What technology or technologies do you plan to replace FileMaker with?
Too bad you did not tell us what alternative to FileMaker you will use.
After all, despite it's warts, FileMaker does have its strong points. Like many things in engineering, it is about achieving the best compromise when developing the best product you can. And, using the best tool for any given purpose. FileMaker isn't the best for every purpose.
Possible FileMaker replacements that come to mind for Mac OS X:
1. 4th Dimension - most like FileMaker but on steroids. Much faster, much more complicated, way more expensive, but no limitations other than you have to be a real programmer, not tinkerer, who can work on it full time. Full SQL, PHP, etc. Literally, 4D tries to add every tool possible for your use. If you want to graduate from FM this is the best route. But if FM is elementary school in complexity, 4D is graduate school in complexity.
2. RealBasic with SQL Database engine - RB eases some of the pain of low level development. You still have to write your own print routines so reports are not trivial to create.
3. LiveCode With SQL Database engine - HyperCard reborn. Easier than RealBasic plus you can create apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows, Mac, Linus, and the Web. Lowest price. Still have to roll your own code for things we take for granted in FileMaker.
4. XCode with SQL Database engine - no limits but the most difficult solution, but you can create your own apps. Ultimate freedom for a developer, but you have to roll your own code for everything.
5. SQL plus PHP - what most people do for web development but difficult and clunky for use on individual computers and internal networks.
That sums it up pretty well.
I've dabbled over the years and the alternatives aren't. They all require a learning curve and work-arounds.
When you have a FM business it is always the business side of things which sees you succeed or not... Not the software.
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Agree, I know exactly how Daniel feels. I've considered the same many times but have always realized quite quickly
just how much FileMaker does behind the scenes that we take for granted.
Sure there are many functionalities that are lacking but that list depends on your specialty. Daniel may very well be
justified in moving to another programming platform because it actually suits his platform.
I've dabbled with 4D, Java, SQL/PHP, C++, RealBasic and others, I always find that the FileMaker workarounds due to my
needs and perceived functional deficits balance out the steep learning curve and inherent deficiencies of the other
Really, sometimes I'm so frustrated with FileMaker I could throw it out the window, but after regaining composure,
I see other equally valid pathways that work for the intended problem. The decade old adage of "be able to do anything
with FileMaker" still stands, we just don't have to say it so much anymore. The key is keeping your mind open
and be willing to look at other approaches to the problem; which is the problem, everyone hates the old grade school
"word problems", but our job depends on them.
I agree with you 100% William. I tweak the heck out of my layouts, pushing FM to it's limits and at the same time, FM pushes me to my limits. However, when I think of how far my business has come all thanks to hard work and the FileMaker platform, all other technologies fall quickly by the wayside. No other software platform I've found has come close to matching the speed of creating solutions to business problems for my desktop application. Solutions for the web is another matter, but on the desktop side, FileMaker allows for the quickest prototyping to full scale deployment that I've ever seen.
I think all FM developers at one point or another have had the feelings that Daniel is voicing. I think if FM were a little more open to the developer community about all aspects of the FM platform (bugs, feature requests, acknowledgment of issues, etc, not just the marketing materials), that would go a very long way towards making developers feel more secure with the platform.
Regardless, I hope Daniel finds the most suitable technology that fits his needs. Good luck!
Interesting list of alternatives you've put together.
I'm coming from a Visual Foxpro background. You know, the one that Microsoft bought from Fox Software only to discontinue support for because it was too much of a competitor to MSSQL Server.
I started looking at Filemaker a couple of years ago and just in a couple of years, they've made some very nice changes and improvements. Visual Foxpro is the type of application that has lots of built in tools - report writer, data manipulation language with some very high level commands, full SQL support on native VFP tables, fully object orientented, and unbelievable speed. Filemaker has a number of these features and was on my short list when looking for a Visual Foxpro alternative. What I really liked about Filemaker - compared to Visual Foxpro - was that it allowed you to focus on the application rather than how to "code" the application.
The one thing that didn't work for me when it comes to Filemaker is the ability to distribute applications royalty free. I currently have a number of desktop applications for the accounting profession and Filemaker just wouldn't work for those. The most significant of these is network ready and is sold with a site license. Impossible with Filemaker!
My 2nd alternative was Realbasic. It is very similar to VFP in terms of most everything. The one drawback is there is no built in report writer - well, there is now, but not when I first started looking at it. And although they have a report writer, it's crude by VFP standards. We found a product called DynaPDF that allows much greater flexibility but requires you to write code to create your reports. Yes, it does take more time, but you end up with virtually no limitations on the complexity of the report.
