FileMaker Pro 12 has a new file format with the file type extension .fmp12. The new format was necessary to support the new themes technology. If you want to use an old database in the new version of FileMaker Pro, the file will have to be converted to the new format. (Conversion is a breeze and is done right in FileMaker Pro 12.) If you work by yourself, by all means, upgrade. But if your databases are shared--with 100 other users or just one--be aware that it will be necessary to upgrade to FileMaker Pro 12 on every computer that must access the files. iOS users of FileMaker Go must upgrade to FileMaker Go 12. And if the files are shared with FileMaker Server, you'll have to upgrade that software too, to FileMaker Server 12 or Server 12 Advanced.
The good news is that the pricing for the principal FileMaker products (Pro and Pro Advanced, Server and Server Advanced) has not changed. And as of version 12, FileMaker Go is now free. Finally, although you will have to uninstall FileMaker Server 11 (or earlier) before you can install FileMaker Server 12 on your server machine, customers upgrading to FileMaker Pro 12 from FileMaker Pro 10 or 11 may use their previously licensed older version alongside FileMaker Pro 12 on the same computer, while databases are migrated to the new version. They simply won't be able to enable file sharing in both versions.
I upgraded a dozen legacy databases of my own, some of them moderately large and complex. The conversion process couldn't be easier and I encountered not a single problem.
Macworld's buying advice
It is easy to say that this is the best version of FileMaker Pro yet. That is almost always the case with a new version. Though I wish I could create and save my own layout themes, my other complaints are minor and involve changes that I recognize were probably necessary. If you are one of the millions already using FileMaker Pro, the only reason not to upgrade immediately is the change in the file format, which requires a little planning and perhaps some budgeting. If you are new to FileMaker Pro, this version is the easiest one ever to recommend.
William Porter is an independent software developer, writer, and event photographer living in Dallas, Texas.