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Filemaker Mobile 8

Monday 27th March, 2006

At first glance, it looks as though FileMaker Mobile 8 CD might be the only four-platform CD Mac users can get for under £50, containing as it does application for Mac, PC, Palm OS and Pocket PC devices. But for Mac users the only option for data portability is a Palm OS PDA.

Installation is straightforward. A helper application is installed onto your Mac. In among the folders are the installation files for a Palm OS device, which you’ll need to install yourself using PDA synchronisation software. Once installed, fire up the helper app, select the FileMaker databases that you want to sync to the PDA, switch to your synchronisation software, and activate the FileMaker Mobile conduit. Finally, press the hot-sync button on the Palm and, with any luck, the data is synced between the FP7 files on your Mac and Mobile’s PDB files on your Palm. Once the databases are installed and synced to your Palm you can view them as a list, or as individual records. Any changes made can be copied back to your Mac the next time you sync.

If you were expecting the Palm application to be a cut-down version of FileMaker, think again. It can search and sort records. It will also synchronise data bi-directionally, but only with fields from a single FileMaker database table, and only if the fields are text, date, or number fields; calculation fields are not supported. This restriction means that to use a PDA-based database as a reference version of a working database you’re going to need some scripting element in the main FileMaker file to assemble all the data you need into one place. Mobile 8 includes both pre- and post-sync script options, so that you can do some data assembly beforehand, and clean up any incoming data.

Other improvements include the ability to edit records in the list view (so you can now tick a checkbox in a list without having to switch back and forth between lists), and the ability to synchronise with a FileMaker database hosted on a FileMaker server. Databases need to be prepared for use before synchronisation, during which you specify exactly which fields you want to sync, and how the fields are formatted within the Palm application (using pop-up menus, lists, single checkboxes, date pickers, or a notes field).

Buying Advice

For what it does, £45 is a lot of money to pay for FileMaker Mobile 8. If you’re looking for a Palm database, Land-J’s JFile 5.65 still beats Mobile 8 by several hundred country miles. But if you really just want simple data acquisition, then it will do the job.

Get Further Info
Manufacturer FileMaker
Pros Syncs with FileMaker Pro 7 and 8, and Server versions; includes both Palm and Pocket PC devices; supports Symbol Barcode scanner-enabled devices.
Cons Calculation fields not exported; sorting still comparatively slow.
Price £45; upgrade £12.50 excluding VAT.
Originally Published MacWorld, Mon, 27th Mar 2006