By Craig Saunders, 16 May 2018
It’s that time of year again — when FileMaker Inc bestow upon the world the latest major update to the database platform we know and love. Funny how quickly this has become a practice: the annual update cycle… and personally I think it’s a great thing because not only can we plan for it reliably, but it also ensures the platform keeps moving forward at a steady pace.
No doubt there are a few key questions in your mind if you’re running a business on a FileMaker database application, like:
So let's take a look...
First off, with most people on a subscription type license now there’s no extra cost to upgrade, meaning there’s no financial reason not to.
Importantly, new versions always include a lot of non-critical fixes and functional enhancements that don’t really make the headlines. A number of minor issues surface through the year and these get rolled into the next major release.
Each new version always brings under the hood tweaks that make it faster, more robust and secure too — and those are qualities that we’re always looking at now with cloud hosting and access over the internet being the norm.
So our advice? Keep with the times!
So aside from the general improvements and keeping up with the times, what is actually new this year? Well the definitive list of new features can be found here:
And we’d like to highlight a few that we think are the top 5 most important:
This is going to make deploying a database update 100x easier!
With the “DMT” you can develop separately from your production or live database, then complete testing (and fixing!), before deployment. Moreover deployment can be achieved without having to write complex data import scripts — scripts which often take hours or even days to complete on big databases.
DMT opens up a world of opportunities because FileMaker solutions can now be productised more easily: if you’ve got hundreds of people (or even just 2) using copies of your database app, then there needs to be an easy way to issue and update and this tool helps solve that problem.
It’s also going to be handy when fixing damaged databases because we can very quickly grab an empty clone (FileMaker Server should be set up to create a backup clone each night), then use the DMT to rapidly copy data from the corrupt database into the good clone. The DMT will fix broken records if it can.
It’s almost scary how much your phone can know about the environment it’s in — from how many steps you’ve taken, to which direction it’s facing and whether it’s accelerating due to gravity, i.e. about to bounce on the concrete. I say ‘almost’ scary because thankfully Apple have built in protocols to ensure these sensors can only be accessed by apps if you allow them, and the good news is we can now access a whole lot more of the sensors from FileMaker database apps.
Aside from being a bit of fun, a key way to make mobile apps more usable is to have the application automatically read as much data as it can — Location is of course a good starting point, but we can now determine altitude, speed and acceleration, air pressure, step counts, and battery level.
Another handy features is the ability for apps to queue up notifications on the device — much like calendar reminders.
Paired with the GeoFencing functionality this can be used to alert the user when they enter or leave an area or approach an iBeacon (useful for locating very specific points or objects).
FileMaker has always offered a really good number of ways to connect with the outside world, and now with the “FileMaker Data API” — first introduced in a cut down beta form last year, fully fledged and ready for use we have THE industry standard way to make FileMaker data available to other services including a website.
The Data API now supports scripts and images, for example if you have a website that needs to upload an image to FileMaker then run a script to process that it can all be done through this standardised and secure interface to the world.
This is an important security enhancement because it helps stop automated ‘cracking’ attempts, a real risk when you have a database app hosted in the cloud or available over the public internet.
Basically all it does is lock the account (user name) being attempted if several password attempts fail in quick succession. After a few minutes, it’ll reset and you can try again if you’re legitimately trying to get in…
We’re not anticipating any problems at all, particularly for people switching up from FileMaker 16, but being a new release we generally recommend customers sit tight for a couple of weeks just to see if anything emerges before running the updates.
We’ll be emailing all our customers with the news of the release and advice on when to go ahead and upgrade… each case might be slightly different so if you're in any doubt, give us a bell and we can advise...