April 04, 2012, 9:23 PM — With new versions of its entire FileMaker product line (FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Pro Advanced, FileMaker Server, FileMaker Server Advanced, and FileMaker Go), FileMaker, Inc. extends its dominance of the Mac OS and iOS database world by offering improvements that will be valued by every type of FileMaker user: end users both in the office and out, and developers of every level of ability, from amateurs to aces.
Three years ago, I detailed the differences between FileMaker Pro and its big brother FileMaker Pro Advanced; much has changed in the subsequent versions but the basic comparison is a good refresher of how FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Pro Advanced are different. In a nutshell, FileMaker (standard) and Pro Advanced are 95% identical, but Pro Advanced provides a few crucial extras. Pro Advanced is for serious developers, especially those who do a great deal of scripting. Everything in this review applies equally to both FileMaker Pro Advanced 12 and FileMaker Pro 12, and I will use the name FileMaker Pro to stand for both products.
Extreme makeover done extremely easily
The most obvious improvement in FileMaker Pro 12 is its library of 40 fresh layout themes. A theme controls the initial appearance of objects on a layout: the color scheme, the shape and style of buttons, the text formatting and borders of data fields. I never made use of FileMaker's themes in the past; the old themes were somewhat homely, and a theme could only be applied at the moment a layout was created and couldn't be changed. However, I may reconsider my avoidance of themes. The new themes in FileMaker Pro are fairly attractive, and it is now possible to switch to a different theme later. You can even start a layout without a theme and apply a theme afterwards--that's what I've done with some of my own old databases. It's a quick and remarkably effective way to perform a facelift on your databases. My one regret--one I suspect a lot of developers will share--is that it is still not possible to define and save custom themes.
The new themes library includes a number of boffo themes designed specifically for use on the iPad and iPhone. The interoperability with FileMaker Go is the most exciting part of the FileMaker 12 release, and with the themes for iOS, even beginners can create great looking apps for the iPad and iPhone.