Review: FileMaker Pro 9

Collect information and track data more easily. (February 28th, 2008)

MacNN Rating:


Product Manufacturer: FileMaker, Inc.

Price: $299.00 US

The Good

  • Comprehensive features. Very stable. Extensive support. Cross-platform. Relatively easy to customize. Established developer community.

The Bad

  • Expensive. Interface has not kept up with recent developments in the OS X interface.

FileMaker Pro 9 and FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced are excellent database programs. Both programs handle large volumes of data, and offer nearly everything you need to manage your data. While the real watershed in FileMaker's evolution from a non-relational, self-contained database to an enterprise level Relational Database Management System (RDBMS) took place in the version 8 update, there are numerous enhancements in version 9.

New Features

FileMaker, Inc. announced almost 100 new features in version 9. They can be grouped into four areas: Enhanced data sharing and interconnectivity with other SQL-based systems, such as Oracle and SQL Server; better reporting and design changes; better automation; and more extensive tools and features for Web integration.

None of these enhancements are earth shattering in their own right, but as a package, they're impressive. Together, they deftly pull the FileMaker products in line what its users want and have requested. They make FileMaker Pro 9 not only the best version yet; but also one well suited to a wide range of circumstances in which any type of data can be worked with reliably and easily. Each new feature and enhancement has been carefully thought out and implemented.

Flexible Data Management

You can now manage your data flexibly, yet in the most sophisticated of ways both within the FileMaker environment and across other systems with which it interfaces, such as other SQL systems, via ODBC with Microsoft databases, as well as on the Web. There are more ways to make scripts do exactly what you want and impressive ways of automating presentation of your data, including reports that hold data from your external SQL data source.

The sum of these parts now fits even more snugly into a greater number of likely situations in which advanced users find themselves. This feature set encourages users with simpler data tracking needs to do very well in areas that can still be difficult, such as in designing, maintaining, optimizing, and networking a small business or voluntary group's database.

filemaker screen

FileMaker Pro 9 Quick Start Screen

Templates that cover the most common database tasks still ship with FileMaker Pro 9, but the new FileMaker Quick Start Screen lets you find what you need more easily. Editable templates include contact management, home budgets, CD or movie collections, and a variety of other data management needs suited to education, home, and small businesses.

filemaker pro 9 screen

Sample Contact Management Screen from FileMaker

FileMaker Pro also has scores of third party developers. There are hundreds of plug-ins, add-ons, scripts, and bespoke applications to adorn its compatibility with Structured Query Language (SQL). This developer support and its flexibility, customizability, huge array of appropriate features, ease of use, and robustness for small to medium size data storage situations, make FileMaker Pro 9 the all round best database system to use in most circumstances that MacNN readers will meet. The great strength FileMaker Pro 9 is that it should please almost everybody in terms of an astonishing array of features on the one hand; and ease of use, flexibility and robustness on the other. You can see a table of the differences between the FileMaker Pro 9 and FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced on the FileMaker web site. Both versions work in Mac OS X 10.4.8 and later.

If design is beyond your patience level, or you just want to track data, but not have to create your database from scratch, FileMaker now offers the Leopard only (Mac OS X 10.5), Bento. Bento uses templates which integrate closely with Address Book and iCal, at a much reduced price. MacNN's review of Bento will appear soon.

Related Product Reviews:
FileMaker Pro Advanced 9

Edited by Ilene Hoffman, Reviews Editor

by Mark Sealey


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