Tag Archives | Databases

FileMaker’s iOS Databases Get Printing, Charting, and Signatures

FileMaker Inc.’s FileMaker Go–which brings databases created with the Windows and OS X versions of FileMaker to iOS devices–just got a bit more powerful.

As before, the new 1.2 versions for iPhone and iPad aren’t fully standalone apps: You use it to view and edit databases created with full-blown Filemaker Pro, and can access databases both by syncing them onto the device and by connecting remotely. (That’s a different approach from FileMaker’s more consumery Bento database apps for iPhone and iPad, which can be used in conjunction with the Mac version or on their own.)

You can now use Apple’s AirPrint to print wirelessly to recent HP printers. Charts–a feature introduced in last year’s FileMaker Pro 11–can be viewed, updated, and edited. And you can capture signatures into FileMaker Go on an iPhone or iPad, and then transfer them back into a FileMaker Pro database. (The FileMaker folks say that Go is often used to automate processes that would otherwise be handled with paper and pen.)

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FileMaker Go Gets an Upgrade

A couple of months ago, I wrote about FileMaker Go, the iPhone/iPad version of the venerable database that does such a good job of blending power and simplicity. The company has released a version 1.1 update that makes its mobile offering a bit more powerful still.

Among the changes: The new version lets you e-mail copies of your databases, create PDFs of them for sharing, and insert photos you shoot with an iPhone or have stored on your device. There’s also an intriguing option that lets developers of third-party apps transfer information–such as a bar code–into FileMaker Go. (It’s intriguing partially because it’s easy to forget that there’s any way for iPhone apps to talk to each other at all–it’s neat to be reminded that they can.)

As before, FileMaker Go is $19.99 for the iPhone version and $39.99 for the iPad one, and it’s not a completely stand-alone product–it’s for working with databases created with the Mac or Windows version. (The company also offers iPhone/iPad versions of its more consumery Bento database that can work in completely standalone mode.)

FileMaker Go 1.1 is available at the App Store now.

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Bento Comes to the iPad

This is definitely a minority opinion. But when I sat in the audience at Apple’s iPad launch back in January, the single thing that got me most excited was the demos of iPad versions of Apple’s iWork office-suite apps. Computer manufacturers have been trying to sell tablets as productivity devices for eons, but Apple actually reimagined its programs’ user interfaces for tablet use, rather than slapping a few touch features on otherwise mundane desktop software.

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FileMaker Goes to 11

You’d think there’d be a huge audience for powerful, easy-to-use database programs–especially ones that run on both Windows PCs and Macs. But FileMaker Pro, from Apple’s FileMaker, Inc. subsidiary, has long had the market pretty much to itself. Which is fine, because it’s a terrific program.

On Tuesday the company announced FileMaker Pro 11, an upgrade whose major new features are so logical that I was startled in some cases to realize that the software didn’t already have them:

  • FileMaker now has a built-in charting engine that lets you create slick-looking bar, line, area, and pie charts based on information from your database, then embed them in records. It’s pretty easy to use; I’d like it even better if it gave you a what-you-see-is-what-you-get preview with real data as you tweak your chart.
  • The program’s spreadsheet-like Table View has been beefed up a lot: It’s now easy to group records for reporting purposes, hide fields, and add fields and data without switching views.
  • A jumbo-sized, floating Inspector palette lets you click on an item in Layout Mode to see all the aspects you can control, such as position and alignment.
  • The Quick Find search field in the upper right-hand corner–similar to OS X’s Spotlight and the search in iTunes–lets you quickly do searches in the current layout.
  • You can now organize layouts into folders.
  • By using Recurring Import, you can set up a database to automatically import an external file such as an Excel worksheet every time you open the database. It’s handy if you use FileMaker to navigate your way around data created and update in another application. You can’t, however, make changes to records and then save them back into the original file, making the feature useful for viewing of external information but not editing.
  • Snapshot Link lets you capture a query result, then share it with other Filemaker users as a static lists of records that shows what you got at a particular point in time.

As before, FileMaker packs lots of power into a user interface that’s much friendlier than Microsoft’s still-gnarly Access 2007. Starter Solutions” provide templates for a variety of applications, from businessy ones (asset management) to personal productivity (a task list) to the purely personal (a database for organizing your music). Bento’s approachable enough to make it a good choice for serious home users as well as corporate types, but I wish that the company would bring its even more approachable (and much cheaper) Mac database Bento to Windows users. (It wouldn’t be a cakewalk, since the Mac version ties itself heavily into Mac-specific stuff like iPhoto’s photo library–but I don’t know of any Windows apps that are even Bento-esque.)

FileMaker Pro 11 is $299 for the full version or $179 as an upgrade; FileMaker Pro 11 Advanced, which adds more features aimed at professional database developers, is $499 or $299 as an upgrade. It’s available now, and there are free trial versions at the FileMaker site. A few screens after the jump.

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Bento Comes to the iPhone

BentoWhen Apple’s FileMaker division told me that it had iPhone-related news, my first guess was that it was announcing a version of its flagship cross-platform database application for its parent company’s phone. Not quite. It released a database for the iPhone yesterday, but that database is Bento, a $4.99 mobile version of the company’s consumer and small-business database application, which until now has run only on Macs with OS X 10.5 Leopard.

Bento for the iPhone (and iPod Touch) isn’t the first database for the iPhone, but it may be the most thoroughly Apple-esque one to date. (Which makes sense.) A cover-flow like browser lets you choose from dozens of templates, like the ones you get in Bento for the Mac–everything from an equipment log to a digital media collection to expenses to notes to a record of your diet. There’s also a blank template. Once you choose a template and create a database–which Bento calls a Library–you can customize the fields and their order, then populate them with information.

On the Mac, Bento’s biggest distinguishing characteristic is its pretty, flexible layouts. On the iPhone, sensibly enough, everything’s organized into the typical iPhone list-like format. It’s less flashy but makes good use of the available real estate, and it’s easy to browse records, update old ones, and add new information.

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FileMaker 10’s Fresh New Face

filemaker-boxHere’s the first bit of product news from Apple for Macworld Expo week, and it’s something noteworthy that Phil Schiller won’t even mention: Its FileMaker subsidiary has released FileMaker 10, a new version of its extremely venerable, extremely easy-to-use database manager for OS X and Windows. The most striking thing about the new version is the complete makeover that’s been given to the program’s user interface and bundled templates, which had barely changed in a long, long time. This is the first version in many years that doesn’t look a little long in the tooth, and it’s even more inviting to database newbies than its predecessors.

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