Mobility

DIY mobile app war begins with FileMaker Pro 14

The recent release of FileMaker Pro 14 is the latest volley in the growing DIY mobile app war.

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Image: FileMaker

FileMaker Pro 14 is the latest release of the venerable FileMaker application. FileMaker has grown from its flat file database roots to become a platform including FileMaker Pro 14, an application development tool; FileMaker Web Direct, web technology for running FileMaker apps in a web browser (even mobile); and FileMaker Server, a Windows or Mac-based server for running FileMaker applications.

FileMaker Pro 14 could be the start of the first real do it yourself (DIY) mobile app war of our time. While exciting things are happening with Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) and other application programming interface tools for mobile app development, FileMaker serves the needs of a knowledge worker (non-programmer) who wants to develop their own mobile apps.

Recently, FileMaker granted me a license to FileMaker Pro 14 Advanced and FileMaker Server 14 for the purposes of writing this article. I'll address FileMaker Server 14 in an upcoming TechRepublic article.

FileMaker Go takes FileMaker apps mobile

FileMaker Go is a free iOS app that you distribute to your mobile users. It includes some definite improvements over previous versions of the app. The first thing you notice in the iOS app is its new user interface that aligns it with iOS 8. It's a crisper, more minimalist interface than previous versions.

The FileMaker PR literature also mentions Android support via FileMaker Web Direct. FileMaker recommends an Android device with the following specifications:

  • 3GB or greater memory
  • 2.3GHz quad-core or greater CPU
  • 10.1 inches or greater screen size

The Launch Center has a fresh and new feel to it compared to previous versions of FileMaker Go. You can pin solutions, so they stay at the top of the iPad screen. It's minimalist while being visual at the same time, I give credit to FileMaker for this design. Figure A shows an example of the Launch Center:

Figure A

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FileMaker Go Launch Center
Image: Will Kelly

The rich text editing options let you choose the size, color, and font of your text including bold, underline, and italics. Figure B shows the rich text editing options:

Figure B


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Rich text editing options
Image: Will Kelly

Admittingly, I didn't get the inclusion of video support in FileMaker Pro at first, but the support does open up some interesting options for iPad apps. You have the option to play videos within a FileMaker container field or in full screen. There are also controls to interact with videos during playback in FileMaker Go. The latest version of FileMaker Go includes new scripts for starting and stopping video and audio.

There's also a script for enabling whether the touch keyboard appears.

The start of my interest in FileMaker Pro as a mobile solution came about because I could see it grow into a platform for mobilizing simple to moderately complex workflows. This latest release moves it closer to that reality. The latest FileMaker Go enhances the Insert bar code feature (no scripting needed) and Enhanced signature capture in portrait and landscape views. With the latest version of FileMaker Go, you can use scripts to add more information under the signature line including a title and descriptive text. You could do some interesting things to trick out the signature area of form that could impress customers signing a FileMaker-created form using an iPad.

FileMaker Pro 14

FileMaker has shown some love to FileMaker Pro 14 that should make it even easier for non-programmers to use for cobbling together a mobile app. You still have the option to create solutions from a starter solution or completely from scratch. Figure C shows the available starter solutions:

Figure C


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FileMaker Pro 14 starter solutions
Image: Will Kelly

There are some marked improvements in FileMaker Pro 14 for would-be mobile app developers including:

  • Launch Center on parity with FileMaker Go
  • Improved mobile browser support via FileMaker Web Direct
  • Expanded design tools including a button bar, button icons, top and bottom navigation parts, in-field labels, color selection, and improved object styles
  • Automatic app reconnect with FileMaker Server

There's also more focus on automating development tasks in FileMaker Pro 14. It might take some users a bit of time

While a discerning eye will still be able to tell it's a FileMaker Pro application, I give FileMaker a few more iterations for it to be hard to tell that it's a FileMaker Pro app.

Pricing

FileMaker does a great job of explaining FileMaker Pro pricing based on its various deployment options. Because my personal history with FileMaker dates back, I like that FileMaker focuses on the details around their pricing since FileMaker Pro has grown much since its inception.

Final recommendation

No, I don't think FileMaker Pro is going to replace mobile app developers anytime soon. I do think that tools like FileMaker Pro will help mobilize small to medium enterprises and even some independent consultants who need to mobilize a simple workflow but don't have the programming talent in-house.

Empowering knowledge workers and other power users to create mobile apps is the wave of the future. I consider FileMaker a shadow enterprise mobility leader in a growing "DIY mobile app war" that's happening right now.

See also:

About Will Kelly

Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management ap...

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