Filemaker Pro is a relational database program, primarily thought of as a Mac program but which is actually very much cross-platform - runs on Mac OS's as well as pretty much all versions of Windows. Files are compatible with both versions with very little tinkering (Windows files must have the .fp3/.fp5 extension).

THE PROGRAM
Filemaker Pro is an incredibly powerful program for the creation of fully relational (Filemaker Pro became relational as of version 3.0) databases. A Filemaker Pro database is a file made up of a number of records. Each record consists of fields. The types of fields are:

  • TEXT
    Any string of characters. A persons name, their address or a description of an item.
  • NUMBER
    A numeric value. A persons age, their house number or number of a certain item in stock.
  • DATE
    Used to store dates - creation date of record, a birthday etc.
  • TIME
    Used to store times - creation time of record etc.
  • CONTAINER
    Container fields contain any of drawings, pictures, movies, photos, bitmaps, clip art, sounds, or OLE objects (Windows only).
  • CALCULATION
    A calculation field does not contain any unique data of it's own, it simply calculates something from the other fields. For example, given a field containing a date of birth, you may desire a calculation field that returns that persons age.
  • SUMMARY
    Different to the others in that each record in the database does not have a distinct value. Summary fields are used for finding totals, averages, minimums etc. from the current found set.
  • GLOBAL
    Again, each record does not have a distinct value. Used to hold a value common to the whole database. Commonly used as holding fields for scripts.

Different layouts are used for the representation of data. These can be designed very easily to display the data in a myriad of different ways - a full page display for each record, a list view of multiple records at a time...

Different databases are interconnected using relationships. A certain field (usually a unique serial used specifically for this purpose) in one database is related to a field in another database. Related records can be viewed in the original database by way of a portal, a 'window' into the second database showing specified fields from all the related records. You could, for example, have a persons address in some fields, followed by a portal showing all their previous addresses, held in a related database.

Filemaker Pro has four modes of operation:
  • BROWSE
    Browse mode is used for the viewing of data in fields. Data can be entered or changed and whole records can be created or deleted.
  • FIND
    Fields on the current layout are shown without any data and search criteria are entered by the user. When the find is run, all records containing the specified criteria are returned and made into the current found set.
  • LAYOUT
    Layout mode is used for the designing and editing of all layouts. Fields can be added or removed, portals created and fonts, colours and sizes changed.
  • PREVIEW
    Preview mode is used to see what the current layout will look like when printed.

Filemaker Pro can be customized using plug-ins. Both free and commercial plug-ins are available which add such functionality as resizing windows on opening, running scripts on field exit etc...

Filemaker Pro has no limits on the number of fields, number of records, number of layouts etc. except for the one rule that a single database may not exceed 2Gb in size.

SCRIPTMAKER
A powerful feature of Filemaker Pro is the scriptmaker scripting language. Using a list of script steps, you can automate many tasks. For example, you could create a script that will go through the process of making a new record and filling in all required fields, so that a user requires little or no actual database knowledge. While not as powerful as Visual Basic (the language in Microsoft Access), scriptmaker is significantly easier for novices to get to grips with and is surprisingly powerful. To the chagrin of many a designer, scripts cannot be copied from database to database.

COMPATIBILITY
As said earlier, the Windows and Mac versions are very well integrated and there are very few problems. The file extension thing mentioned above and the fact that the Mac version can use Applescript in it's scripts are the only two that spring to mind.

Intra-Filemaker-wise, the file format was completely changed (the program was rewritten in C++) between versions 4 and 5. Filemaker Pro 5 can open and convert any databases created in earlier versions, but the converse is not true.

VERSION HISTORY
Filemaker 1.0, released April 1985 by Forethought Inc.
Filemaker Plus 2.1, released October 1986 by Nashoba Systems
Filemaker 4, released June 1988 by Nashoba Systems
Filemaker II v1.0, released August 1988 by Claris
Filemaker II v1.1, released July 1989 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 1.0v1, released October 1990 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 1.0v2, released March 1991 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 1.0v3, released March 1992 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 2.0v1, released 1993 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 2.0v2, released October 1992 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 2.0v3, released March 1993 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 2.0v4, released April 1993 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 2.1v1, released August 1993 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 2.1v2, released February 1994 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 2.1v3/SDK 2.1, released July 1994 by Claris
Filemaker Pro Server 2.0v, released July 1994 by Claris
Filemaker Pro SDK 2.1v1, released July 1994 by Claris
Filemaker Pro Server 2.1v1, released March 1995 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 3.0v1, released December 1995 by Claris
Filemaker Pro Server 3.0v1. released January 1996 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 3.0v2, released January 1996 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 3.0v3, released June 1996 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 3.0v4, released June 1996 by Claris
Filemaker Pro SDK 3.0v1, released June 1996 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 4.0v1, released September 1997 by Claris
Filemaker Pro 4.0 DE, released September 1998 by Filemaker Inc.
Filemaker Pro 4.1v2, released June 1999 by Filemaker Inc.
Filemaker Pro 5.0, released September 1999 by Filemaker Inc.
Filemaker Pro 5.0 Server, released November 1999 by Filemaker Inc.
Filemaker Pro 5.0 Unlimited, released November 1999 by Filemaker Inc.
Filemaker Pro Developer 5, released April 2000 by Filemaker Inc.
FileMaker Pro 5.5 Standard, released May 2001 by Filemaker Inc.
FileMaker Pro 5.5 Server, released July 2001 by Filemaker Inc.
FileMaker Pro 5.5 Unlimited, released September (?) 2001 by Filemaker Inc.
FileMaker Pro 5.5 Developer, released September (?) 2001 by Filemaker Inc.
Filemaker Pro 6, released July 2002 by Filemaker Inc.

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