Macworld has an extensive and exclusive review of FileMaker Pro 7 in its April 2004 issue, which is available at newsagents today.

Following months of expectation FileMaker has announced FileMaker 7, a massively revised version of its relational databasing product.

Code-named Dragonland during development the product has been completely rebuilt, now offering state-of-the-art support for Mac OS X and Windows XP. Older operating systems are no longer supported.The company describes it as the most significant upgrade ever. FileMaker Pro 7, FileMaker Server, Developer and Mobile will ship soon.

The product implements strong – and intelligent – security features. Access levels are set through more-intuitive password-management controls that are accessed and implemented using a Define Accounts and Privileges dialog box. Levels of access can be assigned to individual users, and these access controls extend to Web, network, mobile and ODBC/JDBC access. It's possible to set up security so that access privileges can be defined and linked to a Mac OS X User account, so that no further password authorization is required for a seamless user experience.

The modern move to new working patterns is also reflected. Enterprises can set up databases to allows user access via Windows Terminal Services, WANs and PDAs. Even XML-based data transfers are supported, and it allows users to publish data with customizable levels of security online.

Databasing gets ease-of-use

FileMaker Inc. is attempting to make the product more intuitive, with visual tools to handle relationships, database templates and an improved layout wizard. FileMaker Pro 7 needs no database development or software programming experience, the company says.

The software is equipped with a new relationships graph graphical-data model. This offers users and developers an easy way to check and create dataset relationships. Because multiple tables are contained in a single file, users can build bi-directional relationships capable of cascading data from table to table. FileMaker claims even new users can easily create tables, fields and relationships.

Another significant benefit is that a single FileMaker Pro 7 file can contain multiple tables holding different sets of data. People setting-up a database can develop it in a single file, meaning a solution that once needs 30 files now requires just one, containing multiple tables. It means users and administrators can back-up and compress databases more easily.

FileMaker 7's ability to display multiple views means users can look at a list of contacts in one window while editing them in another, making cross-referencing easier.

FileMaker 7 – Heavy haulage for data

Up to eight terabytes of data can be stored in a single file, while the number of tables a file can contain is unlimited, and the top text capacity has climbed from 64K to 2GB, meaning FileMaker more easily embraces pictures, graphics, PDFs, MP3s, QuickTime, and other multimedia files.

Scripting has been updated to support new FileMaker Pro features such as multiple windows and improved security. Most notably, options in ScriptMaker are now editable, and are saved per script-step, not per script, meaning existing scripts can be tweaked or extended much faster than before.

The product enables users to access data from multiple platforms Windows XP, Mac OS X, Palm OS, Pocket PC, and the Web and serves FileMaker files to both Windows and Mac clients concurrently from Server or Pro running on either platform. FileMaker Server supports up to 350 simultaneous clients.

Server-side asset

FileMaker Server 7's Instant Web Publishing (IWP) model has been redesigned to offer more functionality and security. It supports Custom Web publishing and XML data publishing, with support for up to 350 simultaneous users. There's 70 pre-built scripts for a multiuser server environment. There is support for external authentication of users and groups via Apple OpenDirectory and Windows Domain accounts and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption of client/server connections.

Administrators benefit from Server 7's Live Updates facility, so there's no need to take databases offline to change database definitions, passwords and preferences. FileMaker Developer 7 promises to speed up the development process. It carries all the new features of FileMaker Pro 7, and adds a selection of developer-friendly features, including: integrated Developer Utilities, for creating, customizing, protecting, and deploying runtime database solutions; a Database Design Report feature for publishing comprehensive documentation on how a databaseis built; a Script Debugger; File Maintenance tools for improving performance, and a Custom Functions utility, meaning developers can use pre-defined calculations within a project. Bundled with 7 is a file-conversion tool for users of earlier versions.

Cost and upgrade details

FileMaker Pro 7 ships on March 10, and costs £219, while an upgrade (from version 6 only) costs £119. Prices exclude VAT. Other products in FileMaker's range will ship in early summer, the company said.

FileMaker is offering owners of early versions of FileMaker an extended upgrade programme. For a limited time – until September 17, 2004 – licensed owners of FileMaker Pro 2.1, 3.0, 4.x and 5.x may upgrade to FileMaker Pro 7 at the same low upgrade price that FileMaker 6 owners are eligible for – £119, a nearly 50 percent saving off the regular purchase price. After September 17, 2004, only licensed owners of FileMaker Pro 6 will be eligible for the £119 upgrade price.

Don't forget to read the full review of FileMaker Pro 7 in the current April 2004 issue of Macworld - at newsstands now.