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File maker

Someone asked me to develop a business application using Filemaker Pro. I don't know how to program Filemaker, since it doesn't use SQL.  Is Filemaker really just for simple applications, for non-programmers? Or can it be used for normal applications, and is there some way to program it?
I know it includes some kind of scripting language, but from what I read it seems very limited and inconvenient. But maybe I just don't know enough about it.
All my database application experience is with SQL databases like Oracle, and programming languages like Java or Perl. Is it worth trying to do this job, or does it sound impossible?

The Real PC
Monday, March 01, 2004

Filemaker Pro is simpler than MS Access.  It's improved over the years, but I was able to get the hang of it quickly.

It's just really really limited.

Flamebait Sr.
Monday, March 01, 2004

Yes, Filemaker really is just for simple applications.  It has a wimpy little scripting language which seems to be roughly equivalent to the stuff you can do with macros (or code wizards) in Access.  On the continuum of wannabe developer tools, I put it somewhere between JavaScript and recorded Excel macros.

You could, I suppose, develop something that used Filemaker as a back-end, and do the "real" interface work in the GUI tool of your choice.  But then you'd be paying good money for something you could get for free (to wit, a database engine).

Sam Livingston-Gray
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

FileMaker has improved greatly with it's latest release and is slated to have another major release soon (which I think will incorporate a MySQL backend - though I'm not positive). 

People have built FileMaker applications to manage inventory, payroll, POS, and accounting.  It's quick to develop for and responds relatively well to growth and multiple users.

Lou
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Lou,
Can you give me some more information, web sites I can read? I want to understand how to program FileMaker. Can you program it with Java, for example? How much flexibility is there? Are you saying you can use FileMaker for just the graphical interface and MySQL for the database, and some programming language to connect them?
Thank you very much.

The Real PC
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

If you're used to SQL databases, you will get very frustrated using FileMaker.  From what I know ( a couple co-workers in my group use it ) until the next release, it doesn't support SQL.  Also, each table is a separate file, which stores with it all of the display information for reports based on that file.

Say you have multiple tables making a type of tree form, or waterfall style diagram based on foreign keys.  There is no way (in the current version) to de-normalize them in a query and filter the results into a report.  You need to de-normalize them into another table (file!) and run the report on that file.

I might not have the details above correct, but in talking with my co-workers about some of the hoops they jump through to get stuff done in FM, that would be easy in [Oracle, MySQL, MSSQL, PgSQL,...] makes me not want to use it.

But, its a job, and its not a difficult system to understand.  If you can do relational databases, you can do filemaker no problem.

Andrew Hurst
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

It looks like FileMaker has it's own internal language.  I haven't opened a FileMaker program for several years (version 3 I think).  It's relatively more feature rich on the front-end than Access but a bit weaker on the back-end.

I suggest (and I'm sure you've thought about it) getting a copy of FileMaker and downloading some free examples and walking through their tutorial.  IIRC the tutorial in FileMaker is relatively decent.  I'm sorry I can't be of more help here.

Lou
Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I had the same need -having to build a FM app- a year ago. My background is the same as yours: SQL, C, Java.

I found it kind of difficult at first to grab the whole picture, but after one week, I felt very comfortable creating tables (they call them databases) , relationships, so-called portals, etc.

For some very basic business applications, it is arguably the best RAD environment. Web publishing is also very easy to understand and fast to deploy. You can create a complete online catalog in two hours with it. Also, it never crashes.

The problem is that you might get into trouble faster that you think because some stuff that would otherwise be a no-brainer is almost impossible or at least incredibly convoluted in FileMaker. There are a couple of sites that offer advanced techniques for database design and scripting.  I think I have some bookmarks, in case you need them. I also have a PDF called "the best 12 tips for filemaker" or something similar.

Forget about it if you think your app might grow into a full-blown, feature-packed application.

Dario Vasconcelos
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Oh, I forgot one important thing: some tasks you might take for granted -like reading an external flat file- can only be done with the help of "plugins". And some of these are really expensive...

Dario Vasconcelos
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Thanks Dario. Yes, please post those urls.
I am skeptical about RADs in general and until now have never been forced to use one. There is a project in the IT department where I work that uses WebObjects and all the programmers I talked to dislike it. I am glad not to be involved in the project. The FileMaker project is a freelance customer. One reason for FileMaker is that it generates forms and letters formatted for printing on paper. Anyway, it is another person's decision not mine.
I'm sure FileMaker is easy to learn and use and that is not the problem. I think RADs make the easy things easier and the hard things harder, and they make other things impossible.
But anyway, I have to use it and my concern is that the customer may demand things that turn out to be impossible with FileMaker.
Thank you very much for any information you can give me!

The Real PC
Wednesday, March 03, 2004

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