Saturday, September 29, 2007

Review - FileMaker Pro Advanced 9.0: Intro

I recently had the opportunity to get my hands on FileMaker Pro Advanced 9.0. I played with FileMaker waaaaay back in the DOS days but I haven't taken a look at it in a long time. Since I had this opportunity, I thought I would review the software from a holistic point of view.

This will be a multi-part review over the next couple of weeks. I'm going to take it from the basics of installation and reviewing FileMaker's support offerings all the way out to advanced topics like connecting to and querying multiple databases (Oracle, Postgres, MySQL, etc).

If there are any topics of interest for you along the way, please drop me a note and I will try to cover it.

Some historical information

FileMaker, a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple, has a long history. You can think of it somewhat as a multi-platform dBase that grew up. While dBase couldn't keep up with the changing technologies, FileMaker has thrived and grown. Currently profitable with 250 employees in 8 offices around the world, I think it can be considered a success.

Wikipedia has a very detailed history of FileMaker. In the beginning:

FileMaker began as a DOS-based product known as "Nutshell", developed by Nashoba Systems of Concord, Massachusetts around 1982 or 1983. Nutshell was distributed by Leading Edge, an electronics marketer that had recently started selling PC-compatible computers and software.

With the introduction of the Macintosh, Nashoba combined the basic data engine with a new forms-based GUI, creating a program that was dramatically easier to use. Leading Edge was not interested in the product, preferring to remain a DOS-only vendor, and kept the Nutshell name. Nashoba found another distributor, Forethought Inc., and introduced it to the Mac market as "FileMaker". When the Macintosh Plus was introduced, the next version of FileMaker was named "FileMaker Plus" to reflect the computer's name.

Forethought Inc. was purchased by Microsoft, who were then introducing a series of products that are today the core of Microsoft Office. Microsoft had their own database product, Microsoft File, so the rights to FileMaker were reverted to Nashoba. In 1988 Nashoba introduced "FileMaker 4" under its own name.

Shortly thereafter, Apple Computer formed Claris, a wholly owned subsidiary, to market software. Within months they had purchased Nashoba to round out their software suite. By that time, Leading Edge and Nutshell had faded from the marketplace because of competition from other DOS and later Windows platform database products, whereas, in spite of competition from Microsoft File, FileMaker continued to succeed on the Macintosh platform.

And from there, we have 9.0. In the next installment of this detailed review, I will cover features, system requirements and the installation process.