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FileMaker update sorts out storage

Software maker FileMaker beefs up its namesake product with the ability to import and store big multimedia files--handling files of up to 8 terabytes--and a new relational engine.

FileMaker released a new version of its main database application on Tuesday, promoting the product as a way for small businesses to handle complex management tasks.

Key changes in FileMaker 7 include new capabilities for the import and storage of various types of files--including text documents, spreadsheets, video and audio clips and a host of other content, according to Ryan Rosenberg, the senior vice president of marketing at FileMaker.

The updated software can also handle files up to 8 terabytes in size--4,000 times the previous limit--which means people can use it for large video projects and the like.

"People are using FileMaker to manage multimedia files, and those get very large," Rosenberg said. "We wanted to make the limitation be hardware, not software."

FileMaker 7 also includes a new relational engine for easily creating links between different items in a database. "Let's say you've got a customer list and a shipments list--you can drag and drop, and you've created a link between the two," Rosenberg said. "Ease of use is primary for us. If something is hard to use, then the feature might as well not exist."

The standard version of FileMaker will be accompanied by a "Developer" edition, which has additional tools for creating custom databases and applications. "The FileMaker customer is typically someone that is not a programmer," Rosenberg said. "They have limited IT resources available, so they have to solve the problem themselves."

FileMaker Pro 7 and FileMaker Developer 7 are available now in Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X versions. FileMaker Pro costs $299, or $149 for those upgrading from a previous version. FileMaker Developer costs $499, or $399 for the upgrade version.

They'll be followed this summer by two new server versions of the database. FileMaker Server 7 will cost $999 for the standard version and $499 for the upgrade edition. FileMaker Server 7 Advanced will cost $2,499 for the full version and $1,499 for the upgrade edition.

Also planed for summer is a new version of FileMaker Mobile, which synchronizes PC databases with handheld computers running the Palm and Pocket PC operating systems. It will cost $69 for the full version and $35 for the upgrade edition.

Apple Computer trimmed its Claris subsidiary into FileMaker in the 1990s and has struggled to boost market share in the face of competition from Access, which is part of Microsoft's market-leading Office productivity package. FileMaker the company has looked to distinguish itself by targeting small businesses and releasing specialized packages for niche categories.