A very worthwhile new release for this venerable database application, particularly for newcomers to the world of relational databases. The new charting capabilities alone may be enough to convince some existing users to upgrade, although there are plenty of other tempting new features. It's certainly well worth downloading the trial version for a test run.
Charting capability; cross-platform support; good set of predefined templates; new Quick Reports and Recurring Imports are great additions.
Inspector toolbar useful but too small on high-resolution screens; no highlighting of hits in Quick Search; chart options may be too basic for some.
£ 219 (Upgrade version £131+VAT)
Minimum requirements: Windows XP SP3, Vista SP2, 7; Mac OS X 10.5.7 or 10.6; CPU - 1GHz (Vista/7), PIII 700Mz (XP), G4 867MHz (OS X 10.5.7); 1GB RAM (512MB for G4)
Using a spreadsheet as a database is one of those things that sounds like a good idea at the time, but can quickly become more of a hindrance than a help when you hit the limitations.
Filemaker Pro 11 addresses the needs of those who discover that they need the data-crunching power of a relational database, but want a user-friendly interface that hides most of the oily bits, and works on Macs as well as Windows PCs.
This latest incarnation builds on the previous release, with no radical changes to the core functionality (the file format is identical) but adding several new features to file import, report generation and charting that are, in part at least, intended to make the transition from spreadsheet to database as painless as possible. A couple of important new components have also been added to the interface.
The version reviewed here is the basic single-user Filemaker Pro 11 for Windows, although an Advanced version (£329+VAT) that includes developer tools is also available, along with two Server variants (£699+VAT and £2,199+VAT) for different sizes of workgroup.
On startup, you're presented with a revamped Quick Start menu showing recently used databases plus links to help and tutorial materials in PDF and video formats. These are recommended reading for anyone new to Filemaker, as they are mostly well-made and informative.
From the Quick Start menu you can also create a new database, import a file (including Excel spreadsheets, CSV or DBF database files), or use one of the 31 predefined templates known as Starter Solutions.
There is just one addition to the Starter Solutions found in the previous release - Invoices. This is a useful five-table relational database for managing customers and products, including an invoicing tool, inventory reports, packing slips, address labels, and a couple of sales charts. As with all the Starter Solutions, you can completely customise it to your liking. If nothing else, it's a great demo of Filemaker's capabilities.