GCN LAB REVIEWS
Free app brings the database to iPhones, iPads
- By Greg Crowe
- Aug 21, 2012
Government database administrators go through a lot of trouble planning and creating databases to suit their agencies' needs. Getting them to store the required collection of information in a logical manner while still giving users access in a way that makes sense to them is a nearly impossible task. When you add to those requirements the necessity of accessing the database from mobile devices, that nearly impossible scenario can become a nightmare.
FileMaker Go 12 will connect any device running iOS to your FileMaker database. From there a user can make any changes for which they are authorized, so long as their iPad or iPhone can connect to the Internet.
Once we got a FileMaker database installed on our test server, we then set out to get a copy of Go installed on an iPad. The installation was about as easy as any software we’ve had in the lab. We just went to the Apple App Store and it downloaded and installed with just one click. Once we connected to the database, all of the tables, forms and so forth that we had created on the desktop computer were available for our perusal.
FileMaker Go 12
Ease of Use: A-
Pros: Free app, live database updates.
Cons: Only usable on iPad and iPhone.
One thing that impressed us was the real-time aspect of any changes to the database information or structure. When we created a new record remotely, that record instantly showed up in queries. Conversely, if we made a design change on a query, form or report, the change would get pushed down to all devices running Go immediately. The responsiveness in the speed of updates pretty much eliminates version control concerns, as every instance is always looking at the current version.
Of course, designing forms and reports on an iPhone might have its own special challenges. That is probably why the Apple folks suggest that the actual design be done directly on the desktop or server, and the devices running FileMaker Go be used mostly for data entry and minor changes. But we did discover that the extent of changes possible through our mobile device was rather extensive, so we were able to make any changes we thought might be necessary from a remote location.
The only shortcoming we could find with FileMaker Go 12 was the fact that it’s only available for the iOS platform. The main Filemaker editions can be installed on both Windows and Apple computers, so we didn’t understand why a Windows Mobile version of Go wasn’t available.
Apple has made Filemaker Go 12 available for free in the App Store. Of course, while you can’t beat free, it's worth pointing out that in order to get Go to work, you need to have an installation of some version of FileMaker. These do come at varying price levels, so you should be able to find the version that’s the best fit for your situation.
We could see this product being used by survey crews to update site information remotely, or even large inventory management applications. A federal database implementation at nearly any level might be able to take advantage of the remote use possibilities that Filemaker Go opens up too, which opens it up for a lot of government users, and earns it our Reviewer’s Choice designation.
Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.