The canvas of the Filemaker database is wide and rich for Mac business users, an enduring data capture resource that looks even more vivid in the newest release of this tool. Filemaker 11 rolls out today with a big palette of charting and graphics shortcuts, the kind of built-in prowess that makes a great case for using the $299 solution instead of an Excel spreadsheet.
If it feels crude to substitute a spreadsheet for a database, Filemaker’s Product Group Manager Rick Kalman says research shows otherwise. About 40 percent of the 15 million copies of Filemaker have been used by small business or small groups within larger companies. Already familar with Microsoft’s iconic spreadsheet, they press Excel into record-keeping of business inventory, sales or contacts. In doing so they limit the power of seeing their business portraits from every aspect.
The primary competition for us is Excel spreadsheets and paper, frankly,” Kalman said, “and that’s a pretty good target.” The features run well beyond the Excel hints and assistants that suggest you might be managing a list. And Filemaker 11 adds a feature that’s fast-becoming a Mac software standard: the Quick Search window in the top right of many programs, such as nearly every browser.
Graphics stood out in the one-hour demo that Kalman led us through about a week ago. The wholly-owned subsidiary of Apple is among the best of Apple’s captive partners at creating tools ready for businesses, and the Filemaker 11 is ready to show off a company’s products, people in client databases or internal staff and contractors, even a new feature that interacts with Twitter to push in-progress photo updates for custom designs like guitars or Web sites or illustrations. But the concept of pictures extends beyond the fresh graphics tools in Filemaker 11. A new Snapshot link “flags a specific set of records at a point in time, preserving the same layout, view and sort order. Any changes made to the file are automatically updated in the database. This Snapshot Link file can be emailed to anyone who has FileMaker Pro 11 for easy collaboration.” That means that changes to you data can automatically be updated in a collegue or client’s office if they have Filemaker Pro 11 at hand. Read the rest of this entry »