Ooh! It’s Shiny!

Well, I realize I’m a little late out of the gate with this, but …

FileMaker 15 is out! Yeah, baby!

So, first impressions: No real bombshells, but lots of minor improvements. And some not-so-minor. If we look at the “what’s new” page in the Help, here’s what we come up with:

  • “Burger dot” field entry (like for passwords)
  • Redesigned Help
  • Support for iBeacons
  • In-app updates (to FileMaker itself)
  • Search box for Hosts in the Launch Center
  • Additional ODBC support
  • Error highlighting in the Script Workspace
  • Script Workspace undo
  • Additional SSL support (verify certificates before several new actions, allow an abort if the certificate can’t be verified)
  • Prevent AppleScript or ActiveX from performing FileMaker scripts from the outside
  • Require full access credentials to view data in the Watch tab of the Data Viewer
  • Use TouchID with mobile databases
  • One new script step (Truncate Table)
  • One new function (RangeBeacons)
  • A new licensing scheme (FileMaker Licensing for Teams)

Um … so, not real impressive on the new functions, compared to a lot of previous releases. However, there’s a big emphasis on security, and a huge number of corrected bugs in this release (I hit one just the other day while testing a new release of InspectionAide with the client). And one other thing we’ve noticed – 15 runs significantly faster than its predecessor (always good news for people who hate waiting on a computer).

So let’s run down what I consider to be some of the better goodies in this release:

Script Workspace undo: Yes, yes, and yes! Very helpful for those of us with fumble fingers. (Quite a few people have griped that it should have been there in the initial release of 14, but … I understand deadlines.)

Require full access for the Watch tab: Most people don’t even know about this one, but it was a security issue in previous releases. A user in possession of FileMaker Advanced could open the Data Viewer and see the entire field structure of the database, and even use calculation functions to extract data from various places that you’d normally keep hidden. Not an enormous security hole (credentials still blocked access to certain things), but it could give a hacker information he shouldn’t have.

TouchID for Go: I love this one. Typing credentials on that tiny little iPhone keyboard is … painful. By allowing Keychain access and enabling this feature, we can allow our users to store the credentials to their mobile databases and authenticate with a fingerprint. Both easier and more secure. Very cool.

Better performance: This one is a boon. One area where FileMaker has had some struggles is in the performance area. It does so much for you, that naturally, there’s layers of code required to make things easy on the user. When you give a computer more to do, it just takes longer. But performance has been improving steadily with the last few releases, and I expect it will continue to do so.

Other stuff:

iBeacons are … okay, but I don’t have any clients who would be able to make good use of this feature. I can see it being really useful, though, in a mobile application where you were trying to locate a particular area, or if you’re trying to publish information to the database based on which beacon the user is close to.

The new security features are nice. Additional SSL certificate support is always good, since the more vendors you have, the better chance you have of finding a good one. Adding SSL support to various import / export functions is a good thing, too.

The Truncate Table script step is interesting. Normally, when you delete records from a FileMaker table, FileMaker processes them in 100-record batches. It gathers all the related records that have been identified for cascading delete (a term referring to deleting records in other tables when you delete a record in the current one). Once that happens, it proceeds with the delete. When you have tables with hundreds of thousands or millions of records, the process can take a while. Truncate Table is vastly faster. It doesn’t enforce cascading deletes, and it doesn’t depend on the found set (like Delete All does). So if you need to blow away the contents of an entire table, this is a good choice. I can see use cases where you do periodic imports from other data sources, or where you have a temporary table used in scripting.

The new FileMaker Licensing for Teams is a sort of bundle arrangement. You subscribe by a number of users (instead of connections or devices). You pay a single subscription price that’s dependent on that number of users (yes, it’s subscription based). For that price, you get one copy of FileMaker Server and as many copies of FileMaker Pro as you have users. (FileMaker Advanced is sold separately.) This is a special version of the FileMaker client, called FileMaker Pro for Connections. It has a 15-minute clock built into it, after which you have to attach to a server running the FLT scheme. Some of the details are a little fuzzy at the moment, but it looks like a good fit for small businesses that would like to simplify their licensing arrangements. FMPHost.com has already migrated their hosting service in this direction for version 15 (which is the first and, so far, only version for which this licensing scheme is available). You can read more about it on FileMaker’s web site.

Well, that’s about the sum of the new FileMaker release. I’ve been using it since shortly after they let it out of the corral, and I do like it. I was a little bummed that they didn’t have one feature they hinted at – direct support for web services – but we have workarounds for that.

Until next time, happy FileMaking! And if there’s anything we can help you with, please don’t hesitate to contact us!