Recently, I've been experimenting with FileMaker 11 Professional and how organizations can use this database platform to create network-ready projects that function better than their desktop counterparts. FileMaker also makes a version for iOS (in addition to Windows and Mac), so I decided to take a look at this mobile solution called, FileMaker Go. In this post, I will use the Research Notes FileMaker starter solution as the basis for all examples.
A project in FileMaker can be exported with optimized settings for the FileMaker Go application, making it native to the iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch devices. Doing this not only allows access to a project on the go, but also brings out some additional functionality for the solution.
FileMaker Go brings your database projects to the portable format of your iOS devices with no additional programming required. To get the Research Notes database ready for FileMaker Go, I saved a copy of the file to my Dropbox folder. When browsing the Dropbox application on the iPad, I did need to tell it to open the file with FileMaker Go, but that's it.
Other ways to get files moved over include:
- Sync through iTunes: Plug your iPad into your Mac and transferring the file via USB.
- Accessing server-hosted files: If your FileMaker database lives on a server, either in your local environment or on the Internet where you can access it, FileMaker Go can connect to the address of the server and open the file from there directly.
- Emailing the file: The FileMaker files can also be emailed to others who can open these attachments right on the iOS device of their choice.
What does it look like?
Amazingly, the database files opened in FileMaker Go are not squished versions of their computer counterparts at all. Files are optimized for FileMaker Go when it opens them and as a result, the database application you see looks like it was created for the iOS platform.
Research Notes in FileMaker Go
The operation of the project is identical to the original; you can add records by tapping a field and entering data as needed. If the file was configured for automatic record saving, the items stored in the file on FileMaker Go will be stored that way as well.
Not having to determine what is what between devices is a huge plus for me in using these products.
Why the iOS platform?
Until I looked at FileMaker Go and saw how nice the interface looks with a database loaded, I wasn't sure I would want to access my databases on a tablet, much less my phone, but seeing some of the capabilities of the iOS applications and the native appearance of the database changed my mind. There are many ways that a simple database platform could become even more useful if it was loaded onto something like an iPad. Some of these include:
- Taking notes in the field
- Taking inventory of your warehouse
- Recording ideas on the run
This list is certainly not all inclusive, but FileMaker has a larger list available here to give you some more ideas: http://www.filemaker.com/products/filemaker-go/tasks.html
One of my favorite ideas doesn't center specifically around a solution, but with a type of information that can be collected within a solution. Signature capture is possible within FileMaker Go. If the file is on a local server, others can see a captured signature within the solution on the network.Figure B
Sign by the X
Signatures are native to FileMaker Go and kept within container objects in FileMaker. To capture a signature in the application, simply locate a container field within the record and tap, and then select the get signature option.
Once the signing is completed, tap the accept button to store the signature.Note: Usually, a container field might be set up and labeled for signatures, but any container field available within FileMaker Go will hold a signature.
In my own organization, this got the wheels spinning about a problem we currently have with signature capture. Sure this solution would require an iPad or other iOS device, but if it works to get a signature into a form before it is printed, the savings there could quickly pay for the hardware and software needed to pull it off.
In addition to on-the-go access, there are other features that also come over to the Go solution. Some of the big ones include:
- Printing to a printer and to a PDF
- Save and Send allows you to send documents, reports, or whole files to other users via email
- The Find/Search functionality available in FileMaker Pro is also available in FileMaker Go which can make pinpointing records a snap.
Other included things like web viewer items, which allow web pages to be loaded right inside of FileMaker also work in FileMaker Go. All in all, the database opened in FileMaker Go should function just like it did when created in FileMaker Pro.
The help documentation included with the FileMaker Go App is pretty amazing. It definitely is better than I thought it might be since there is less room available on a portable device. When working on this post, I was quickly able to find things within the help documentation included with the application.
FileMaker Pro for the computer supports tons of scripting possibilities, which can automate a process or project. FileMaker Go supports many of these same scripts, but not all of them. Trying to use scripts that contain unsupported items may cause unfriendly results. Be sure to check over scripts and visit the FileMaker forums for information on which items will work and which ones will not.
FileMaker Go comes in two varieties, for the iPad and for the iPhone/iPod touch. Each application is sold separately and is bound to the usual Apple licensing agreement. No trial is available for apps purchased from the App store.
- iPad - $39.99
- iPhone - $19.99
Originally I thought the cost of these applications might be prohibitive, but portability and the convenience of being able to collect and enter data in the field makes the price of the applications seem more tolerable. Coupled with the licensing and mid-level price point(s) of FileMaker Pro and Server, this could really change the way some organizations collect and access information.
Derek Schauland has been tinkering with Windows systems since 1997. He has supported Windows NT 4, worked phone support for an ISP, and is currently the IT Manager for a manufacturing company in Wisconsin.