If you are a customer or developer using FileMaker Pro, you probably know the latest version, FileMaker 13 was released in December 2013. I have not written about this release yet, because I wanted to reserve my comments until I had time to work with it. Now I have. So, what is the state of FileMaker 13?
First, let’s talk about what FileMaker is at the core. It is a client-server database platform for making custom business applications. For years, FileMaker has had a desktop application (FMPro) and a server application (FMS). Then recently, FMI added an iOS application (FMGo). So, now the “client” part of client-server includes the iPhone and iPad.
Of course, FileMaker also has a web publishing component in the server application. Instant Web Publishing (retired in FileMaker 13), was designed to help a FileMaker developer with minimal web experience create web access to a FileMaker solution. Custom Web Publishing was intended for the traditional web developer who knows HTML, CSS, PHP, etc. to create custom web apps for a FileMaker backend.
In FileMaker 13, Instant Web Publishing was replaced with WebDirect. WebDirect is intended to bring the desktop experience of FileMaker Pro to the browser. WebDirect is a new technology, a 1.0 release. In some ways, it is similar to when FileMaker Go released. It is a new type of “client” except it does not require installing any software because it runs in the browser. As with FMGo, will require some time to mature and for developers to figure out best practices.
So, where does this leave us? I go back to what I said earlier. FileMaker is a client-server database platform for making custom business applications. Currently it has two rock-solid clients, desktop (FMPro) and iOS (FMGo). You could also consider Custom Web Publishing a third client except that it requires development skills outside the normal FileMaker toolbox.
FileMaker is not a true SaaS application. It requires a client on the local device. You can put the server application on a cloud server (hosting provider, AWS, Rackspace, etc.). Then, if you have a well-designed solution, you can access the application “in the cloud” using the client on the local device. Is this a web-based app? No. But not every business needs one.
What is my point? Let’s be honest, and not ashamed, of what FileMaker really is and is not. Be honest with yourself and your customers about whether FileMaker is the right fit. If it is, use it. If it is not, have other options to offer the customer. Do not try to fit a square peg into a round hole. It is a disservice to the FileMaker platform and the customer.
Back to FileMaker 13, the latest advancements in the platform — including the layout theme/style engine, the new layout objects (popover and slide control), the improvement in iOS functionality, and the server enhancements like Perform Script on Server — are significant steps forward. However, these do not change what FileMaker currently is: a client-server database for custom applications on desktops and iOS.
Learn how to determine whether FileMaker is a good fit for your project. Use it for its strengths and work around its weaknesses. (BTW, all development platforms have weaknesses.) If you are not sure how to do this, get help. The worst thing you can do is declare “if it cannot be done in FileMaker, it is not worth doing.”
That is my take on the state of FileMaker 13. What do you think? You can leave a comment using the form below.