FileMaker 5 Pro is well respected in the business world. It’s renowned for its ease of use, interface versatility and the choice it offers in creating un-intimidating front-ends.
If your business depends on a FileMaker database, perhaps to track sales, being able to arm salesman in the field with the company’s most valuable info is surely appealing. And now, there’s FileMaker’s Mobile to do just that.
The Mobile application – which only works with Macs that have FileMaker Pro 5 installed – allows you to perform basic database operations on the files that you have transferred onto the PDA, which occurs during normal HotSync. Configuring the files to transfer is straight forward, but you can’t just dump an entire database onto the Visor.
Special settings must be specified for each file you wish to transfer. Each field that you want has to be selected – you are limited to 20 fields per record – and the configuration governs the appearance of the records on your PDA. If you have a coloured front-end, don’t expect to see this on the handheld – records are displayed as a list of fields, reminiscent of the Palm OS’s own Address Book. These appear with the defined field-name rather than the label that shows in the normal front-end, which can be confusing if the database has several duplicated fields.
The order in which you select fields is the order they’ll appear in – though this can be reorganized within the Settings dialogue, as long as the list doesn’t extend beyond the bottom of the viewing area. String and number fields less than 2K are portable to the PDA – any field larger than this and the entire record will not be transferred.
The usefulness of the Mobile companion seems limited. Inventories of products, logs of transactions, sales histories, etc, would be fine as long as each was no longer than 19 fields – you have to save one field at least for a record ID of some form. These limitations are compounded by the dependence on FileMaker Pro with its own failings.
If you already depend on FileMaker Pro, and there is a database with only 20 useful fields you’d like to carry with you, then the Mobile companion will do the job. However, it’s best suited to databases built specifically for FileMaker Mobile. If this is the case, then FileMaker Mobile does the best it can with the restrictions of the Palm OS.