FileMaker Pro 9

GCN Lab review: Whether you're an advanced or intermediate user, FileMaker is a solid database platform

GCN

I've been reviewing FileMaker Pro for eight years, and Pro 9 is by far my favorite version of the software suite. FileMaker is one of the easiest databases to use ' it has always been easier than Access, although never as robust. New features such as the Quick Start screen, conditional formatting and e-mail links to hosted databases have helped widen the gap between FileMaker and Access from the standpoint of being easy to use while closing the gap between the technical advantages.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Quick Start Screen is an easy start-up wizard that lets you choose to create a new database, open an existing database or learn more about FileMaker. In previous versions of FileMaker, you had to navigate all over the interface to create a database. Now all you have to do is point and click.

It's now easier to apply conditional formatting to fields and objects so users can notice changes or trends in their data. All formatting is automatic and completely user-defined.

In the past, this type of formatting relied on calculated fields, which was time-consuming and inefficient. Now it's faster to apply changes to a field or object.

Another good new feature is the ability to choose a single command to generate an e-mail with an automatically generated hyperlink. In the past, creating a hyperlink was an advanced capability. Now you don't even need to figure out the URL for your hosted database.

Unlike Access, FileMaker generates each report as a PDF by default, and you can consolidate multiple reports into one PDF rather having each report in its own PDF. For example, if you create a database of contacts and save the records as a PDF, an option from the List view appears that lets you append the file to an existing PDF.

A big FileMaker Pro 9 advancement is its ability to work well with SQL Server, Oracle and MySQL databases. Pro 9 lets you create a live connection among these data sources, making it the ideal solution for a federal agency with mixed/multiple database systems.

In the previous version of FileMaker, you could query an SQL data source through Open Database Connectivity, create a table for the data source and import that data into FileMaker. This was a lengthy and time-consuming process riddled with complications.

Now a new Web Viewer has simplified the process and given users a live connection to a SQL Server rather than just a snapshot. This feature is so easy that we saw people who had never connected to a SQL Server log in effortlessly on their first attempt.

For the most advanced users, FileMaker Pro 9 has features such as Script Grouping that make it easier to organize scripts. New features ' such as character auto-resize and enhanced tab control ' make it easier design better layouts.

Whether you're an advanced or intermediate user, FileMaker is a solid database platform. Despite its steep $299 price tag, Pro 9 merits a Reviewer's Choice.

FileMaker, (800) 725-2747, www.filemaker.com

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