Dyce & Sons Ltd.

Helping IT since 1993

FileMaker Developer 6.0

Friday 18th January, 2002

The main selling point for developers is the chance to use the XML features of the latest version in standalone applications

It’s just under a year since we reviewed version 5.5 of FileMaker Developer (see Reviews, 16 November 2001, p23), and although a lot can happen in that time, it’s sometimes surprising how little actually does.

With the standard, non-developer version of FileMaker Pro 6, the company struggled to provide a top 10 of reasons to upgrade. To be brutally honest, there are only six: batch importing of text files and images; import and export of XML; constrainable and expandable find requests; a basic dialog plug-in; a find and replace across records feature; and a slightly dysfunctional format painter. Although the XML functionality will be of immense importance in a few years, of these, only find and replace might be considered a ‘must have’ by the average user.

Feature show

Apart from the features already available in end-user 6.0, the big question is, does Developer 6.0 add any developer-specific features that weren’t in version 5.5? Sadly, the answer is no. The main reasons for buying developer versions of FileMaker has been the ability to create single-user runtime (royalty-free applications from FileMaker files), easier renaming of relationships and files (using the Developer Tool) and the extra interface documentation API (for JDBC, CDML and so on) that comes with it. Version 5.5 included the ability to ‘debug’ scripts, and, apart from handling the new ScriptMaker script steps, this version does little to improve on that.

In fact, the main selling point for developers is the chance to use the XML features of the latest version in standalone applications. With Developer 6.0, you still can’t create a runtime solution using Web Companion, which, as well as not being able to create Web solutions, means you also can’t use any JDBC with runtime. This is just the sort of nerdy thing that developers might actually want to do.

Slow on the uptake

FileMaker might be a little bit disappointed with the take-up of XML, and a quick visit to FileMaker’s XML Central subsite (www.filemaker.com/xmlcentral) will show how little has been added since the initial release of version end-user 6.0. This will no doubt change in time, especially when XML on the desktop extends to more than swapping addresses and appointments between applications.

Developer 6.0 provides no extra XML tools or documentation, over and above what comes with end-user 6.0, so you have to assume that the engineers at FileMaker are busy with something (7.0 anyone?). So if Developer 6.0 is just end-user 6.0 plus the Developer tool and documentation from version 5.5, has nothing changed to make the upgrade worthwhile?

Two things have changed, but whether they make it worth upgrading is open to question. First, the price. FileMaker has reduced the recommended retail price from £429 to £379. Don’t get too excited - one dealer we spoke to said the street price would probably remain at around £365.

Secondly, FileMaker has decided to force your hand. Hidden away at the bottom of some recent glossies, the company announced a change to its upgrade policy. From next April, across the product range, you will only be able to upgrade from the previous version. So version 5.5 users will be able to buy an upgrade to 6.0, but version 5.0 users won’t. Instead, they will need to buy a full product. Should this matter, if you can’t see any point to upgrade anyway? Well, version 7 is on the far horizon (rumours of an Alpha release abound), and this is the version that FileMaker seems to be banking on. But if you have to upgrade twice (5.0 to 5.5, then 5.5 to 6.0) just to get the upgrade price for 7.0, you may be as wise to buy a new copy of 7.0.

So, if you want to create standalone XML-based FileMaker solutions for your customers, then buy Developer 6.0. If not, decide once you’ve seen the upgrade price and upgrade features set for 7.0.

Rating (5 max): 3

Pros: Abiity to create standaone, royalty-free versions + XML import + New find and replace

Cons: Little improvement over version 5.5

Price: 379

URL: www.filemaker.co.uk

First published in MacUser, Volume 18, Issue 21

Copyright 2004 Richard Dyce

By dickiedyce at