GCN Lab Review Reviewer's Choice: FileMaker Pro 10 Advanced

Pros: Great support for Microsoft SQL Server and PDF.
Cons: Lacks interoperability with other Microsoft Office programs; expensive.
Features: A+
Performance: A
Ease of use: A
Value: C+
Price: $499

GCN Lab Reviewers Choice small logoFileMaker Pro is among the easiest databases to use. It has always been simpler to use than Microsoft Access, though it has never been as robust. However, features such as the Quick Start Screen, conditional formatting and e-mail links to hosted databases are helping FileMaker widen the gap between it and Access on ease of use, while closing the gap on the technical advantages of Access.

The Quick Start Screen is a start-up wizard that lets you choose among creating a new database, opening an existing one or learning more about FileMaker. In previous versions, you had to navigate all over the interface to create a database. Now all you have to do is point and click.

It is also easier to apply conditional formatting to fields and objects so that users can notice changes or trends in their data. In the past, that type of formatting relied on calculated fields, which was time-consuming and inefficient. Now it’s faster to apply any changes to a field or object.

FileMaker Pro 10 Advanced also lets you choose a single command to create an e-mail message with an automatically generated hyperlink. In the past, creating a hyperlink was an advanced capability; now you don’t even need to know the URL for your hosted database.

Unlike Access, FileMaker generates reports as PDF files by default. FileMaker is more robust than Access in this respect because you can now consolidate multiple reports into one PDF file.

The latest version of FileMaker also improves the program’s ability to work with Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle and open-source MySQL databases.

In Version 9, you could create a live connection among those data sources, which made it an ideal solution for federal agencies with mixed database systems. Version 9 could query a SQL data source through Open Database Connectivity, create a table for the data source and import that data into FileMaker. But that lengthy and time-consuming process was riddled with complications.

In Version 10, Web Viewer has simplified the process and provided a live connection with SQL Server as opposed to just a snapshot. The feature is so easy to use that we watched people who had never before connected to SQL Server do so effortlessly on the first attempt.

For more sophisticated users, such as developers, FileMaker Pro 10 Advanced makes it easier to organize scripts using features such as Script Grouping. It also makes it easier to design better layouts with tools such as Character Auto-Resize and Enhanced Tab Control.

Our biggest surprise with Version 10 was how well it works with Excel files that are formatted in Extensible Markup Language. FileMaker was easier to use than Access to manipulate and report our test data. It doesn’t have the depth of data analysis that Access has, but what FileMaker can do, it does better than Access.

FileMaker’s drag-and-drop tools help users create a variety of custom reports, while Access requires more time-consuming manual steps. Also, Access has a 2G database capacity; FileMaker has an 8T capacity. Not that our 10M file stretched those boundaries, but people who often work with databases know how quickly 10M can turn into 10G or even 10T.

Whether you’re an advanced or intermediate user, FileMaker is a solid database platform. Despite its steep $499 price tag, FileMaker Pro 10 Advanced merits our Reviewer’s Choice designation.

FileMaker, 800-725-2747,

About the Authors

Carlos A. Soto is a former GCN Lab technology analyst.

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