However you approach FileMaker Pro, some core strengths of the platform are important for all types of users:
Ultimately, FileMaker exists between the world of desktop applications and high-end, enterprise-level server systems. It is the third option: a flexible, robust workgroup application that can quickly come together, evolve over time, and be dramatically cost-effective.
Rapid Application Development
In the world of software development, flexibility and speed are critical. We live in the world of Internet time, and usually businesses embark on a development project only when they need something yesterday.
The practices and experiences of the past two decades have proven software development to be a risky, unpredictable business. NASA's travails are painful reminders that this stuff is, in some ways, truly rocket science. New job functions have been developed in software quality assurance and project management. Certification programs exist to sift the wheat from the chaff.
FileMaker Pro exists in many respects to help organizations take on less risk and navigate the waters of software development without having to take on massive engineering efforts when they aren't warranted. Because this is a rapid application development platform, it is possible to build a system in FileMaker Pro in a fraction of the time it takes to build the same system in more classic, compiled software languages or by using enterprise-level systems.
Low Total Cost of Ownership
FileMaker Pro is focused around offering a low total cost of ownership for organizations. In October 2001, the Aberdeen Group, an independent research firm in Boston, found that "under conservative assumptions, FileMaker Pro was superior, with an average ratio of 5:1 in [cost of ownership] over the industry average database" (quote taken from the Aberdeen Group Executive White Paper "FileMaker Low-IT Database Cost-of-Ownership Study," October 2001).
Both the cost of the software itself and the rapidity with which systems can be built mean that IT organizations have a viable alternative to the massive enterprise-level systems of the past.
FileMaker Is a Seasoned Platform
FileMaker Pro is now 20 years old. In the mid-1980s, Nashoba Systems created an initial version that was acquired and published by Forethought, Inc., in April of 1985. Nashoba then reacquired the rights to the software and published FileMaker Plus in 1986 and FileMaker 4 in 1988.
Claris Corp., which was then being formed by Apple Computer and was to become FileMaker's guiding parent, purchased Nashoba and published FileMaker II in 1988 and 1989. Finally in October 1990, FileMaker Pro 1.0 made its debut and set the product line on the course it has largely followed to this day. In December of 1995, Claris shipped FileMaker Pro 3.0, which saw the introduction of relational data modeling to the platform and, even more important, a completely seamless cross-platform application that's virtually identical between the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows. Today a majority of FileMaker's audience lives on the Windows side.
In 1998, at the time of version 4.1, Claris Corp. rechristened itself FileMaker, Inc. and focused all its energy around its flagship product.
FileMaker has been profitable every quarter since (an extraordinary feat considering the climate in Silicon Valley for the previous few years) and continues to enjoy the backing (as a subsidiary) of a cash-flush Apple Computer, Inc.
Other major innovations have occurred along the way, but nearly everyone in the community recognizes that it was the watershed version 3.0 that broke open the gates for FileMaker. Version 4.0 introduced web publishing to the platform, and version 6.0 offered significant support for XML-based data interchange.
In 2004, FileMaker Pro 7.0 was released. This major release featured a reengineered architecture from the ground up, a new model for working with relationships, modern security capabilities, and the capability to hold multiple data tables within a single file.
FileMaker Pro 8, launched in August of 2005, is the next release built on the new architecture of 7; it is a testament to that architecture that FileMaker 8 contains as many significant features as it does.
You're Not Alone
FileMaker, Inc. has sold more than 10 million units worldwide as of this writing. Users range from a single magician booking gigs in Denver, Colorado to Fortune 500 companies such as Citibank and Genentech. Just like any tool, FileMaker is noteworthy only when it has been employed to build somethingand its builders come in all shapes and sizes. The only true common element seems to be that they own computers and have information to store.
There are some trends: FileMaker Pro is widely used in the world of both K12 and higher education. All 50 of the top universities in the United States use FileMaker Pro. The nonprofit industry is also a key focal point for FileMaker, as is the creative-professionals industry.
Part I: Getting Started with FileMaker 8
Using FileMaker Pro
Defining and Working with Fields
Working with Layouts
Part II: Developing Solutions with FileMaker
Relational Database Design
Working with Multiple Tables
Working with Relationships
Getting Started with Calculations
Getting Started with Scripting
Getting Started with Reporting
Part III: Developer Techniques
Developing for Multiuser Deployment
Advanced Interface Techniques
Advanced Calculation Techniques
Advanced Scripting Techniques
Advanced Portal Techniques
Debugging and Troubleshooting
Converting Systems from Previous Versions of FileMaker Pro
Part IV: Data Integration and Publishing
Importing Data into FileMaker Pro
Exporting Data from FileMaker
Instant Web Publishing
FileMaker and Web Services
Custom Web Publishing
Part V: Deploying a FileMaker Solution
Deploying and Extending FileMaker
FileMaker Server and Server Advanced
Documenting Your FileMaker Solutions