Filemaker 9 - still not up to 1997 technology standards

Sep 10
by Daniel
Filemaker 9

I have been using Filemaker since version 2.  By version 4, I started doing more advanced things and found Filemaker to be a pain.  I searched for a replacement.  4D v6 was a possibility, so I purchased a copy and started working with it. 

4D did all the things that Filemaker could not.  It was difficult to understand how 4D worked at first because Filemaker does not function like all other databases.  No other database has calculation fields or global fields.  I decided not to go with 4D after they raised their prices and continued working with Filemaker.

Before I continue about Filemaker, let me contrast several software programs I have also used for over 10 years.  Photoshop always had a full set of features.  When they added more, I would think what new features would you need, but they usually added some very useful features you never even thought of.

MS Word had all the features you needed over 10 years ago, but they just keep loading it up with lots of garbage you don’t need.

Filemaker, on the other hand, would have users begging for features.  Each new release usually added 4 features and more often than not, they would take away a feature.  Every upgrade would be disappointing because they did not address very glaring missing features.  Instead, Filemaker would add some feature that made me think why?  Why add this feature when all these important issues have not been addressed.

What is ridiculous is that Filemaker 9 still does not have features that 4D had ten years ago.
Let me list some of them:

* User interface changes to match OS.  Real OS buttons and tabs. (v9 with OS 9 looking buttons and tabs? Filemaker does not follow what the parent company Apple has set as interface standards)
* Resize field in portal - like the table view (can kind of do this now if the whole window is resized, but only one field)
* Real variables (variables placed on the layout and can be calculations or globals)
* Real arrays (you can have a pull-down with the key field hidden)
* Triggers - certain actions make scripts or calculations run.  not just clicking a button
* Real scripting (you can just type the code, no selecting each step)
* Separate data and structure (you can kind of do this as of v7, but not really)
* Charting - bar, pie, etc.
* Different window types - fixed size (no scroll bar), resizable (FM only option) and dialogs
* Thin client (cheaper version that does not allow editing)

It took Filemaker until version 7 to add tables and version 9 to add resizable objects, which were also features in 4D ten years ago.  I don’t even know what new features 4D has now; I am only discussing what 4D had ten years ago.  I have other complaints like when Filemaker does add a feature, it seems half-assed.  For example, set variable: the variable cannot be accessed using the Perform Applescript command. Why?  Frankly, I don’t think Perform Applescript has been updated since version 5, other than compatibility issues.  This makes Applescript difficult to use fully within Filemaker.

Filemaker’s new conditional formatting is a very nice feature, but script grouping?  Come on!

Filemaker v9 is a useful product.  The improvements are welcomed.  Currently, there is no good alternative available to  Filemaker, but so many would switch if something good came along, including me.  Maybe 4D will get a clue and try marketing better, lower their prices and provide full Filemaker switching documentation, which 10 years ago they failed to do, but I doubt it.


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