Filemaker 17, briefly

I’ve been a user of Apple’s Filemaker for a number of years now. I am a software developer by trade and could grind things out in C if I wanted, but sometimes I want to create an app quickly, just for my own purposes, and Filemaker’s ideal for that. I tinker with these bits of software when I have nothing else to do.

By and large, I like Filemaker. There are some bits that are a little cumbersome but it holds together pretty well and I generally take Filemaker upgrades shortly after they come to market.

So I have recently been playing with Filemaker 17 and one of the most notable changes (for me) is the new, fixed main screen interface. This used to take the floating window approach but now it’s the sort of three-pane affair we see a lot these days and all the better for it.

Another welcome addition in 17 is the ability to ‘Perform Script’ via a variable name. Unless you use Filemaker regularly you probably can’t see how useful that is so just trust me, it’s very useful. It allows for the dynamic calling of scripts and will help remove the lengthy If-Else-Endif sequences that we previously had to use to switch things in pseudo-dynamic fashion.

However, I still find Filemaker frustrating in many ways and I’ll pick two of the most annoying to mention here:

  1. Common headers, footers etc. There needs to be a way to create things like menus and simply be able to ‘include’ them on every page. Most Filemaker developers will created a scripted, semi-automated system themselves and copy and paste the visual elements of it, but some way to create common page elements should be built into Filemaker.

  2. Sharing apps. I often share my Filemaker apps between macOS and iOS and the way one does that is to attach to the macOS ‘host’ via one’s wireless network on iOS. This works but it’s slow and cumbersome. What we really need is the ability to sync Filemaker — or at least the data portion of it — via iCloud. Apple owns iCloud of course so this should easily be within their remit. Yes, there are many hosted methods to achieve Filemaker sharing but I don’t want to sign up to these just for noddy apps I’m sharing with myself.

These sorts of things grind a bit and lower Filemaker’s rating to ‘good’ rather than ‘excellent’ in my opinion. It’s an accumulation of small niggles that I feel Apple could address reasonably proficiently.

Oh and upgrades cost way too much. They’re reasonably regular — at least one a year — and they’re $100s each time. If I was to drop Filemaker from my tool-belt it would probably be because of the cost.

In general, though, it’s a great RAD utility for developing solutions quickly and Filemaker 17 is another milestone in the progress of this handy little app. I’m pleased Apple haven’t abandoned it, which has been the fear of some users for a while.