FileMaker 12: What's New?

By Craig Saunders, 12 April 2012

We're all buzzing about the new version of FileMaker that has just been released. There are all sorts of goodies for you as users and us as developers (and there are a few gotchas you should be aware of too).

Let's start with the cool stuff for you:

Containers, those fields that house photos and graphical data, are now easier to manage when they're stored externally. FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server can keep all of your documents in a single location on the Server (or locally) and can encrypt them. The end result is that database files are smaller and so faster to back up, and all your files are stored in one place, rather than all over the place. Containers have also been optimized in 12 to be much faster to load, and are now capable of streaming audio and video, as well as displaying PDF's directly in the container. And you can drag 'n drop into containers now.

Progressive Backups are now possible, meaning that only what has changed since the last backup needs to be backed up. If you have a large database, you'll see major speed improvements in the time it takes for you to do a backup.

Graphs have been given expanded capability and a new user interface, so you may find that a graph that we couldn't do before is now possible.

FileMaker Go, the FileMaker application for iPads and iPhones, has been brought into feature parity with FileMaker, meaning fewer limitations on that side of the fence.

Web Publishing: there's been a complete rewrite of the FileMaker Web Publishing engine, to get better performance for Custom Web Publishing. The speed improvement is touted to be up to 100 times faster.

For us as developers and for those of you who like to get your hands dirty, here are a few of of our favourite new features:

Layouts based on Web Technology: The Layout engine has been rebuilt based on CSS. This makes possible the styles and alignments described in the next two paragraphs. It also raises the hope that in the future, CSS-savvy developers might be able to make changes of their own, including designing customised database themes.

Object Styles: A bit like conditional formatting taken to new heights: you can specify different styles/colours for a button (or other object) when it is in focus, hovered over, pressed, or just sitting there. And colour gradients and transparency are available for the first time too.

Aligning Objects: Guides that are local to a layout or global to all layouts in the database are now possible. It's much easier to keep the look and feel more uniform across a database. And FileMaker makes a real effort to help you keep fields aligned and buttons or fields of uniform size with its dynamic guidelines and same-size recognition.

Execute SQL function: FileMaker is signalling greater support for SQL by expanding the existing Execute SQL from a script step that can only be used on external ODBC data to a function that can be used to query FileMaker databases. This means that records from unrelated tables can be queried without having to set up a relationship.

Now the things to be aware of:

  • Mac OSX 10.5 (Leopard) and earlier, and Power PCs are no longer supported, so you won't be able to run FileMaker 12 on a Mac unless it's OS 10.6 (Snow Leopard) or later. Macs bought in 2009 or later should be fine (i.e. have 10.6) and older ones bought from 2006 onwards (Intel-based) can be upgraded.
  • FM12 involves a file format change from earlier versions, which means it's not reversible: once you've converted a database, it will be openable in FM12 only.
  • If you have your own FileMaker Server, and you upgrade to 12, you'll need to upgrade your Server too.
  • Conversions go pretty smoothly, but you can expect the odd problem and sometimes these can take a bit of time to resolve.

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