14 Replies Latest reply on Sep 26, 2016 11:57 PM by monkeybreadsoftware

    Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question


      Hello Everyone --


      I am new to FileMaker, and to the Community, but it was recommended by FileMaker Support that I post these questions here.


      First, hello to everyone and thank you for taking a look at my questions!



      I am a new 'developer', hoping to produce a database of materials and manufacturers in a field that I have expertise in, that would be beneficial for other people to have available to them, and that they would pay something, even if it was a nominal expense fee, for being allowed to use my database. 


      I would also use this database for my own purposes, so it would not be a waste of time to develop it, even if nobody wanted to purchase it per se.


      Here are my questions:

        1) I have Microsoft Access on my computer, which I can use at no extra cost to me.  Besides the fact that the FileMaker database is more visually appealing, what are the pros and cons of using Access versus FileMaker for creating and using a database solution?


        2) I have been watching some FileMaker training videos on Lynda.com, and I noticed in the Layouts that the trainer created, the dates and the numbers were not aligned.  For example, in order to be in alignment in a report or listing, the dates should be right-justified, so that they line up on the right-hand side where the full year is, and the numbers should be lined up on the decimal, so that they look nicer and are easier to read.


      In the examples that this developer / trainer had, this was not the case, and it got me wondering if FileMaker was even capable of doing this:  lining up the output fields on the decimal and on the right, so that the data in the rows of the report were in alignment.


      If you would be so kind as to answer these questions, I would be extremely grateful.  Thank you very much for your kindest consideration of my questions.  I look forward to hearing your answers and your opinions.


      Peace be with you,



        • 1. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question



          Thank you for you post and Welcome to the Community!


          I am going to move this thread from the FileMaker Community Feedback Space, which is specifically for input on the Community itself, to the Discussions Space where you should receive more views and potentially more advice on this topic!



          FileMaker, Inc.

          1 of 1 people found this helpful
          • 2. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

            You can modify the date and time fields to be right aligned. That's not a big deal. Just a selection in font settings for the fields.

            1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • 3. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

              This document compares Access to FileMaker. You may find it useful.




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              • 4. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                Years ago, I gave a couple of presentations at FileMaker HQ during some user group meetings comparing the two systems. My experience with Access is now very dated, but one observation that I made back then probably still applies:


                FileMaker is like building a house with prefabbed building components. As long as there is a prefab component  for everything you want for your house, construction will be very rapid and development costs will be low.


                Access is much more like building a house from a truck load of "boards and nails". Construction takes more time and thus is more expensive, but if you need some special custom feature, there's a good chance that you can build it in Access when doing so in FileMaker may be quite difficult--possibly even impossible.


                And the best way for an Access Developer to try out FileMaker is to download the 30 day free trial and give it a go. Just be prepared to do things in a manner that can be quite different from how you would do it in Access and VBA.

                1 of 1 people found this helpful
                • 5. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                  I haven't written anything in Access since 2010. So I may very well be out of touch with what's current in the Access world.


                  Generally, text alignment can be controlled within the Layout Theme. Field alignment and the text within can be aligned however you wish and to what precision you desire. The use of field padding in the style inspector is your friend here for text within the field.


                  With regard to which DB to choose, I chose to migrate to Filemaker from Access specifically because we were moving to Mac hardware. Filemaker offered a Mac centric option while still being usable on legacy windows PCs. It also allowed us to take advantage of the iOS platform for a portable solution and web direct for anything outside of the 3 platforms mentioned.


                  Scalability was also important as well as how performance would be in the future as we generate large volumes of records. Naturally we adopted the FM Server, FM desktop and FMGo model and have been constantly amazed at how easily we can incorporate more and more business processes into Filemaker and harvest information from other 3rd party applications.


                  As with every development environment there is a learning curve, Filemaker offers the developer a workspace from which they can build a system, no two developers will develop the same way to reach the same outcome and therein lies the beauty and strength of filemaker.

                  1 of 1 people found this helpful
                  • 6. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                    Good evening antoniodominion,


                    I hope your day is going well. Many others have already provided great feedback, and I thought I would add my opinion for good measure. I've created virtually identical solutions in Access and FileMaker, both got the job done. However, I found FileMaker environment to be a joy to work in, not so with Access. Also, Web Direct and FileMaker Go   provide a relatively easy means for deploying your solution via web browser and/or mobile devices. Personally, after using FileMaker, I would not willingly go back to Access. Good luck!


