FileMaker Pro 8
Building a database isn't a trivial task, but FileMaker Pro 8 lightens the load by bringing a powerful set of creation tools to professional developers and novices alike. Long considered the easier-to-use--albeit less powerful--alternative to , FileMaker Pro adds an impressive array of new features, such as the ability to create Adobe Acrobat PDF files from database records or to export FileMaker data to . FileMaker Pro 8 also makes it vastly easier to e-mail the contents of fields--a tedious chore in prior versions--and to customize menus, use fields and tables, and create relationships between tables. While the PDF-export feature takes trial and error to perfect, we can't complain about FileMaker Pro's vast toolkit for managing complex data sets.
Business users can support massive databases as large as 8 terabytes and open up to 125 files at once. FileMaker Pro 8 is a worthy upgrade for veteran users and a good choice for novices with the time and the patience to learn the art of database design. We reviewed the $299 FileMaker Pro 8, which supports up to five simultaneous Windows or Mac users. The $499 Advanced version adds more development tools, including the ability to customize menus and to add tool tips to made-to-order databases for large organizations. Additional versions include the $999 FileMaker Server 8, with additional file sharing, and the $2,499 Server 8 Advanced, which offers enhanced file sharing, Web publishing, and security features. FileMaker Pro's clean, cogent interface is a breeze to navigate. Unfortunately, like the setup screen in , FileMaker Pro 8's is too cryptic. Three icons appear without text descriptions, and it's up to you to figure out which icon does what. (Hint: click the first one to install FileMaker.) Despite the hieroglyphics, FileMaker Pro 8 is easy to install; we completed setup in less than five minutes.
Existing users of FileMaker Pro 8 will be familiar with the menus and the toolbar layout, and novices will likely appreciate the dozens of templates for business and home databases--everything from personnel records and product catalogs to family budgets and recipes. (Granted, using this powerful app to store recipes is like using a blowtorch to light a hibachi.) Wizards such as the New Layout/Report Assistant walk first-timers through basic design chores, but we'd like to see a bit more assistance. For instance, many Layout mode icons are hard to decipher, and each could use a tool tip--a text box that appears when you move the cursor over the icon. Ironically, while FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced lets developers attach tool tips to fields or layout objects, it doesn't provide tool tips for its own features.