GCN LAB REVIEWS
FileMaker Go is made to order for iPhones, iPads in federal workplaces
With Version 1.2., mobile and desktop databases are one and the same
FileMaker (FM) Pro is quite easily the second-most widely used database software on the market today. It’s used in many government and nongovernment organizations, and for good reason. Many people enjoy using FileMaker because of its excellent user interface, which sets it apart from the somewhat complex setup of many of its competitors.
What’s more, a FileMaker version that takes advantage of the increasing popularity of Apple iPhones and iPads in federal workplaces seems like a winning progression, as long as database integrity can be maintained without sacrificing ease of use.
FileMaker Go was rebuilt from scratch for Apple’s iOS platforms. Even so, we were surprised to find that the look and feel of Go is exactly the same as the one for FileMaker Pro 11, the desktop PC version of FileMaker. If you open the same database form in the mobile and desktop versions, it looks nearly identical. With documents, the only difference is the interface of the platforms. In this case, the mobile interface on the iPad is a bit easier to use, but that shouldn't be too surprising.
Because FM Pro 11 has gained the ability to create charts and graphs quickly and easily, FM Go had to follow suit. With it, you can make charts that can be seen in FM Pro 11 and vice versa. This is definitely a useful feature and complements the visual nature of the mobile platforms well. In fact, when we were considering making Go for the May product of the month, one criteria that needed to be met was full compatibility with the desktop PC product. When Go was being originally put together, it was simply a viewer for the desktop database, which, though functional, was much less useful. Now FM Go works like a miniature version of FM Pro 11, and we couldn't be more impressed.
The touch screen input of the iPad and iPhone made this next feature an obvious choice: digital signature capture. FM Go has a field that will accept screen input, such as a signature. Just write with your finger in the appropriate space and FM will store it in the database. That could be vital to have in an environment in which packages and documents need tracking or must go through an approval process.
Now that the newest version of the Apple iOS platform has AirPrint as a standard feature, the ability to print wirelessly is also available in FM Go. Version 1.2 of Go also lets you export documents to PDF, making your reports and graphs more accessible to users without a version of FileMaker on their mobile devices or desktop PCs.
When multiple users of FM, whether Pro or Go, are attached to the same database, whatever changes one user makes are replicated live for the other users. That allows everyone to stay on the same page without demanding to have files closed and reopened, and it's definitely a step in the right direction and can save a lot of time and effort on the part of the users.
FileMaker will be selling FM Go 1.2 at $20 for the iPhone and $40 for the iPad through the App Store. It is free for owners of earlier versions of the program. For having the power of FileMaker literally in the palm of your hand, these are pretty good prices.
This move to an emerging platform in the government workspace is smart on FileMaker’s part, and it’s good in turn for anyone who needs to access mobile database applications.
Greg Crowe is a staff writer covering mobile technology for GCN. Follow him on Twitter: @GCNLabGuys.