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FileMaker Pro 7.0 brings database power that was once reserved for high-end corporate installations down to the desktop. The program's simple and uncluttered interface allows any user, novice or experienced, to quickly get a complex database off the ground. It's far easier to navigate and use than other database programs, such as . And now, version 7.0 lets you store and manage huge volumes of complex data such as text, video, images, audio, PDFs, and more. When you factor in the reasonable $299 price tag for a single license ($149 for the upgrade), home and business users get a single tool that can organize, sort, and retrieve data for customer tracking, inventories, and so on. FileMaker Pro 7.0's AutoRun installation pops up with three icons (Install, Explore, and Exit), but there is no onscreen identification to explain the function of each icon. It would be nice if FileMaker included some text to help you make the right selection. However, once you do decide, a familiar InstallShield wizard makes FileMaker Pro 7.0 quick and easy to install and guides you through the setup. In our test, installation itself took less than a minute and required 127MB of disk space.
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FileMaker Pro 7.0 allows you to keep multiple databases open simultaneously for easy cross-referencing.
The program's interface is clean, and menu options are arranged like typical Windows functions (including File, Edit, View, Insert, Format, Records, Scripts, Windows, and Help). The Records menu offers access to sets of database records, while the Scripts menu lets you dive into new-script creation.
Toolbars reside below the menus, but they vary depending on which mode you are in: Browse or Layout. When you are in Browse mode to view data, the Standard and Records toolbars appear, with icons such as Open File and View All Records. Similarly, when in Layout mode, the Text Formatting toolbar appears for one-click access to font and style elements. You can resize the toolbars and let them float free or dock them to the sides. However, as with , you can't add or remove items.
The new capability to keep multiple database files open simultaneously provides easy access for convenient research and cross-referencing. There is no limit to the number of users who can employ FileMaker Pro 7.0, and up to five other users (who already have the software on their desktop systems) can share a database. FileMaker Pro Server 7.0 ($999, $499 upgrade) supports up to 250 simultaneous clients per server and hosts up to 125 databases. FileMaker Pro 7.0 is very easy to use, given its power. It provides good hand-holding for novices; a wizard takes you through building a new database, from file creation to field definition. There are also 30 new Starter Solutions (prefabricated templates) for home, small-business, and educational applications, such as event planning and expense reports. You can add or modify fields, tables, and relationships in these templates in order to easily create customized databases.
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Create and manage your multitable solutions with FileMaker Pro 7.0's Relationship Graph.
Version 7.0 adds support for an unlimited number of tables and improved management for tables and relationships. It can be easy to lose track of multiple tables in a single file, but the Relationships Graph tool (pictured above) visually maps out the databases and lets you define or modify relationships simply by drawing lines between fields.
FileMaker's Scripts allow you to set up redundant or complicated procedures, such as sending e-mail, and run them with a single click. If you're new to the idea of scripting, the task may seem overwhelming at first, but in FileMaker Pro 7.0, it is gratifyingly easy to use, thanks to FileMaker's ScriptMaker and Script Editor. For example, we wanted to generate a script that would automatically strip the company text from each record in a database of contacts. We found it easy to write a six-line script that started at the first record, cut the company line, then looped to the next record to repeat. When the script was executed, all of the company lines were cut. In FileMaker Pro 7.0, you can edit scripts right in the Script Editor (unlike previous versions that required you to execute each action before editing and saving changes). This makes it convenient to test new ideas or experiment with detailed automations.
Version 7.0 adds some noteworthy new features. For example, text fields can now be up to 2GB long, compared to the 64KB of previous versions, and each file can hold up to 8TB (terabytes) of data. The ability to accommodate such a vast amount of information is good news for business and enterprise users who want to store multimedia data in a database. Container fields (data fields that point to other data types) can handle images, movies, audio, and PDF files--up to 4GB each in size. This adds a tremendous amount of versatility to FileMaker's data-management capability.
FileMaker Pro 7.0 has enhanced file security, with a unified account/privilege environment. A dialog box allows you to define the accounts (with passwords) and other privileges associated with the database. These options will continue to protect the database as it's shared across the network. FileMaker Pro 7.0's print documentation and context-sensitive help file are lucid and will help address just about any question that may come up while using the product. Still, you may occasionally run headlong into problems that require more direct support from FileMaker.
In that case, free technical support (although toll and connection charges apply) is available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT, to assist users during installation and troubleshooting. While there is no limit to installation support calls, you receive only one free tech-support call for all other issues, and after that, you must pay a $45 flat fee per incident or $3 per minute. Paid support calls are via a toll-free number.
Budget-conscious users may prefer to use FileMaker's free, searchable online knowledge base and articles. The usefulness of these resources will vary depending on your need, though articles such as "Web Publishing Security Guidelines" are a must-read for anyone looking to integrate FileMaker Pro with a Web site.