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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Filemaker 30, version 14

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

FileMaker Go on iOS

I first heard about FileMaker in the late ’80s from a friend of my parents, an octogenarian who had started several new businesses in his retirement. He was a huge Mac fan, one of the first I had ever met, and he was running his entire business with custom FileMaker databases.

The amazing thing is that FileMaker was already a few years old at that point, and this year is celebrating its 30 year anniversary. In 1988 FileMaker was purchased by Claris, Apple’s wholly-owned software subsidiary. Claris products used to include ClarisWorks (formerly AppleWorks), Claris Emailer and Claris Organizer. In 1998, the company—still entirely owned by Apple, as it is to this day—renamed itself FileMaker Inc.

I used FileMaker intensely when I started at Macworld in 1997, because all of the magazine’s editorial tracking was contained in custom FileMaker databases. I can still picture FileMaker calculation fields in my head, as well as recall many moments when I banged my head on my keyboard struggling to set up scripts in FileMaker’s script window.

On Tuesday the company announced its latest version, FileMaker 14. FileMaker keeps on doing what it’s been doing for 30 years, creating databases that are more than a spreadsheet but less than a massive Enterprise installation. I haven’t seen a copy in a few years, and I was impressed that the app has kept up with the times in terms of Yosemite and iOS 8 styling.

The new features of FileMaker 14 include a script workspace that I would’ve killed for in 1997, a scrollable navigation bar to dramatically improve layout designs, and a new set of 140 icons. There’s also a new version of the FileMaker Go app for iOS that inclues that iOS 8-savvy interface, video and audio playback controls, and rich text editing. And FileMaker WebDirect lets you interact with FileMaker databases directly from the web, no app required.

If there’s one feature I’m surprised FileMaker doesn’t offer, it’s cloud-based hosting of databases. Sure, FileMaker has partners who will offer you access to the FileMaker Server apps that they maintain, but I’m surprised that FileMaker doesn’t make it easier for customers to get their databases on the Internet quickly and easily and without running their own servers or working with a third party.

Still, the world needs friendly database products that fit somewhere in between Excel or Google Sheets and something running on Oracle. It’s great to see that FileMaker’s still kicking after three decades.

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