FileMaker 16 Review

•FileMaker 16 - the Good, the Bad and the...frivolous

So the latest version of FileMaker is here and available for download - FileMaker 16

Are we looking at a minor update or a major overhaul? As you can expect, the reality is somewhere in the middle but that doesn't mean that there isn't a host of great new features under the hood of FileMaker 16.

First off there are no changes to the file format itself neither has the licensing model been altered (I'm not sure that I could handle another licence change right now - the last one was scary enough!). The hosting of FileMaker 16 is also (largely) unaffected as FileMaker Server from 12 onwards can host FileMaker 16 databases, though the usual caveats should be taken into account (ie opening a FileMaker 16 database with an earlier versioned client could result in unanticipated behaviour - I'd avoid that).

•Clean your windows sir?
A major, and surely a welcome change, for Windows users is the removal of the grey FileMaker window that acted as a frame around any open layout. This change finally brings it in line with Mac OS and makes for a wonderfully clear statement of how Apple doesn’t need to follow the standards laid down by Microsoft. By this I mean that from its early days, FileMaker has had to handicap its Mac users so that it remained applicable and useable on a PC - this new feature, at least for me, is a nod to how this is no longer the case.

In addition to this, maximising a layout window on a Windows PC will no longer cause other windows to minimise (you can’t stop progress and in this case, seriously, why would you want to?) and in addition to this, layout windows can be stretched over more than one monitor. The latter change will be helpful to anyone with a multi-screen setup (you do have one of those don’t you) but the former will be of great relief to developers who had to ensure databases worked correctly across both OS platforms via all manner of coding-doohickery.

•An Inspector Calls
Developers might struggle at first with the entirely new inspector pane but as with such changes in the past, will no doubt come to love the new style.

•Wild about Cards

There’s a new way to display layouts called Cards. These ‘card layouts’ allow a window to overlay another window in a similar fashion to a custom dialogue and are bound to bring about new ways of user interaction. Data in these floating windows doesn’t even need to be related to the layout the card window floats over which could be very useful especially for single layout solutions (many of our databases take this approach). The developer gets to dim the layout underneath as well which makes for an intuitive solution. We’ve been crying out for something like this for what seems like an age so it’s very much welcome!

•Moving on....

Developers haven’t been forgotten as there are new scripting features, improved connectivity with FileMakerGo and Webdirect and the facility to print directly to PDF from Webdirect (that last one will come as a great boon to several of our users).

There’s also some graphical changes for FileMakerGo users in that layout changes can have the transition animated in a number of unnecessary yet delightful ways. This is a clear indication of how FileMaker are determined (and sensibly so) to help FileMaker databases become a serious alternative to app development on the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

iOS users can also take advantage of the new signature capture feature which is another lovely improvement over the previous incarnation.

•Farewell to our fallen comrade
One thing we’ve lost (and I for one am extremely disappointed in how myopic Apple are being here) is the Set Allowed Orientations feature. This isn’t down to FileMaker per se, but rather Apple who have dictated that any apps running on their devices should be useable in any orientation. Unfortunately it will no doubt result in the need for developers to create layouts of both orientations or design layouts that fit within the minimum constraints of both landscape and portrait modes. A real shame that.

•Any Other Business?
External authentication changes which allow accounts to authenticate via Amazon, Google or Microsoft will no doubt get developers buzzing but will probably (hopefully) go unnoticed by users (security should never be obtrusive…seen and not heard, so to speak).

There are several other features which are new with FileMaker 16 such as improved iBeacon support, custom paper sizes, value list copying, data sourcing for variables, data exchange with cURL and JSON - the list goes on.

•In Conclusion
This is a substantial overhaul for FileMaker and aside from the loss of orientation locking for iOS devices (once again, a restriction imposed by Apple rather than FileMaker themselves), we’re looking at a wealth of exciting new features with this latest upgrade for FileMaker.

As with previous versions of FileMaker, whether you should upgrade really comes down to how much future development your database is going to see and whether or not any of these new features is a must have. If you like what you see here or have a database that is going to see ongoing changes, then by all means, I can very much recommend this as a significant upgrade over previous versions of FileMaker.

Now if they can only make some sensible and oh so very much needed changes to the import and export facility within FileMaker, I’d be one happy developer!

Once again, you can check out the official FileMaker 16 overview here - FileMaker 16

If you notice anything wrong with this blog or just want to discuss how FileMaker 16 could be a great fit for you and your business, then please get in touch.

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