part of the FSA membership – $595 a year.
I started with FMPro Migrator because .com had an OS X version and FMrobot only runs on Windows at this point – an OS X version is in the works. I hadn’t read the Migrator sales materials on the website very closely and didn’t realize that I still needed to run the second half of the migration process on a PC or Virtual PC because Migrator uses ODBC and the ODBC plug-ins for FM 7 don’t work on the Mac yet. Disappointment #1.
After running FMPro Migrator on my 48 open FileMaker 6 files which created all sorts of CGI scripts, I copied the CGIs to my PC and then downloaded Perl on my XP machine and installed it – I was directed to a free download. Then I had to install a FileMaker ODBC driver which was on my FileMaker 7 CD. I got stuck activating the ODBC driver and emailed .com Solutions and received a reply from David Simpson, the man behind .com Solutions, at 10 pm Friday night. Not bad – he answered my questions and offered to help me by phone on Saturday! I sent a few more emails that night. David called me on Saturday morning. He spent over an hour with me walking me through installation issues, some problems I had converting one of the simpler files and giving me some PC tips. He’s very helpful and patient.
When I ran the CGIs for my 48 files, 23 of them were created with no problem. I was disappointed again, though, even with the files that converted easily and very quickly (less than a minute per file). All I got was text, number, date, time and container fields. Calculations just came out as static text, number or date fields. Ouch! Further, no entry options made it through the translation process and all field names got forced to lower case and spaces were replaced with underscores.
That left me with 25 more files to investigate and *fix* one by one. I spent another hour and got about three more files through the process. At this point, I decided it was time to try FMrobot! Remember that I bought FMPro Migrator the day after it was released. Field name filtering had not yet been perfected. Documentation wasn’t sufficient – at least for me. I wouldn’t be surprised if the conversion success ratio is already much higher by now. By Monday a QuickStart manual had been posted to the .com Solutions site that would probably have allowed me to handle the PC part of the process with dispatch except perhaps for CGI failures that may still have occurred in some cases.
Then I tried FMrobot. As soon as I tried it, I stopped all further use of Migrator. No contest. Besides its ability to smoothly build tables in a FileMaker Pro 7 database from a FileMaker Pro 6 Database Design Report with entry options and calculations (even though lots of the calculations were commented out), it does more. It provides a way to duplicate a table within an FM7 database. It provides us with the ability to move tables from one solution to another. FileMaker consultants and developers can build utility tables of various sorts and sell them because they can be copied into a customer solution (since layouts and scripts don’t come along for the ride, there would be some limitations). A FileMaker front-end for FMrobot is in the works and will be a free upgrade.
Hopefully, these upstart migration utilities that have been released within 30 days of the release of FileMaker Pro 7 will be improved and extended in many ways in the next weeks and months. I suspect that we may see additional entrants in this market as well because the need is great and universal for anyone with a sizeable multi-file FileMaker Pro solution. I wouldn’t even be shocked if FileMaker, Inc. further improves its conversion routines to help us out in a few months. It will get easier over time as utilities improve and we learn more about the best migration techniques.