FileMaker 8 gets PDF and Excel formatting

Mid-size system fills gap between home use and big business

Direct output to PDF and Excel formats is one of the enhancements to the popular FileMaker desktop database version 8, released last week.

Graphics-rich collections of data can be fed directly into a PDF, through licensing of the Adobe libraries, by way of Datalogics. Data extracts can be similarly exported as Excel spreadsheets and data imported from spreadsheets.

An email capability has been included in FileMaker for ten years, says product manager Jay Welshofer. But it has been “buried” in the advanced parts of the product that required scripting knowledge. With version 8, a non-expert user can export a selection of data as an email attachment.

A Fast Send capability allows a point-and-click selection of fields to be sent by email from within the product to a copy of FileMaker at another site.

Also included in Version 8 is Fast Match — this allows the user to select any field in a record with the mouse and find all other records with the same field value, then broaden or narrow the search according to need — without touching the keyboard. A mail merge capability has also been introduced.

Regular actions that entail moderately difficult setup can be scripted by developers, so the user can achieve the task with a few clicks, says Welshofer.

FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced continues the developer-focused suite of functions for customising databases, previously marketed as FileMaker Developer.

FileMaker has positioned itself as a mid-scale database system, at around $560. “It’s not the kind of program a home user would use to keep their recipes in order, but nor is it the platform you’d choose for airline reservations or supply-chain automation. It’s a tool for workgroups of between two and 200 users,” he said, in a combined teleconference and webcast last week from the US.

FileMaker started life as a DOS-based product known as Nutshell, developed by Nashoba Systems of Concord, Massachusetts in the early 1980s.

With the introduction of the Macintosh, Nashoba added a GUI for a distinctive, easy-to-use database. It introduced the product to the Mac market as FileMaker. A few years on, Apple formed Claris, a wholly-owned software marketing subsidiary, which purchased Nashoba and changed the name of the product to FileMaker II.

Later, a cross-platform Windows and Macintosh version was developed. This gave it a strong position in the marketplace and is still one of its key advantages.

Claris has been renamed FileMaker but is still wholly-owned by Apple.

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