We've been working with RB for a couple of years now and we've even created 4 applications that are on the Mac app store. Yep, you can do that with RB. We've replaced our internal user tracking and order processing system with an RB developed application and created our own shopping cart for our website in RB.
The learning curve is steep, but the rewards are great. But all is not what it seems. Real Software has a tendency of promising things that take a long, long time to deliver. And with each new release, old bugs are re-introduced into the app. These issues existed in VFP also, but because we had used it for so long, we were more than accustomed to working around the problems.
I'm still using Filemaker and will continue to use it as a development tool. What I typically do is build an app in Filemaker, which takes far less time than with RB, and then tweak it till I have a model of what I'm looking for. The nice thing about Filemaker is how quickly you can build a working application and make changes to it. With RB, things take considerably longer. An order of magnitude longer.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that there is no panacea out there. Every development application has strengths and weaknesses. My recommendation is to take a hard look at what you've got before you make a move. The grass is not always as green as it looks on the other side of the fence.
I have a long history with Visual Foxpro too jjfcpa and I'm familiar with what you say. I think my turning point was during a pre-web era bulletin board development I spend quite awhile building an "awesome" search module only to be embarrassed by a friend with FileMaker, a layout, and Find mode.... and that was earlier FoxPro/FileMaker.
RB and 4D interest me from the OOP standpoint of having control over every aspect of an objects attributes but, being that I'm busy enough just trying to get my FMP products upgraded and out, I have little time to learn the nuances of another platform.
Servoy, on paper, looks great and is a great concept.... it's not even a database but has a unique front end design/deployment concept and I still take a look at it from time to time just out of curiosity but it too has a steep learning curve (no matter what they say).
Another thing that occurred to me over time while looking at other systems..... FileMaker natively produces outstanding UI's. They just look good. And it's easy to make 'em look even better. And like it or not, UI has a lot to do with sales.
It always feels comfortable to come back to FileMaker after a adventure with another platform.
The one most telling thing that hit me while reading this thread was in the responses themselves and what those responses said about the FileMaker community (and perhaps about FileMaker itself). They were all very UN-like the all-to-common "religious battles" that take place when someone writes the somewhat inflammatory statements such as those in your post. Most, if not all, were rational, reasoned, and even sympathetic to your complaints. None defended FileMaker "because it was FileMaker" or took personal offense at your post.
Many people had seriously looked at or tried other tools, but had (apparently) kept using FileMaker (at least in some fashion) because it provided the best BUSINESS solution for their own unique situation, even if it's not the most elegant software in the world (which is always a matter of personal opinion, of course).
I am just beginning to develop in FileMaker, but I am very much encouraged to see the quality of the users using the tool, and their willingness to participate in discussions in a respectful and rational way. It is so very nice to read threads that aren't full of personal attacks and name calling. Perhaps "professional" is the word I'm looking for...?
Your comments are appreciated Bryan; I would hope that what you have stated is true. Hopefully as a "community" of developers we can proceed and grow professionally, develop a more integrated relationship with FileMaker, Inc. and thus produce a continually maturing product.
Obviously FileMaker has their agenda and from a business standpoint, with good reason. If that agenda excludes the developer community so be it, I guess we're just along for the ride. But I think it behooves FileMaker to make the effort to "bring us inside"
a bit more; everyone stands to benefit including the non-developer user.
Perhaps a carefully selected group representing a cross-section of the community; a group that can faithfully represent us and present reasonable requests, ideas, etc., and is recognized by FileMaker, so as to have a more significant impact on them regarding our needs, is in order....perhaps.
I'd like to see how that could be organized...:)
Regardless, you've chosen an excellent tool, good luck to your adventure.
In addition to PHP/SQL I would add all those relatively new MVC frameworks like Rails, Django and so on. In my opinion this seems to be the way to go. While certainly more complex and less rapid than FileMaker, creating web apps instead of FileMaker solutions is something I'm really looking into. I'd argue that replacing FileMaker with 4D isn't a very good idea - once again you'd depend on a single company and its proprietary database solution. In contrast to this take a look at the very active, independent and creative Rails/Ruby community which has a lot to offer - like support, extensive documentations and a lot of high quality Gems (extensions), which means you don't have to re-invent the wheel when looking to integrate commonly used parts of an application.
Furthermore FileMaker doesn't really have anything to offer that would justify the need for "desktop" application instead of a web based solutions. At least the solutions we have to deal with all require WAN-connections anyway. With FileMaker that means you can't have the performance desktop apps are known to provide - so using a browser as a client instead of FileMaker instances that have to be licensed, would be perfect for us.