                    God bless,




                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • 7. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                      Hello Christian, Mike, Philmodjunk, Eoin, and Bill —


                      Thank you all for the very helpful responses to my post!



                      All of your input was worthwhile and, of course, after reading them, I would not choose anything other than FileMaker!


                      Mike, thank you for the comparison chart!

                      Christian, thanks for the comment about the data field alignment!

                      Philmodjunk — thank you for a wonderful analogy!

                      Eoin, thank you for the example that you gave!  The reminder about padding is well taken.

                      Bill, I appreciate your opinion as well!


                      After reading all of these comments and the comparison chart, I would sum it all up by saying that it is only recently (February 2016) that I purchased a Mac.  Although I had been aware of, and even used Macs previously, I had been a Microsoft Windows user up until this year, when I abandoned Windows completely for a better solution, a Mac.


                      If I went with using Access then my purchase of the Mac would have been for not.  Using FileMaker is like using a Mac:  simple, straightforward, reliable and powerful.  Access, being a Microsoft product is difficult to use, requires extensive training and knowledge, and is prone to fail often.


                      I would be a fool to go back to that type of system after having invested in my Mac to get AWAY from Microsoft Windows, and away from Microsoft!


                      Take good care, all of you, and I will look forward to seeing you around this Forum, and perhaps even at the FileMaker conference in 2017!






                      • 8. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                        P.S. I want to make sure that I create the database fields correctly from the beginning.  Is there some place that I can find the 'best practices' for such things as how long a field should be?  For example, how many characters should I allow for a first name field, last name field, etc.? 


                        Also, is there a best practice for creating address fields, such as how long the fields should be, and how many?  Right now, I am just going by my gut instinct and what I have seen in the past that worked.  I have the following fields:


                        First Name

                        Last Name




                        Address 1

                        Address 2



                        ZIP or Postal Code


                        Physical Address 1, if different from the postal address

                        Physical Address 2



                        ZIP or Postal Code


                        Telephone Number

                        Facsimile Number


                        Furthermore, is there a place where I can download the 'lookup tables' for fields like the states?


                        I have always been impressed when a form that I am filling out pre-populates the city, based on the ZIP Code. Is there a relatively easy way to do this?


                        Is there a book or a Website that you wish you had known about before creating your database that would help me with these types of questions?


                        Thanks and thanks again!



                        • 9. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                          you might look at the Starter Solution files for some ideas.


                          the 'length' of a field is not like setting a VARCHAR. the specifications, are here:

                          "Maximum field size, by type" show as text, number, date, etc.


                          You can "validate" a field to be a limited length, but it's rare unless the data needs to fit a space or exchange with another system. Two characters for State Abbreviation, for example or 5 digit zip code, etc.



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                          • 10. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                            You might already be aware of it, but it is worth mentioning that the FileMaker Training Series is an excellent way to learn about the mechanics of using the FileMaker platform.  FileMaker Training Series: Advanced for FileMaker 15 - Now Available



                            • 11. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                              Hi Chris --


                              Actually, I did not know that this content was available and I would definitely be interested in reviewing it.  However, when I clicked on the link, I received the following message:



                              Access to this place or content is restricted. If you think this is a mistake, please contact your administrator or the person who directed you here.


                              Can you please help me figure out how I may access this material?  Thank you very much for your help!


                              Best regards,



                              • 12. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question
                                Markus Schneider

                                btw. the 'fact sheet' covers FileMaker 12, some minor differencies to todays versions

                                - less users can be served by FileMaker Pro (You'll need FileMaker Server when more than 5 users are in a group).

                                - As a big '+', FileMaker 12 started supporting 'native' queries with sql

                                - CSS, introduced in V12 (but not really finished at that time) allows defining layout objects by 'styles' that can be used file-wide, layout-wide (meaningless, individual objects can be defined individually - left/right/centered, padding, etc)

                                • 13. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                                  Hi Antonio - sorry I forgot that link is for paid content which you get access to if you have a Developer subscription to the FileMaker Community.  This link will let you download the FTS Basics series which will get you started - then if you feel that it is worthwhile to go deeper you can choose to purchase access to the FTS Advanced series.


                                  FileMaker Training Series | FileMaker



                                  • 14. Re: Access Versus FileMaker and Other FileMaker Question

                                    By the way, we can access the Access database from FileMaker using MBS Plugin and our SQL functions.

                                    So you could make a SELECT in Access and let the plugin insert the records into your FileMaker database.