FileMaker Pro 8.5

FileMaker Pro 8.5

FileMaker's new Web Viewers can display live Web content inside your database.


The release of FileMaker Pro 7.0 in 2004 was a major event - the flagship database application was totally rewritten and endowed with many new capabilities, all without sacrificing usability. Two years later, FileMaker Pro is still settling into its new format. Version 8.5 doesn't lavish us with many new features, but professional FileMaker developers will appreciate the new ability to name layout objects. Existing users with Intel Macs will find this upgrade irresistible, while those still in the PowerPC camp may be somewhat less compelled.


FileMaker 8.5's headliner is that it's now a Universal app. The company claims performance gains of up to 91 percent compared to similarly equipped PowerPC Macs - and our testing bore out those claims as we discovered how much faster it now is to add or delete records. Other operations, such as replace, sort, find, and summary calculations, are also noticeably faster. If you're running any previous version of FileMaker Pro on an Intel Mac, moving to version 8.5 and getting out from under Rosetta will speed things up by a factor of two or three.


Universal support alone doesn't lend itself to splashy screenshots on the box; this is where FileMaker Pro's new Web Viewer steps in. The Web Viewer allows you to create FileMaker layouts with Web-browsing capabilities. A Web Viewer can be configured to load a static URL, or it can use record data and FileMaker Pro's calculation engine to construct URLs dynamically. FileMaker Pro gives you a head start on some of the more common sites you may want to query and constructs the URL calculation for you.


While the Web Viewer is clever technology, its usefulness may not be readily apparent. FileMaker Pro has been able to construct a URL and hand it off to your default browser for years. But the Web View feature lets you access the HTML code in the Web Viewer so you can parse information out of the Web page and incorporate it into the database. For example, you can use the Web Viewer to check a Web email account and save the messages in your database, or load the local weather forecast and let FileMaker log the information for you; developers are already starting to create content and services specifically designed for the Web Viewer. One of the first of these, a charting system from iSolutions ( called ICE, is expected to be available by the end of the year. ICE uses the Web Viewer and Flash to display a variety of charts and graphs on your FileMaker layouts.


For pros, the FileMaker 8.5's standout feature is named layout objects. Anything placed on a layout - such as fields, graphics, and buttons - can now be assigned a name using the Object Info window. Used in conjunction with the new Go To Object script step, you can now script the activation of tab controls and place the focus on any layout object. Best of all, unlike the Go To Field script step, the target of a Go To Object call can be calculated at run-time. This subtle difference opens up many opportunities to minimize script complexity and enhance reusability. A new Get Layout Object Attribute function can be used to obtain one of 17 attributes of named layout objects.


The bottom line. FileMaker Pro 8.5 doesn't have an avalanche of flashy new features, and PowerPC users who don't need the Web Viewer or named layout objects don't have to rush out and upgrade. Serious developers will find object naming worth the move up from 8.0, while Intel Mac owners should jump on this update and enjoy the ride.


Preconfigured sites help you get started with Web Viewers.


COMPANY: FileMaker
CONTACT: 800-725-2747,
PRICE: $299, $179 (upgrade from version 6 or 7), $99 (upgrade from version 8)
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.3.9 or later, 256MB of RAM
Awesome Intel performance. Layout object naming.
New features may not justify upgrade for PowerPC users.





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