FileMaker Pro 9 

As a long time user of FileMaker Pro, I was keen to check out the latest version of this cross-platform database product.
FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced box shot

While Microsoft would like us to believe that our software options, with regards to Office type products, revolve around Microsoft or Microsoft, there are other options available.  For a number of years now my loyalty with regards to a database product has remained constant with FileMaker Pro.  The latest edition of this cross-platform (Windows and Mac) database has now reached the heady heights of version 9.

While installing the product proceeded smoothly, a problem appeared with the registration process.  As part of this procedure, a number, which was meant to be found on the Licensing Key sheet, was nowhere to be found within the product box.  Fortunately the Registration process was not compulsory.  Product activation, however, is necessary and this was carried out without a hitch via an Internet connection.

This latest version of the FileMaker Pro product contains over 30 new features, enhancements and general improvements to build on its already impressive feature set.  These improvements fall into categories such as Sharing and collaboration; usability; scripting; functions; plus reporting and analysis.  Presumably the introduction of these new features goes some way towards explaining why loading of this latest version is slower than previous editions of the product.

Immediately on opening FileMaker Pro 9, you are introduced to the new Quick Start screen which helps users to get to grips with the functionality of the product and access files where ever they are located.  An enhanced Help menu is supported by Learn buttons which link directly to context-sensitive Help topics.  Objects within FileMaker Pro can now be set to auto-resize by adjusting themselves to different sized screens while a new tab control feature lets you set the default tab along with the tab width assigned to particular tabs.  Other improvements helping with usability include multiple undo/redo; better spelling checking facilities; and the ability to save multiple reports as a single PDF document rather than being required to create separate documents for each one.

FileMaker Pro screen capture

FileMaker Pro has always been a popular tool with developers and they will appreciate the improvements with regards to sharing and collaboration.  There is now improved support for external SQL (ODBC) data sources such as Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server, plus email links to shared databases.  FileMaker's scripting ability benefits from features that include copying and pasting scripts from one location to another and opening multiple edit script windows.

Users of previous versions (7 and 8) will no doubt be pleased, as I was, to discover that the same file format has been retained.  There will be no need to rebuild files unless, of course, you want to implement any of the new features.  Simply clicking on an existing database file will bring it automatically into FileMaker Pro 9.  As with the earlier 8.5 update release, version 9 of FileMaker Pro has been designed to work with Vista - I just wish that FileMaker will be releasing a Vista-compatible version of its Mobile product in the near future.

Overall FileMaker Pro 9 is a step forward, perhaps not a major step but one reasonable enough for most users.  Most of the new features will appeal more to the developer and power-user but that should not preclude home users from benefiting from the ease-of-use and functionality of a database product that is capable of giving Microsoft a run from its money.  FileMaker Pro 9 has been priced at £257 with an upgrade available at £154.

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