If you have not already done so, I suggest downloading the free 30 day trial copy of FIleMaker to find out for yourself what you can and cannot do with the product.
(1) I am not a SQL programmer
Good thing, probably. FileMaker makes only very limited (and that mostly in FileMaker 12 ) use of SQL and SQL fluent developers have to struggle sometimes to retrain their thinking before they can work with the FileMaker provided alternatives.
I am interested in tabular & graphic views of datasets
Tabular views may be produced with either List View or Table View. Both have their uses. Manipulating table views often brings the user into direct interaction with more technical aspects of your database design but is much more fluid than List view. For that reason, I usually use Table View for my one needs of analyzing large sets of data to better understand how the database is or is not functioning as expected and use list view to present the data to general users who do not need/have that knowledge and expertise.
Graphic views as in charting are possible in FileMaker, but it's a fairly new feature so you may or may not find that it has the capabilities that you need "built in".
An ability to create many queries or views from a set of tables
This is where FileMaker is very different from Access. You query the database in most cases by entering find mode, specifying criteria and then performing the find. Unlike Access, this can be done on an ad hoc basis directly from a FileMaker layout--the equivalent of an Access Form or Report object. Like Access, this can be scripted, though the scripting will look very different as it doesn't use SQL Queries to update a Datasource query for a report or form.
And where you can open a Query Builder widgit in Access to specify both the relationships and the criteria needed for a query to produce a tabular view of the data, in FileMaker, you have to either construct the relationships on a more permanent basis in Manage | Database | relationships or you might constuct a SQL expression with the ExecuteSQL function if you are using FileMaker 12. And with ExecuteSQL, the resulting tabular format of the data produced by the query is all contained within a single calculation field--which can be pretty limiting.
Don't know if you can or cannot do that.
Text mining within text blocks exceeding 255 Characters
Filemaker text fields can hold gigabytes of data so you are unlikely to hit a size limit with them like you do with text fields in Access. FileMaker also has a fairly decent suite of text functions for parsing data out of such fields and the ability to define recursive custom functions that can further empower such operations. But there are limits in how much of that field can be indexed--better, I think, than Access, but still those limits do exist.
Don't know if you need it, but you can also "scrape" such text from many web sites via either the Web Viewer or the Insert From URL script step.
To create a cross-tab or pivot table style view of a dataset with summary level analysis
The abilty to produce summary values is quite easy to set up in FileMaker. Setting up cross-tab/pivot table like views of your data is not as straight forward as a cross tab report in Access. There's no wizard to help you set it up. But with the right relationships and use of either filtered portals, unfiltered horizontal portals or calculation fields with ExecuteSQL, such can be produced in FileMaker.
Thank you. This was very helpful.
Do you know of any other tools that might be more MS Access-like in their behavior? I have tried OpenOffice for OS-X and the documentation for Database if from hunger!
any insights would be greatly appreciated