How Can FileMaker Work for My Business?

FileMaker is frankly an unassuming name for what’s actually an incredible suite of development tools. Custom applications created through FileMaker can streamline business operations and maximize employee effectiveness. Even if you’ve used FileMaker in the past, the changes and additions made in the last several years mean it’s a drastically different, more robust application.

What is FileMaker?

FileMaker began as a way to allow anyone to create simple bits of code to help automate or streamline processes at their small to midsize business. And while it’s still designed to give anyone access to designing simple tasks, it’s grown into something much greater. While the barrier for entry is still low, the skill ceiling is much, much higher.

As FileMaker evolved, it became a system that allowed those same small to midsize businesses to create (or hire someone to create) custom apps and platforms tailored specifically to their business. It’s effectively giving everyone access to the kinds of tailor-made internal platforms previously reserved for massive corporations.

How Does it Work?

In the simplest terms, for anyone with a low-code background (meaning anyone who isn’t a developer), FileMaker works as a series of databases that look similar to an Excel spreadsheet. FileMaker makes it simple to then create relationships between these databases. In these cases, a business owner could create a “relationship” that automatically sends an email out to a customer after a payment is recorded.

However, as mentioned previously, FileMaker can be much more complex. Certified developers— like Kyo Logic— can create GUIs (Graphic User Interfaces) and overlays that make these systems much easier to use, and those relationships can be amazingly complex. For these developers, they can use FileMaker to create a fully tailor-made, optimized CRM or ERP system.

It’s best to think of FileMaker like a paintbrush and set of paints. Anyone can pick them up and draw a picture, but the difference between a first-time artist and seasoned professional is massive.

What Does it Mean for My Business?

In the hands of the right development team, it means access to a custom-built platform like Salesforce or Netsuite at a fraction of the cost. Business can create a system to replace outdated and outmoded platforms they’re currently using. FileMaker is secure and scalable, so it can be used to create anything from a payment portal for a website, to an in-store point of sale system, to inventory management, to payroll databases. If a solution is needed, it can be crafted through FileMaker.

Are There Any Drawbacks to FileMaker?

For small to midsize businesses or projects, the answer is frankly “no.” FileMaker is flexible and feature-rich enough that there is very little it can’t do out-of-the-box, or be programmed to do by a knowledgeable development team. While it scales very well, it’s not ideal for massive corporations with thousands and thousands of concurrent users. But that said, departments within those large companies could very well use a FileMaker-based program for their needs.

How Do I Use FileMaker?

FileMaker and its associated services are available online, so setup is quick and easy. While some tutorials are available online, it’s ideal to take classes and get hands-on experience. That’s typically all one would need if they’re just looking to create something simple. However, professional developers take years of classes and credits, and typically have multiple certifications.

We recommend having a conversation with a FileMaker developer before making any purchases or commitments internally. It’s critical to understand the scope, goals, and expectations of the product. We’re happy to have a conversation with you to best assess your needs and make recommendations. You can reach out to us here.

FileMaker Pro 19.1.2 Updates

This past month saw the release of Filemaker Pro 19.1.2. This update is notable not only for the changes it brings; it’s also the first update to be rolled out under Claris’s new approach to FileMaker revisions. They’ve seen fit to release smaller changes as needed, whereas previously updates and changes were tied to the yearly FileMaker release. So while veteran programmers shouldn’t expect to see a changelog with quite the same scale as previous updates, there’s still a handful of exciting additions and helpful shortcuts.

1. Support for external libraries. This is the feature Claris is touting as the most exciting part of this update, and for good reason. Developers can now easily pull add-ons from other libraries, like CoreML. And while the majority of these add-ons and features could work with FileMaker previously, the process is now much more straightforward. The end result is the ability to create feature-rich apps much more quickly. It also means FileMaker developers can create add-ons within FileMaker that can easily be ported to other apps. If a developer creates a new integration, they can even choose to offer it on the Marketplace for other users. Now everyone, across libraries, can pool resources and access more tools and tricks. In layman’s terms, it’s as if FileMaker just joined the developer-equivalent of the European Union.

2.  Two-way integration with JavaScript code. While JavaScript is technically just one of the libraries FileMaker now has access to, it’s worth discussing on its own. JavaScript has been around for 25 years, and has its own robust set of add-ons and tools that FileMaker can now easily take advantage of, including improved charting and integrated project calendars. Both of these are highly requested FileMaker features. Having access to them via JavaScript is nothing short of a game-changer.

3. More ways to integrate with cloud APIs through Claris Connect. While this particular feature requires Connect, this update to workflows bears mentioning. This update sees upwards of 50 pre-built APIs from popular cloud computing platforms like G Suite and Salesforce. While integration with these and other cloud APIs was always possible, this update makes the process of literally dragging and dropping the relevant connectors. It also makes it easier to automate workflows through these connectors, although Claris is officially branding these as “templates.” Seasoned developers can still use DAPI for integration purposes, but these additions make these processes easier for newer users.

4. Build apps in your browser. A tremendous quality of life change that allows developers to use the FileMaker Cloud service in their browser. It’s worth noting that this doesn’t allow access to all the features that would typically be available server-side (Claris has provided a list of what is and is not available here). However, it’s still a nice feature to add at a time when working remotely— and on a variety of devices— is incredibly common.

5. Support for Siri shortcuts and NFC tag reading. These additions are being introduced as a way to make mobile apps much more comprehensive. Users can now create shortcuts and activate them through Siri. It’s an addition that will make it much easier for mobile users to take advantage of the custom apps and FileMaker services. NFC tag reading will make it simpler for apps to read Near-field communication tags in retail stores and other locations as needed.

While these updates and changes won’t affect the end result for seasoned FileMaker developers, they certainly make certain tasks easier. Ultimately, this update is about making FileMaker more accessible for users, and it certainly succeeds. While developers won’t see their end results change, it does mean they’ll have an easier time navigating these (previously complex) integrations.

Truly, what’s most exciting here is seeing the additions Claris has been able to roll out without having to wait for the next annual update. We’re excited to see what’s in store in the months ahead, as Claris will undoubtedly continue to make changes and updates as developer needs evolve.

If you’d love to see how these features could work to streamline operations at your business, you can reach out to Kyo Logic here. We’d love to speak with you.