FileMaker Pro 13 has a handy Web browser version, ramped up mobile features

FileMaker Inc. is rolling out a new version of its database software today– and this time, users will be able to access it directly from the Web.

An Apple Inc. subsidiary, FileMaker creates software for businesses who want to organize their data in something more attractive than your run-of-the-mill spreadsheet. Its latest iteration, FileMaker Pro 13, is an upgrade from FileMaker Pro12 for a few reasons, but one of the most promising appears to be FileMaker WebDirect, a drag-and-drop customizable interface designed for non-technical users who want to organize their data without coding.

Like its name implies, the HTML-5 based software directly deploys into an Internet browser and allows up to 50 users to collaborate on it at a time. However, businesses using FileMaker could conceivably share their usernames among hundreds of users. For example, if a business wanted to show a client any work in progress, it could give the client a username and password, and then reuse that user’s account later with another client.

(Image: FileMaker). Users can access FileMaker Pro 13 with a Web browser, which looks very similar to the desktop version.
(Image: FileMaker). Users can access FileMaker Pro 13 with a Web browser, which looks very similar to the desktop version.

All of this gives FileMaker 13 a boost over its predecessor, especially as this latest version is a better fit for road warriors and anyone working on the go, said Eric Jacobson, FileMaker’s group product manager for client technologies, in an interview.

“This is something our customers have been asking for, for a long time. And now more than often, there are virtual workers. There are users that are beyond your core group,” he said.

“And while it’s reasonable to ensure your core group may have a FileMaker desktop appliance installed, extending to that additional group of perhaps occasional users, or a large group of users who need to access your data once in a while, they aren’t going to have licenses to your systems. But with WebDirect, all they need is a browser.”

The plan is to later introduce mobile browsers that will run on Android, Windows, and BlackBerry devices. However, those are still in the works, with no release date available yet, Jacobson said.

Beyond WebDirect, FileMaker also introduced a slate of new tweaks and improvements to its existing products. Chief among them was its FileMaker Go app for the iPad and iPhone, which can be built via FileMaker’s desktop version. That means users can use templates to create their own apps, complete with their own choices of fields, colours, and layout styles.

(Image: FileMaker).
(Image: FileMaker).

The app now allows for more intuitive gestures like slide controls, as well as popovers, where additional information will pop up on-screen when a user taps a button.

And one of the newer, spiffier features is that the app allows for easy data capture – something that can be a pain to do on a phone or iPad keyboard. During our interview, Jacobsen demonstrated how the iPad’s camera can take a quick snapshot of, say, a product barcode. The barcode can then be matched to the right product in the database. The feature works for UPCs, QR codes, and straight line codes.

(Image: FileMaker).
(Image: FileMaker).

What’s worth noting is that whatever data is updated on the iPad or iPhone will also be updated on the desktop, and vice versa. For example, say a store employee was running the FileMaker app on the iPad and showing a customer a price on a product. If the product was sold elsewhere and a store manager ticked off the sale on either a desktop or on another iPad, the store employee could see the sale was made and inform the customer in real-time.

By combining the iPad app and the desktop version, businesses can conceivably create some slick-looking templates. One of FileMaker’s customers is the AFA Gallery, a small art gallery with locations in New York City, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and France.

Jacobson demonstrated how the AFA Gallery was using its FileMaker database to display artists’ pieces, as well as to show data on pricing and information about the artists themselves. The gallery also gave the artists access to their own profiles, allowing them to edit their profile information or see which of their pieces had been sold.

“There’s a lot of different types of things you can do. Really, if you have the information, anything you can think of, you can come up with a way to display it and make it interactive in FileMaker,” Jacobson said. “And we think that’s an incredible differentiator, because you can do it without a computer science degree.”

Still, with data being so freely shared across devices, customers might wonder how their data is secured. FileMaker has encrypted the data travelling between clients and the FileMaker server, with AES 256-bit encryption for the data files themselves when using FileMaker Pro 13’s advanced version, Jacobson said.

Pricing starts at $9.50 per month for FileMaker Pro 13, while FileMaker Pro 13 Advanced is set at about $16 per month. The FileMaker Go app is free in the Apple iTunes App store.

Businesses can also buy software licenses, starting at about $350 for FileMaker Pro 13, or $190 for an upgrade to 13 from an older version.

Resellers can supply businesses with server concurrent connections for either FileMaker Go, or FileMaker WebDirect.

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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