10 Replies Latest reply on Apr 28, 2017 10:06 AM by 34South

    FM Technical comparison to other database systems?


      I don't need convincing that FM is the ultimate database tool for development of in-house custom solutions and my academic department has invested heavily in it since I started using it in the Claris years. However, there is a mindset that I constantly have to battle with at our institution when attempting to convince other departments of its merits, which essentially boils down to cost tied to general shortsightedness. I was dumbfounded when attending a lecture surrounding the 'electronic classroom' when discussants described using Excel and spending hours doing what I knew FM could do in mere seconds. The shortsightedness relates to opting for free or significantly cheaper systems (I don't believe FM to be overpriced, especially when educational discounts can be applied) which will limit the quality of data or the analysis thereof. In many situations, when I ask what a group wants to achieve with a database, they fail to comprehend that a database can actually have intelligence and expect that it only stores data. This is perhaps why, generally, others are reluctant to spend money when free 'non-intelligent' systems are available. In our medical faculty, FM has to contend with RedCap, OpenMRS, OpenClinica and, well, Excel, of course.


      I have always tried to impress on others that database design is only the tip of the iceberg and, that what lies beneath the surface, is database intelligence to ensure validity of data and provide meaningful output. It is unbelievable that even medical professionals will fail to comply with the simplest of data entry requirements. FM's relational design is one of the key features which these other systems lack which, not only allows unlimited expansion of data but, also affords the construction of powerful scripts to achieve intelligence. Even with a flat database design, FM's relational capability, for example, allowed me to build in a perpetual audit trail.


      However, apart from its cross-platform and relational capability and its increasing mobility and deployment in the Cloud, is anyone aware of a technical brief which compares FM, in an objective manner, with other systems, especially those medical systems mentioned above? Ideally a comparison which takes into consideration that many features are scriptable (for example the audit trail mentioned above) and integration with other systems using real examples.


      I apologise for such a mundane question, but I am sure it is one that any FM developer must come across regularly.

        • 1. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

          I think you just wrote the best comparison that I've read! While the patients in one FM 'medical' solution I develop are equine, there are similarities to managing human patient care. I would simply add the ability of FM to integrate with other systems (Excel, SQL, web, for example) is another huge plus that should not be overlooked.


          Sent from miPhone

          • 2. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

            I don't know anything about the first three you mention, but Excel cannot be compared. It is a spreadsheet and not a database, and the biggest difference is data integrity. By this I mean that each "row" in a table layout in FM (which was introduced to appeal to Excel users) represents a single record and each column represents a field in that record. Thus all the data in that row actually belongs together since it is all part of a single record.

            On the other hand, each row in a spreadsheet represents a series of independent cells which have no integral relationship to one another. Try resorting a column in a spreadsheet without first locking the columns together and see what happens. People who are stuck on spreadsheets think that what they see is something that looks like a database (a bit) and behaves like one (a bit); they often don't see, or even understand, this fundamental difference.

            You have already stated yourself a lot of excellent arguments in favour of FM, but your best argument is probably in the FM solutions you can produce to demonstrate its effectiveness. And if you can't convince them then so be it. As an FM expert I highly respect once said: "You can't argue with stupid."

            • 3. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

              FileMaker is a different beast than the systems you mentioned.

              OpenMRS and OpenClinica are medical records management systems.

              Redmine is a project management tool.

              Excel is a database that has some but not all of the properties of an RDBMS.

              FileMaker can be used to build any of these tools as it is a Relational Database Management System.

              • 4. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

                Well, FileMaker attempted to redefine themselves in the past by referring to their product as an Application Development Platform. I think that does a better job. RDBMS sounds too much like all the other cruft out there that can't do a 10th of what FileMaker can.


                I have stopped even using the word "database" because it can mean so many things, and you usually can't tell what another person is thinking when you use that word. Like has been mentioned here, people could be thinking of all kinds of applications that do indeed handle data, but in entirely different ways. Some handle just a particular kind of data and are solutions in themselves, but written by people other than yourself with different priorities. Others are just glorified list keepers that are good at what they do, but developing apps isn't one of their core competencies.


                There really is no other "full-stack" unified tool for creating applications that are data-focused. Oh, and will run on 98% of the platforms and devices your clients are likely to be using. [Well, except for servers, and everyone needs to go up-vote the Linux FMS feature requests so that FMI will get the message the we need it so we can take over the rest of the IT world.]

                • 5. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

                  Just to say thanks for this.  I have heard so many times, 'we use an Excel database...'.  It ain't a database, it's a spreadsheet but try convincing them of that can be a real exercise.  Some more ammunition for me! :-)

                  • 6. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

                    Thanks to all the responders - clearly we are all on the same track! I stopped calling my clinical solutions databases a while back as I felt the term demeaning and ADP is certainly a good alternative, especially with the power that the SDK has brought to FM!

                    • 7. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

                      Data Warehouses and the means to massage the information all in one package!

                      • 8. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

                        I just ran across something called Zoho creator and they claim to have some advantages over FileMaker. Does anyone have any experience with it and would be willing to contribute their thoughts to this discussion for the good doctor (and the rest of us as well)?

                        • 9. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

                          Interesting, I just had a look at Zoho. It seems like a cool little tool but it is only cloud based and looks quite simplistic. I wonder if it is as flexible as filemaker as it doesn't look to be.

                          • 10. Re: FM Technical comparison to other database systems?

                            Also looked at this and it is impressive but difficult to discern for sure from the web site alone. Although some reference is made to relational fields, I doubt it garners the same relational status of FM. Similarly, the extent of scripting functions is vague and layout options appear restricted to a linear arrangement. A data management tool with perks perhaps, but whether it represents a de facto application development platform, is certainly doubtful. That said, it is multiplatform, even for mobile devices and incorporates ready to use integration with online services. Reviews have suggested it is 'buggy' though and subject to constant changes and it is based on a subscription charge. I'm certainly not ready (will I ever be?) to hang up my FM hat, but it must offer fair competition to FM, which may not be a bad thing altogether.