FileMaker 5 Developer full review

FileMaker Developer 5 (FD5) is the latest offering from the database specialists. This version introduces a single tool to replace a number of separate applications in previous versions, and introduces some new functions. New drivers are provided to integrate with other database formats and emerging-Web technologies. The documentation supplied with the Developer edition is well structured and supplied on both paper and PDF format. Due to the simplicity of FileMaker’s interface, it won’t take long to learn to build complex databases and deploy them across a variety of networks. Combined and updated
The main component in Developer 5 is the Filemaker Development Tool. This is an update of separate resources from Pro 4 Developer Edition (DE4), with some new features. This tool allows the developer to specify how databases are deployed and then presented to the end-user. The old binder application, which scooped-up all the databases within a solution and presented them as a single file, is now integrated into the development tool. This also provides runtime functionality – meaning the database user doesn’t need a local copy of FileMaker Pro 5 (FP5) to run a database created with FD5. Runtime provides a built-in, platform-independent application to display the data, using layouts and scripts created in FileMaker. The runtime programs run on Windows – including Windows 2000 – and Macs without any reconfiguration, and incur no royalty fees for deployment on third-party sites. However, runtime solutions have some portability issues with ODBC and JDBC, and they’re incompatible with the FileMaker Web companion. The old Kiosk application that removes the menu bar from bound solutions is also integrated into the tool. Kiosk mode means buttons, links and scripts are the only way to navigate and use the database. This makes particular sense in running applications where the user is not required to know how to use a computer – on a touch screen for instance. Developers can rename files within a solution, and automatically update links to the internal scripts within it. For example, if a Mac-only network solution is to be redeployed to a Web server for access via an intranet, or over a multi-platform network, all the file names within the database should end in .fp5. In this case, the FileMaker Development Tool automates the appending of the tag and then changes all internal scripts and links within the solution. Locked out
With databases deployed on a client’s network, and possibly unsupervised by the developer, the FileMaker Developer Tool can permanently lock the structure of the database to prevent modification. This is more secure than using access privileges to prohibit modification, although it would be wise for the developer to keep an original unlocked solution. The ability to change some of the menu names – about, help or scripts – previously existed in a separate application, but it’s now included as a function of the Tool. This allows developers to add personalized credits, shareware registration, or help systems in runtime solutions. Because this feature doesn’t work in Kiosk mode – where the menu bar is removed – it could be helpful if it was extended to the splash screen. To fill up the CD, there is also an Artwork Sampler file and some interface elements. The artwork sampler is a FileMaker image library with over 2,000 Web-ready graphics. The interface elements contain 11 databases for personalizing dialogue boxes and layouts. These help create multi-state buttons, calendars, and conditional-value lists to enhance databases. What you need
The only other useful elements on the CD are the modules that access FileMaker databases from other technologies. These improve connectivity to emerging Internet technologies and other database formats. Version 5 supports more open standards, to bring it into line with other boxed Macintosh database products, such as 4D. These formats are used and developed on Macintosh and other systems, and include XML, JDBC, ODBC and other Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). Improvements to the FileMaker Web Companion allow XML -capable browsers to access FD5 data. The Developer Edition includes a database of XML (Extensible Mark-up Language) definitions to plant into Web pages. FileMaker Pro manipulates XML in the browser instead of having to reload from the server at each request. To format the XML documents, you can use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), Extensible Style Sheet Language (XSL) or a scripting solution using JavaScript or VBScript. There’s also a simple example to get novices started. The JDBC (Java Database Connectivity) driver included with Developer 5 supports a subset of the SQL-92 Entry Level standard, so it isn’t a true “JDBC Compliant” driver. However, the driver works with development tools to build Java front-ends to FileMaker Pro 5 databases. The JDBC Driver allows developers to add, delete, and search for records, and execute scripts. The ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) driver allows developers to build front ends with popular RAD (Rapid Application Development) tools that access FP5 data. Using SQL (Structured Query Language) statements, developers can export data into other applications, such as word processors, data analysis and spreadsheets. Nice and easy
To deploy the FileMaker ODBC driver to access FD5 data over a network, there is a simple ODBC installer. The Developer edition continues to support CDML tags, CGI and other programming languages, such as C++, using an extensive plug-in architecture. Developer 5 stumbles in its marketing, rather than its features. It includes one copy of FileMaker Pro 5 that some people may already own. It should be possible to buy the development tools without the program. To deploy a solution for use by more than ten people on the Web, you need to buy the Unlimited edition – which includes another copy of FileMaker Pro 5. The clip art provided is stale, and most of the artwork comes straight from the Claris Home Page school of Web images – so few points for new or usable material here.
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