FileMaker Pro 8

FileMaker has announced–and shipped–an upgrade to its eponymous database that brings more extensive integration with PDF files and Excel.

The new FileMaker Pro 8 lets users and developers embed PDF documents right into their databases. “You can create a brochure out of the database, with access to the full range of PDF functions. Then if you want to send the PDF, you can specify password protection,” said Ryan Rosenberg, vice president of marketing and services at Santa Clara, Calif.-based FileMaker. “You can right-click to send anything in the database to e-mail.”

The ability to save and send PDFs would mean easier distribution of files to people without FileMaker. Matt Navarre, CTO of Pre1 Software, a Portland, Ore. developer of sofware for newspapers and magazines, partner, said the PDF integration is key. With Pre1’s software for newspaper and magazine publishers, “your sales reps will now be able to send a quote with an ad, with a PDF of the ad itself customized for them. Here’s what you pay for a one-time run, here’s what it costs for 26 issues. They could send email out with customized PDFs to each prospective advertiser,” Navarre said.

Another partner agreed. “The PDF stuff is huge. What used to require third-party tools or plugins is now built into FileMaker,” said Rich Coulombre, president of The Support Group, a Natick, Mass.-based professional services company.

“You can take a form and export it to PDF. We have a lot of customers using FileMaker for workflow-type operations, and PDFs are a wonderful way to communicate workflow requirements via e-mail.”

FileMaker also renamed the database’s Developer edition to FileMaker Pro Advanced. “We found that a lot of people were using advanced scripting, multiple files and other advanced tools but don’t think of themselves as professional developers. So we repositioned the product and added more stuff for customization–more tool tips and custom menus,” Rosenberg said.

With the new-and-improved Excel integration. Users can clicn on a button in FileMaker to bring up an Excel spreadsheet, massage and save the numbers. “We have end-to-end Excel now. You can drag Excel into FileMaker, have multiple worksheets turn into multiple [database] tables,” said Rosenberg.

In addition, the base FileMaker Pro 8 product has some fairly advanced tools, including a graphical, flow-chart view of the database. “We’ve enhanced that so you can highlight relationships, annotate and color-code things,” Rosenberg added.

A downloadable Business Productivity Kit includes the most common FileMaker “starter solutions,” such as contact management, inventory management, e-mail management and campaigns. The starter solutions can be used as-is or modified.

Both client databases are available now. The related server and mobile editions are slated to ship later this fall, according to FileMaker. FileMaker Pro 7, a major upgrade of the database, has been available since March 2004.

FileMaker was once known as Claris and was part of Apple. Now more than half of FileMaker users are on Windows.

FileMaker unveiled its latest database release at its 2005 Developer Conference in Phoenix. FileMaker Pro 8 costs $299 for the full version or $179 for the upgrade version. FileMaker Pro 8 Advanced is priced at $499, and upgrade versions are available for $299 until next June.

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