Tue, 09 Mar 2010 FileMaker 11 Review
One new blockbuster addition, some great tweaks and a couple of features to check out.
- Manufacturer: FileMaker
- Pros: Charts, quick find, layout folders, new script triggers and native portal filtering
- Cons: Unless you participate in the FileMaker maintenance program, upgrades to FileMaker and FileMaker Server are not free
- Star rating:
FileMaker 11 is here and the single best single word to describe it is, Charts. FileMaker 11 has built in charting of data and this new feature is easy to master, flexible, elegant and even web compliant. You can choose to create bar, area, line and pie charts. Describing the process is almost as easy as performing it. You click the appropriate tool to create the chart and draw a box on the layout. A dialog box will come up with the options to choose a chart type, chart title, what field(s) represent which chart axis and what set of data do you want to use for the chart.
If you are not a charting wizard, do not worry. The chart setup interface is so easy, it almost begs to be experimented with and we imagine experimentation is how most new users will master it. Previously created charts can even be recycled for new purposes. If you find a chart setup you like, you can simply copy it, paste it somewhere else, tweak it for your needs and call it a day.
The next big feature is a great new way to search your FileMaker 11 data. Although it pains us to describe it as such, categorizing the new Quick Find feature as “Google like” describes the process adequately. The FileMaker 11 Quick Find feature allows you to type in something such as “awesome” in a single search box and FileMaker will look for matches within every field of the layout.
This next paragraph of features we like to call progressive elaborations. That is to say that FileMaker has embraced a strategy to incrementally improve key areas without redesigning them from scratch. So here is a quick rapid fire listing these new features.
A new Quick Reports feature allows a user to make any list a detailed summarized report, without going into a designer mode. Layouts can now be organized into folders and they have a new designer floating panel called the inspector. This inspector panel did away with dozens of menu command options and gives you a more dashboard approach to FileMaker layout design. Portals can now have filtering options built in and that is much sexier than it probably sounds. FileMaker also expanded the family of script triggers available to us by introducing new OnObjectValidate, OnLayoutExit and OnViewChange triggers. FileMaker has upgraded many of the starter solutions and included a brand new invoice starter solution. The more advanced FileMaker developers will be glad to hear that memory data stored as variables can now be used in find requests and merge fields. We know that last sentence sounds a bit strange but many hard core FileMaker geeks are shaking their fists in jubilation and singing praises.
Now lets chat briefly about those two odd new features that we alluded to earlier. They are called Snapshot Link and Recurring Import. We really like these latest additions and it is not just because of our default attraction to the curious. A snapshot link is like a time capsule picture of the state the database at the moment the snapshot was taken. The created snapshot file can then be sent to another user of the database. When they open the snapshot, that time capsule view of the data will be viewable in a new window for the other user. The most classic example may be a manager sending a snapshot of a list they created to a subordinate and saying “call these customers”. The Recurring Import feature is designed to allow you to link to a data file like Excel or comma separated text file. If that file is changed or replaced, the linked read only table within a FileMaker file is automatically updated as well.
Some of these features are difficult to describe fully in print. So lets be sure to point out that FileMaker generally allows users to download a limited use trial version of their application from their web site. This way you can test drive the new version and see what you think of these new features.