The price you pay for all those benefits though is a steep learning curve (well, compared to FileMaker - other developers often describe Rails as very straight-forward though) and more complexity. However If you think about it, this will make you a more competent and capable developer in the long run. As I said, I'm really looking into this and I'm actively learning this, but I'm still far from being able to do anything as useful as I was capable of in FM. Still a long way to go.
If you have a clear vision of what Filemaker is and what Filemaker is not you'll have less frustration and more satisfaction.
Many of the complaints levelled at Filemaker begin in this fashion: "I would like to make a silk purse. I have a sow's ear."* Compare that to Filemaker advertising which is always a variation on this theme: "Any fool can create a database and generate printed reports in Filemaker and many fools do, everyday of the week :-)"
At the Filemaker get-togethers they say that FileMaker Pro is productivity oriented. It is never described as a programming language. It provides a plastic UI with a database on the desktop. The user interface, simple search syntax and the ability to produce printed output easily are its great strengths.
Another plus is the fact that there are many different ways to interact with other programs. It can communicate with anything that will answer to a command line on Windows and Mac. Plugin architecture is provided to allow purpose built functionality to extend the native functions. Filemaker eats Excel spreadsheets for breakfast. It can spit them out all day long too. In short, it's easy to use, it creates good looking reports and it plays well with other programs.
If you need more then you need more but that's not really a Filemaker issue.
proverb: you can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear!
We are working on DynaPDF to add a table class which makes rendering of lists or reports much easier.
Also with Real Studio, the IDE will be free starting October. So you can try it and develop something without paying. You need the license when you want to build something.
I still think the best advantage of Real Studio for Filemaker developer is the free deployment as you don't need to pay per server or per user.
PS: I'm pretty sure that filemaker will also ignore this last post from me :-)
Daniel, yes, that is certainly the norm we’ve come to expect from FileMaker.
But maybe it won’t happen this time. Maybe if enough of us speak up in support of what you have expressed so well: the frustrations of dealing with a product from a company that operates in a such a one-sided fashion — dispensing to us what they want — while not listening to us about what we want. And never giving feedback on what's in the works, of course.
... if FM were a little more open to the developer community about all aspects of the FM platform
(bugs, feature requests, acknowledgment of issues, etc, not just the marketing materials), that
would go a very long way towards making developers feel more secure with the platform.
And that suggestion gets to the heart of the matter. Filemaker’s programmers miss the mark and they don’t understand why. We developers don’t get the features or the stability we need and we don’t understand why. The answer lies in the veil of secrecy surrounding the product. The veil should be lifted and replaced by a dialog — by an air of openness — and at least give the impression that developers are being heard. It’s certainly not that way, now.
Somehow, some way, we need to hear things are going to get better.
I'm sorry you feel that way. Any of us can have bad days and bad experiences. I very much understand good customer service and good customer experience in Pediatrics so I can relate here.
However, in FileMaker's generic defense, I think that your complaints are more of a personal problem. You are talking like you have been personally singled out for frustration. It all sounds like a lot of bellyaching over your wants rather than the maturity of someone who has been in your business for a long as you have. Get a grip!
I've been using FileMaker since version 1. I also used 4D since version 1 as well as Double Helix, and a couple other database rapid development platforms. I've done (and still do) web design and development with SQL and PHP for years, even when FileMaker was first used as a backend alternative to MySQL. I evaluated RealBasic and consider Servoy. I've not found any development platform I liked better.
I have yet to find another database that meets the most important criteria for me as Pediatrician and database programmer. Stability and security. Since version 10 came out, I have yet to have the database server crash. At its peak when it supported three networked offices which were seeing 33,000 patient visits a year (more than most local hospital ER's in the Atlanta area except the largest facilities). The bulit in SSL connection security is vital for patient information. 4D never went longer than a month without crashing and the database took hours to rebuild while I went back to paper temporarily! Didn't matter if they had the kitchen sink if they didn't have reliability. But that is a digression to my point.
My impression is that you may just be in the wrong business. I for one, love the challenge of making things work in FileMaker. For you I think its given you heartburn or high blood pressure. I don't think I would do any better with any other platform. Too I wonder how you would respond if they said the same things about you? Again, maybe you need to move on to some other business.
I'm sorry to be so blunt, but that's just the way I see it. It probably would have been better to just have written down your complaints and then throw them away, rather than hitting the send button so quick I think.
Ron Smith, MD