Thank you for your post.
Yes, FileMaker Pro is a true relational database. I'm not familiar with Access, but I believe Access only runs on Windows, where FileMaker Pro runs on both Windows and Macintosh computers. There are several Access users on this forum, so they should be able to give you a better idea.
There are no special needs for hosting. You may want to see the documentation for FileMaker Server on our web site at:
Click on "FileMaker Server 10 and FileMaker Server 10 Advanced" topic, and start skimming through the "Getting Started Guide". If you want to post the information to the web, take a look at "Custom Web Publishing with PHP" and/or "Custom Web Publishing with XML and XSLT". These show possible configurations for setting up server, web server, etc.
Speaking as someone who has done a great deal of development with both Filemaker and MS Access, here's a quick break down on some key differences between the two products.
- Quick development cycle. You can quickly get a fully functional DB up and running much faster with a much smaller Man-Hour cost than MS Access for most desktop DB tasks.
- Much simpler scale up to larger user bases. In Filemaker you can host your unmodified filemaker files using Filemaker Pro Server. With MS Access you have to convert your solutions to use a completely different database product such as SQL Server.
- Much better record locking. In a networked environment Filemaker Locks just the record being edited. In MS Access, clusters of records are often locked when a single user starts to edit a record.
- No SQL required. Yes SQL is a very powerful way to query a database. It's also cryptic and can require significant effort to implement and debug. Filemaker queries are so simple that even novice users can query any data entry layout (form in MS Access terminology) without using a query tool or special search form.
- A much richer list of functions are available for parsing and manipulating text. Leftwords, Rightwords, wordcount, LeftValues etc. don't exist in MS Access' Visual Basic.
MS Access Advantages:
- Full event trapped, object oriented programming control of your user interface. You can create code that responds to user events that you can't respond to in FMP without a plug in. Script triggers in FMP 10 have narrowed this gap a bit.
- Much more sophisticated combo boxes. Since the row source for a combo box is based on an SQL expression, you can drop down any number of columns and can sort on any field you reference in your SQL expression whether or not it is visible.
- Easy data interface separation. In MS Access, you can use a split database tool to separate your DB into two files: one with the data and one with the interface quickly and easily. This makes ongoing updates and maintenance much easier in many situations.
- In MS Access, Sub-reports and text boxes (fields in Filemaker) can be set to "grow" as well as "shrink".
- In MS Access you can pop up a modal dialog box that you can custom design in every particular. In filemaker, we can clumsily simulate this with the New Window command but the result is a very awkward "kludge" by comparison to MS Access.
Thanks! Great responses. Do you know if I can use FM with ASP.NET on any Microsoft Hosting? I haven't found too much on the web about this...
I doubt that would work, but don't know for sure. You'd probably need to host your database with Filemaker Server Advanced instead. (There are windows and mac versions of this application, see the knowledge base for the technical requirements.)