1 2 3 Previous Next 204 Replies Latest reply on Jun 1, 2016 7:11 AM by Benjamin Fehr

    OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?


      I've been reading with great interest the thread on Tim Dietrich's "goodbye" to Filemaker.  I've also read his blog posts and the comments posted there.  Throughout, there are people who both agree and disagree with his reasoning.  I, for one, don't believe that being dissatisfied with a vendor is a good enough reason to say "goodbye" UNLESS you have an alternative.  So I would love to see a list of what others have looked at, considered, and why they opted not to make the jump away from FM.  Or, if you did depart the friendly skies, why?


      If nothing else, this may save current users a lot of wasted time considering products that just don't meet the hype or have other faults that become apparent after a closer look.


      I do think we should limit this to applications that you've actually used rather than just a list of web links.  No restrictions on platforms or OS's.


      I've used Visual Foxpro extensively for year and years and it is still viable for desktop applications.  Not intended for web or IOS development.  Too bad Microsoft didn't continue to support it because ti was very much a superior Windows desktop development system.  If you were just considering it now, I'd say that ship has sailed because you would have to invest too much time in building your own framework for too little (desktop only) in return.


      I've also used XOJO for the last 4-5 years and it is a very robust and flexible cross platform development system.  Support for SQLITE database is built-in, but you can use any database as the backend that has a supported plugin.  XOJO provides a number of plugins and there are some provided by 3rd parties.  You can also use ODBC.  Very easy to get started with and build an application for desktop, web, and IOS.  Yes, you can build applications for the Apple app stores (desktop and IOS).  We have used it for a number of applications that were converted from Visual Foxpro.  We were able to duplicate much of the functionality of our Visual Foxpro applications and in many cases, make those features more flexible and robust.  Something I never thought we'd be able to do.  Great community support and nice size 3rd party support with plugins.  The downside is the time investment.  You end up writing a lot of code to do some rather simple things.  If you want import and export in your applications, you've got to write your own.  Built in support for reports is very weak.  Most users use a 3rd party product.  Forget about using one code base for desktop, web, and IOS.  Their framework (classes) are too specific to allow for this. 


      My personal situation is that I still use Visual Foxpro (one of our big, big client has all their applications written in VFP), and I use Filemaker for internal solutions because I can get them done in less than half the time it would take with VFP or XOJO.  I will also use Filemaker to prototype a new application that might eventually get re-written in XOJO.  And, of course, I use XOJO for applications that we sell to our clients.  We also wrote our own internal CRM and shopping cart in XOJO.


      I should add that there are actually 5 developers in our office and I've had a tough time convincing some of them that it's worth investing time in Filemaker.  Their impression is that it's just too limiting for real application work.  I disagree, but I understand and respect their opinions.


      What's your story?

        • 1. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?
          Benjamin Fehr

          no story. But what I've heard about Alternatives:

          XOJO, Servoy, LiveCode, Couchbase, Cassandra, Ninox, ProVue, Valentina DB, Apple SWIFT.

          Some of them are open-source (SWIFT!).

          • 2. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

            To make it simple, my story is that what really counts is


            1) data

            2) data


            9) the mental model - workflow - users have established in decades for interacting with data.


            New employees come, and are taught how to by experienced ones.

            Experienced ones deal by themselves with stupid things (printer tray 2 empty is a good example, keyspan detached from computer by zealous vacuum cleaner on friday evening is another).


            Customers love buying something that will hold its value over years, when their business is involved. I programmed my wife's EMR 14 years ago on FM 6 in 3 weeks over several pints of quality beer and it's been humming along her needs all ever since, on a Quicksilver Power Mac G4 running os X 10.1 Server. It just works and delivers, people really don't need more than that unless advertising and hype blurs their mind away with promises of unneeded wonders. (In the meantime the practice went from cubes to iMacs, but the server is still there).


            Does she need to access her data over the web ? No, she's got a life. And should she need future data, well, she can print it in b/w or color before leaving the office and take it home.


            The sit hits the fan when users enter the mentality allowing them the use of the word "nice", as in "it would be nice to see ...". Yes, it is nice to have 780 channels on your TV, but fact is, you always remote among the same 12 ones.




            Which as long as I'm concerned - answers the "alternatives" part of your question. With Filemaker 13 + server, the REAL world's needs for computing are satisfied for at least 90% of my actual and potential clients, which might not be = to your clients, ofc. Holds for me, so apart from playing around with xojo (level: hello world) when it rains outside, I'm pretty much covered, and what I already know about Filemaker allows me to resize the cover to at least 150% of what it is, should the need arise.

            • 3. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

              Great question. I still think the FileMaker product rocks. As Tim said in is original post, there's nothing like FileMaker.


              Using an alternative product really depends on the individual developer's past experiences.

              • 4. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                campsoftware wrote:


                Using an alternative product really depends on the individual developer's past experiences.


                Agreed... and on what technology the client has already invested in and wants to use.

                And what is the best tool for the job given the developer's skill set.


                It takes a lot of time to become proficient at any one tool / platform / framework.  Which is why it pays (IMHO) to always be playing with something else.  It makes you a better develooper.


                Which ones?  This is a good place to start: Technology Radar | ThoughtWorks

                But again, much will depend on your previous experience, and on what your client base expects.  No use learning PHP when your client does all their web publishing in Ruby or ASP.NET...

                • 5. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                  My Simple Take:


                  Over the past 30 years since the computer revolution started data manipulators (end users) have been abstracted from what is really typically very simple data structures.  The web has made that abstraction even worse, adding another layer.


                  Over that time ONLY FileMaker has provided a tool to allow end users to EASILY interact with their data relationally and organize it in a graphically appealing manner.


                  Adding a pseudo-programming environment and keeping it accessible to the end user only made FileMaker that much more powerful and STILL there is no solution offering that.


                  With Web Direct....now we have magic in bottle.  Literally.  Like show it to IT and they just don't believe it.  FileMaker Is The Secret Sauce Magic In a Bottle.  (Trademark)


                  All of you power users / programmers just don't get it.  There is nothing else like FileMaker out there.  And, I am not sure there ever will be.  I could tell you why, but that would be revealing my blog / potential TED talk idea

                  • 6. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                    There are some solutions were the secret sauce makes it really tasty and other solutions where it disrupts the taste.

                    • 7. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                      As I understand it, Tim did not leave because FileMaker does not suit his and his customer's needs but because of shortcomings like long-standing bugs and lack of transparency. He simply reduced his exposure to risk.

                      For doing so, he invested in mastering alternative technologies. So for him, the additional cost of employing these technologies outweighs the risk of getting stuck with FM's above-mentioned shortcomings.

                      1 of 1 people found this helpful
                      • 8. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                        I'd love to hear a preview of your Ted talk or get a link to your blog posting.


                        I keep trying to like Filemaker more, but then doing things in Filemaker becomes very difficult where as in XOJO they are child's play.  Like creating external classes and function libraries that are shareable by all your applications.  I like the fact that you can create custom functions, but come on, the Let format is something born years ago that should have gone the way of the caveman.  A function in every other application that I've ever used is 99% the same, except in FM you have to resort to the LET function.  Keep it for legacy solutions, but how much would it take to adopt or more standard format?  Geez!

                        • 9. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                          I suggest reading the Paul Ford "What is Code" article for some perspective on this trendiness and what really makes up the big package that is software and software management and the grass is greener thing.


                          Paul Ford: What is Code? | Bloomberg

                          • 10. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                            I've been using FileMaker since V2.  So I'm biased and deeply familiar with the product.  Before FileMaker I was using Foxpro and thought it was the greatest.  Then one day I was shown how to do a certain search I had been coding for days, in FileMaker....it was a few lines of code (commands), took a few seconds to run, and gave me the results I wanted.  Never looked back. 

                            But over the years and versions, and as my capabilities and needs grew, I ran into many roadblocks like we all have and got frustrated.  I've looked into Servoy deeply and RealBasic (now I guess it's Xojo), Panorama, and others including lower level paths like Java, Groovy, PHP, etc., looking for that special platform that would wisk me away to RAD heaven.  I always ended up feeling relieved and empowered when I came back to FileMaker.

                            Yeah, it's got drawbacks and shortcomings.  But compared to the other platforms, FOR WHAT I NEED IN MY PRODUCTS, it's it.  I've still got an older version of a product running for many customers, some with many sites, handling up to 50 users at a time, that handles graphics, PDF reporting, HL7, FTP/SFTP, accessible with iOS through RDP, and well over 1.5 million patient records processed,....and it's in server 5.5 and 6.0 clients and almost 15 years old.  No complaints from customers.

                            I've tried just about every plugin out there...and they're all great.  But I've always wanted to get rid of them and be pure FMP just to minimize the usual downside of plugins...but have settled into the MBS plugin.  It's allowing me to do things I never thought I'd be able to do with FileMaker.  With that plugin, it just about seals the deal with me and the FileMaker platform. WebDirect pretty much finalizes it.  I know it's got limitations now but it will improve, in fact V14 is now good enough that I'm committing the next product version to it.  It solves so many problems for me.


