FileMaker Pro 5.5 (Trial), by FileMaker Inc
Posted: 14-September-2001

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: FileMaker Inc Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Robert Schumann Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Introduction
I have used FileMaker Pro 2.1 for quite sometime and it has been one of my all-time favorite applications. Version 2.1 was the last version of FileMaker Pro that was a flat-file database application, not relational. So I thought trying version 5.5 might be quite a change. I was very pleased to discover that I could easily use this updated version and feel right at home. Believe me, there are numerous changes and improvements, but the ease of use and familiar interface are still there.

Reviewed On

  • Performa 6360 w/G3-L2 300MHz/1MB Upgrade Card, Mac OS 9.0.4, 136 MB RAM, virtual memory off
  • Dell Precision 330, Pentium 4 @ 1.3 GHz, Windows 2000 SP2, 512 MB RDRAM


FileMaker Pro Overview
FileMaker Pro 5.5 is a relational database application. Database files can be created with relationships defined between files and related data can be shared. FileMaker Pro has the ease of use that the home user will appreciate and the features that a business workgroup will demand. FileMaker Pro 5.5 is a cross-platform application that runs on a Power Mac with Mac OS 8.1 through OS X, and on a PC running Windows 95 through 2000.

Features

  • Two-Way Dynamic ODBC Exchange
  • Record-Level Security
  • New, Faster Web Companion
  • Support for More Script Steps
  • Excel Named Ranges Import
  • Expanded Platform Support
  • Send Mail Enhancements
  • Hand Over Button
  • QuickTime Graphics Import Engine
  • Enhance Table View

Using FileMaker Pro
Creating your first database is extremely easy. FileMaker Pro has several templates available to help you create a new database. If none of the templates fits your needs, you can create your own from scratch. There is an excellent tutorial included that will teach you how to create and use a database. I went through this tutorial and it is well worth the time, especially if you are new to database creation or FileMaker Pro.

The Trial version of FileMaker Pro expires 30 days after installation and is limited to 50 records per database file. I had a 2.1 database file of a home inventory that I wanted to use with the 5.5 Trial version to test the compatibility with older files. Since it had more than 50 records, I had to modify the file with FileMaker Pro 2.1. The modified file loaded into 5.5 perfectly, and even the script created in version 2.1 still worked in 5.5. It did not feel like a different program, but an improved version of a familiar program. This is a good thing!

Four different view modes are available: Browse, Find, Layout, and Preview. The Browse Mode is the default view where you look at your records and add new records to the database. In the Find Mode, records meeting certain search criteria can be found and displayed. The Layout Mode is where you can make different database layouts to display the data the way you want. When you are entering data into the records, you normally want to see all the fields. When you make a report, however, you may just want a subset of the data. You can do this in the Layout Mode. The New Layout/Report assistant under the Layouts menu will help you perform this task. In the Preview Mode, you can see how a layout will look with the data before you print it.

A new view available is View as Table which will display your database in a spreadsheet type mode. Speaking of spreadsheets, FileMaker Pro will import an Excel spreadsheet and turn it into a functional database quite easily.

One of my favorite features of FileMaker Pro is ScriptMaker. ScriptMaker will help you to automate routine tasks that would normally take several steps to complete. For example, you may want to change to a specific layout, find certain records, sort those records, change to Preview mode, print the report, and then return to the previous layout mode. If you want to repeat this process on a regular basis, you can easily create a script using ScriptMaker. Then, by making a script selection from the Script menu, this process can be repeated on deman by selecting a simle menu item. You can also create a button in the Layout mode to perform the script while in the Browse mode.

Similar to Microsoft Office applications, FileMaker Pro now has Toolbars. Menus and Toolbar Buttons change according to the current Mode. The Toolbars make performing the most commonly use functions quicker, and you can show or hide the different Toolbars. However, unlike with Microsoft Office, you cannot customize the toolbars.

I also installed the FileMaker Pro Trial on the Windows 2000 PC that I use at work. Working with the same databases between the two platforms was as seamless as advertised. The only caveat is when you create database files on the Macintosh, you need to add the .fp5 extension to the file name to keep Windows happy.

If you are an AppleWorks user and find its database not powerful enough, get a copy of the FileMaker Pro Trial and give it a try. You will find that creating databases is very similar, but you have a much richer feature set.

Conclusion
FileMaker Pro 5.5 is a great database application. For anyone looking for a cross-platform relational database program, or looking for more features than AppleWorks gives you, FileMaker Pro may be perfect for you and your workgroup.



System Requirements

Mac OS 8.1 thru 9.1, 32 MB RAM, Power Macintosh OR

Mac OS X, 128 MB RAM, Power Macintosh G3 OR

Windows 95/98/Me/NT 4.0 SP3/2000, 32 MB RAM, 486/33 Processor




Pros
  • Easy to use yet powerful
  • Relational database capability
  • Cross-platform compatibility

Cons

  • Trial version expires in 30 days (given 45 to 60 days to perform review)
  • Trial limitation on number of records prevented testing of large databases


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice