Developing Cross-Platform Database Apps with FileMaker Pro 12

Enterprise developers these days are usually heads down, in the trenches working on in-depth applications using Java or .NET with data stored in SQL Server or Oracle or DB2 databases. But there are other options. One of them is FileMaker, an elegant database system and development platform that can be used to quickly build visually appealing and robust applications that run on Macs, Windows PCs, smartphones, and iPads.

The first thing you’ll notice is that FileMaker is much more than a database system; it is also a development platform for creating, deploying, and managing data-driven business solutions not just for Windows and Mac desktops, but also for the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch. This is an important distinction because iOS devices are gaining traction in the enterprise – whether by fate (BYOD) or fiat (corporate policy).

In a recent Forrester survey of businesses about mobile adoption, 55% of organizations stated that supporting a larger number of smartphones was a high or critical priority over the next 12 months, while 52% said the same of supporting tablets like Apple’s iPad. A DBMS and development platform combination like FileMaker Pro eases the transition because it can support cross-platform applications across your desktop and mobile devices.

Creating a Database with FileMaker Pro

It is extremely simple to create a database using FileMaker Pro 12. You start by creating a FileMaker Pro file, which can be created using one of the supplied templates. Or, you can create a file without using a template. Naming columns and choosing data types is a snap – especially if you are familiar with relational database concepts. Your database can be as simple (single table) or as complex as necessary as FileMaker supports the familiar database features such as referential integrity, constraints, indexing, and so on.

The ability to create an interactive application quickly on top of the database using point-and-click, drag-and-drop capabilities is what makes FileMaker Pro shine. FileMaker, Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Apple, and it shows.  FileMaker Pro can be used to build robust applications with striking interfaces and embedded multimedia. You can very easily build truly visually impressive, interactive databases without a lot of effort… applications that can be run on your desktop or your mobile devices.

The FileMaker platform includes both Desktop clients and Browser support.  The applications developed in FileMaker will run without modification on both Windows and Mac desktops and the browser.  You can choose to modify the screens to tune them for mobile, desktop or browser access, but the screen modifications are straightforward (and do not require programming).  And, of course, the data, the relationships, and the business logic run across all platforms.

Simplified Development for Mobile Applications

The most recent version of the product, FileMaker Pro 12, introduced 40 new layout themes that simplify interface development. This is important for iPhone and iPad applications because users expect a visually pleasing interface on these devices. FileMaker Pro 12 offers multiple versions of several of the themes with version tailored specifically for mobile versus desktop.

The more you learn about FileMaker the more you will become convinced that it offers a phenomenal platform for many types of business applications - especially so for mobile applications or applications requiring multiple platform or user interface support. The built-in capabilities, such as the charting features and signature capture functionality, make it a snap to deliver robust applications with little to no coding required. FileMaker Pro comes with many easy-to-use tools, including built-in Starter Solutions, to help you quickly get up to speed delivering business value.

Integrating Enterprise Data

And it is possible to integrate enterprise data into your FileMaker solutions. FileMaker’s data integration services enable direct integration with MySQL, Oracle, and SQL Server databases, as well as many others using ODBC and JDBC.

FileMaker Pro offers everything you need to build solid, capable business applications including authentication and easy software distribution to remote devices.  Indeed, with FileMaker you can implement a role-based security model without coding.  All you need to do is configure access to tables, screens, fields, processes and other components for individuals or for user privilege groups.

For larger organizations, FileMaker Server can be deployed to deliver additional capabilities such as Windows Active Directory support, 64-bit capability, improved WAN performance, and other enterprise level functionality.

If a field-tested, production-tested database system and application development environment rolled into one sounds like a good idea to you, you should take a look at what FileMaker Pro has to offer.