FileMaker update focuses on graphics

FileMaker Pro 6 ships this week with key new features designed to keep it compatible with mainstream business applications. In particular, its support for XML streams will allow FileMaker to integrate more easily with enterprise databases, and the update adds full compatibility with both versions of Windows XP.

FileMaker Pro 6 is available now for a list price of US$299, or $149 for an upgrade from its predecessor, which was released about a year ago. The program's new ability to write and read XML streams enhances its prospects for remaining the dominant usable relational database. Beginning and early intermediate users who regularly analyze or interact with database-stored information should find FileMaker their most productive option, whether the storage standard is in some SQL, Access, or corporate enterprise container.

Templates Added

The update provides new features intended for home users that will benefit some institutional users as well. The new version includes 21 database templates for common applications such as expense tracking, inventory, and invoices. FileMaker Inc., with its roots originally in the Macintosh world, is committed to working with digital media. FileMaker Pro 6 adds features for effectively handling graphics, most notably the ability to import an entire set of images at once from either a digital camera or a folder. In previous versions, a user had to import images into a database one at a time.

Other additions include tactical improvements, such as a global search-and-replace function and a format "painter" familiar to users of Microsoft Office products. The new model for doing searches with compound criteria is an important time-saver over FileMaker's old model, which required a user to specify search criteria, execute the operation, and then search again from the filtered set of records.

For current FileMaker users who want to use the XML connections to share data with enterprise data sources, and for users who need to import images or run the product under Windows XP, this upgrade comes through. The convenience features, such as search-and-replace and format paint, make upgrading worthwhile--especially for people with dynamic databases. If you create new applications all the time, the templates are a time-saver.

Put to Use

FileMaker customers like The New York Public Library value the new version for its image-cataloging utility. Herb Scher, the library's deputy manager for public relations, brought FileMaker into the organization about six years ago to create a simple application to manage and categorize regular departmental contacts. It has evolved into a sophisticated product, PressFile, that the library markets to other public relations departments and publishers.

"FileMaker 6 helps us with a new challenge we've been facing recently [such as] keeping track of digital images," Scher says. The library uses photographers at events, the facility has many photos in library exhibits, and photographers increasingly are using digital media.

"Now, we can take an entire CD-ROM of images, put it in a folder on the desktop, and import the whole group of images with one menu command," Scher says. The library also uses a digital cataloging template that comes with FileMaker Pro 6.

Users looking to advance their use of FileMaker as a back end to Internet or intranet databases may be interested in FileMaker Pro 6 Unlimited. That product enables publishing FileMaker databases to an unlimited number of Web users. The Unlimited version lists for $999, or $499 to upgrade.

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