                            But that's just me, I could be wrong.



                            • 11. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                              A substantial number of FileMaker developers were not trained as software developers but  entered the arena with domain knowledge for a specific field. FileMaker may have been the most accessible option at the time.


                              I have met examples from the banking field, theater makers, transport planners, aviation industry, medical professionals etc etc. They speak the language of their colleagues or eventually clients and are able to translate their needs into a useful database using a language they could master.


                              Our company has a similar origin; I am a molecular biologist and worked with FileMaker since Claris, developed a Lab Info Management System (LIMS) in house, then spun that off in a separate company and over the years became more or less fluent in FileMaker building our flagship product LabScores for the life science industry. 


                              I read the discussions on this forum on Dietrich's move with interest. The platform you base your company on is always a matter of concern and we ventured into other languages at some point (did a serious effort in Servoy, but the 10x longer development time almost bankrupted us), sniffed at XOJO which has a lot of features that we recognize from Servoy and surely there are platforms out there that may perform better then FileMaker.


                              But in terms of translating very complex workflows and detailed business rules, I think nothing beats a script language. Our USP has been the way we can discuss the needs of our clients; we understand the work that they do and talk science, not code. Also their business is very dynamic, the software has to follow these changes quickly and cost effective. FileMaker has always delivered in this respect, it still does and I am confident that we can make good use of new features that will be released in the future.


                              No program is perfect in every respect, but FileMaker comes a long way in our view.

                              • 12. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                                I didn't come from an electrical engineering/computer science background.  I didn't gain the deep understanding of processors, language compilers, and algorithms that someone with that background has.  So I probably can't appreciate the nuances of different platforms as they apply to specific needs.  But I trained myself through assembler, basic, pascal, C, C++, foxpro and others and I have a deep understanding of the needs and workflow associated with my medical profession.  So naturally I write programs that reflect the day to day work needs of my customers; the software merges with their workflow.  It's empowering, not antagonistic.  There is a lot of antagonistic software out there that is a hindrance to workflow, if not an outright irritation, because it's been written by engineers with a coding job and not by people with intimate knowledge of workflow processes.


                                FileMaker merges well with my needs.  It lets me develop quickly and in a way that is ultimately very useful to the customer.  The flip side of that which as a business is ultimately important, is that it allows me to maximize profit potential.



                                • 13. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                                  This is a great post and I already commented on the other one for Tim's post.


                                  I will add something more relevant here though. There is no such thing as a close FileMaker alternative. Perhaps the one which was closest to FM was MS Access....a long time ago. At this moment there is none. FM is certainly in a category of its own and still has major advantages over its competition. I have heard a lot about Xojo and I have gone through a 1 hour tutorial just to get an understanding for it and my opinion is that its not worth the trouble. Use XCode for the Mac or Visual Studio on Windows (if you are into that sort of thing).


                                  The issue here is that we are all reading the same problem. FileMaker has 15-20 areas if you break it down. FMI only addresses 2-3 every version which is 18-20 month cycles. I won't even bother doing the math, you get the point. It would take them ages to grow "organically", what FMI needs is a Hail Mary from its mother Apple. A truck from Cupertino should unload a huge truck of dollars in front of FMI HQ to help them built the platform and make the rest of competition rub their eyes.


                                  Super major flaws:

                                  1) Quite a complicated licensing for an "Apple subsidiary"!!

                                  2) Support Linux, a huge OS for cheaper servers

                                  3) Revamp of DB management and importing tools

                                  4) Multi-edit across layouts

                                  5) Conditionally editable fields just like hiding....seriously how hard is this?


                                  FMI is falling behind at each iteration and cannot catch up, even though it has an excellent platform.

                                  • 14. Re: OK, let's get it out in the open.  Alternatives?

                                    I think FileMaker fills their claimed niche perfectly, or at least better than any competitor.  Period.

                                    FileMaker has many faults, shortcomings, etc., whatever you want to call them, but a lot of these are user specific deficiencies.  What you may think is intolerable about the product I may shrug off without a second thought.  Try reading through some of the support forums for other products and compare the complaints/problems their users are having with the ones FMP users are having.  It's a real education.

                                    I'm willing to work with FileMaker's deficiencies.  It's a very big gray area.  Their real frontier is the web/cloud and they're making headway.  I'd like to see a push for the thin client and for an enterprise class SQL centric version.  Take their ease of use, RAD, and stunning layouts to the big boys.



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