Filemaker Pro 8 Says Work Faster, Share More

by Lauren Simonds

The latest version of the venerable database software is designed to make sharing and managing information easier and more efficient.

Filemaker, Inc has announced the immediate availability of Filemaker Pro 8, the latest version of its well-known database software, saying it's been designed to make sharing information easier and faster than ever — ergo, the software's tag line: Work Faster. Share More.

According to Ryan Rosenberg, Filemaker's vice president of marketing, small business owners don't go searching for a database, they go looking for an answer to a problem. "About 50 percent of our customer base is small business, and they're looking to solve problems," said Rosenberg. "They want to track inventory, or products their customers have ordered in the past, or organize digital images. Typically they've been using a combination of paper, Excel spreadsheets and address books to do it, but FileMaker Pro 8 lets them bring it all together so they can better organize and run their business."

It's Nice to Share
Five of the new features designed to make sharing information faster include PDF Maker, Excel Maker, Fast Send, Fast Match and E-mail Merge.

The PDF Maker lets you convert graphics, reports and other information into PDF files right within Filemaker Pro 8, attach the file to e-mail and send it off to a customer. Rosenberg says this makes it easy for a company to keep its customers updated on new products. "For example, if a company makes protective covers for small aircraft, they can PDF a brochure and send it out to show customers the latest product." He added that the recipients don't need to have Filemaker to access the information.

Rosenberg said Excel Maker works much the same way — use the "Save/Send Records As Excel" to save the information as an Excel file, and send it out via e-mail.

Fast Send lets you automatically attach the contents of any field to an e-mail — documents, images, graphs or something else entirely — by clicking on "Export Field Contents." No more cutting and pasting.

Filemaker designed Fast Match to let you select data in a field and mouse click once to find all of the matching records associate with it. "Let's say you want to find all your customers in California and Georgia who own a Cessna plane," said Rosenberg. "Filemaker Pro 8 takes you through the steps — one click to find Georgia customers, one to find and add the California customers, and a final click to restrict the search to only those customers within the group that bought the plane. Three clicks and you're done. Pro 8 makes it easy to find the information. If you can't find your data, it's not useful.

Also new to Pro 8 is E-mail Merge. In older versions, an e-mail merge involved writing a script — not a quick way to spread the word by any means. "Over 60 percent of Filemaker databases contain names," said Rosenberg. "Pro 8 lets you easily send an e-mail merge with a few simple clicks."

Other Time-Saving Features
Along with the five new features, Filemaker Pro 8 also includes other ways to save time. A sample of these enhancements include:

  • Auto-Complete: automatically fills in field content based on previous entries or value lists
  • Calendar Field Format: Enter dates faster to any field with this point-and-click drop-down calendar
  • Tab Panel Control: Build a single layout with multiple tabs in a one step instead of having multiple layouts — each with their own tabs
  • Visual Spell Checker: Underlines misspelled words and lets you edit and correct errors on the fly
  • Mouse Wheel Support: Scroll through records or fields faster and easier using the wheel on your mouse
  • Improved Table Import: Add a new table to a database automatically by importing the new data. No need to create a table first
  • Improved Relationship Graph: Easier ways to create and manage tables and associated relationships

Filemaker Pro 8 also includes 30 Starter Solutions, ready-to-use, task-specific database templates that, according to Rosenberg, provide a simple way to get a project started.

Business Productivity Kit — Inventory
Click here for a larger image.

Organized under three categories — managing people, managing projects or managing assets — sample Starter Solutions include contact management, resource scheduling and inventory tracking.

A Real-World Perspective
Mark Pilger is the president of SIP, a Tampa, Florida-based company that manufactures machines to sharpen the blades on mowers that greens men use to maintain golf courses.

Pilger uses his Filemaker database to track labor costs and inventory. Over the years, Pilger has made changes to the database, adding features and function, but decided to completely re-write it three years ago. "I'd work on it part-time, so it was a slow process," he said, "but I started using Filemaker Pro 6 and worked on it for two years. When version 7 came out, it was so good I decided to start over, and it took me six months to do what had taken me two years using the older version."

Two months ago, Pilger started testing Filemaker Pro 8. "It was the same order of magnitude of improvement," he said. "The changes made building my database so much faster. What took me six months now only took me two months in version 8 — remember, I'm working on this part-time as I run my business."

Pilger plans to use Filemaker Pro 8 to write two more databases. One to help his customers track equipment maintenance and another that will combine inventory management and accounting and reduce double data entry. "Hey," he said, "when it only takes six months instead of two years, a lot more becomes possible."

Business Productivity Kit
In addition to Filemaker Pro 8, Filemaker is also announcing the Business Productivity Kit, a product squarely aimed at small business, said Rosenberg. "This is a collection of our best of the best," he said. "The Kit contains a collection of our most popular Starter Solutions — integrated together into one solution — to help small businesses be more productive in the areas that matter most to them."

By integrating the Solutions, which include customer relationship management, project management, inventory, sales orders and e-mail campaign management, Rosenberg said customers can work more productively. " The Kit eliminates duplicating data. If you're managing contacts and companies, you can open up project management and your contact info will be there.

The Kit also offers a "How to Build This Solution yourself Learning Guide" to help you learn how to customize the database to fit your specific business needs.

"People pick Filemaker because it makes them more productive," said Rosenberg. "These small business owners aren't database experts. They start small and do the one task that bugs them the most. Then they get an idea and add a piece here and there over the years as their business grows."

Filemaker Pro 8, for both Mac and PC, is available now and sells for $299. The upgrade sells for $179. The Business Kit comes free with the purchase of Filemaker Pro8, and is also included as part of Pro 8's 30-day free trial. Note: if during the free trial you create a database and then decide to purchase the software, you won't lose your data.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

This article was originally published on Tuesday Aug 30th 2005
Mobile Site | Full Site