Software tips, techniques, and news.
The new version of FileMaker 12 is here! Before we dive into all the features, note that version 12 is a file format change from fp7 to fmp12. This means it is not backward compatible. Below we will look at the FileMaker 12 product lines: FileMaker Pro 12, FileMaker Go 12, and FileMaker Server 12.
Perhaps the biggest news with the release of FileMaker 12 product line is it starts over with a new layout engine with Themes based on CSS3. This is good news as CSS3 allows the interface to be more modern and web-like in nature.
CSS3 allows for some really cool features like rounded corners, gradients, and hover over. Though you are limited to roll those features out to other layouts in an efficient manner. It's still the same one-layout-at-a-time technique as in prior versions of FileMaker. FileMaker 12 doesn't allow editing CSS3 code directly‚ you need to use the Inspector to visual edit the theme one layout at a time. Overall, themes and the new layout engine are very exciting improvements and will definitely provide more powerful theme/layout features in coming releases.
A huge improvement in FileMaker 12 has to do with containers. Now, container fields progressively stream your data (images, movies, pdfs, etc,), thus allowing you to navigate away like when loading a web page in a browser. (In layman's terms: No more waiting for a whole file to download before taking action!) This improvement provides web-like performance and huge gains in usability, a definite win for developers and users alike.
There are many more technical and usability improvements that extend the previously-laid groundwork of the powerful, easy-to-use, rapid development solution you get with FileMaker. Below, you will find in-depth details on FileMaker Pro 12, FileMaker Go 12, and FileMaker Server 12!
Beyond the addition of CSS3 and streaming containers covered in the Overview, FileMaker Pro 12 has many new features to enhance usability. Let's start with file conversion.
FileMaker 12 Conversion In order to use FileMaker 12, you will need to convert your existing database(s) to utilize the new file extension fmp12. The good news here is, unlike the switch from fp5 to fp7, upgrading to fmp12 is a smooth transition for large systems. When converting your database(s), if you have a lot of data it may take some time as all the fields will be re-indexed to enjoy the newly supported Unicode 5.2.
Windows Options When you make a new window you can now control the window options. In the New Window script step, under Specify Advanced Style Options you can specify if the window is a Standard Window, Floating Window, or a Modal Window. You can turn off the Close, Minimize, Maximize, Zoom Control Area, and Resize controls if desired. Though they are grayed out, you can still see the Close, Minimize, and Maximize.
New Charts FileMaker continues to expand the types of charts available while increasing the ease of creating charts. You can modify charts using the new Chart inspector. New charts available in FileMaker 12 include positive/negative column, scatter, bubble, stacked column, and stacked bar, bringing the total to 10 types of charts.
Starter Solutions FileMaker 12 comes with 16 new Starter Solutions that take advantage of the new Layout Themes in the product. The templates are more modern and provide layouts for the Desktop, iPad, and iPhone. I do not expect templates for the iPad 3 in this release of FileMaker due to the doubling of the iPad's screen resolution to 2048 x 1536, though the prior resolutions will upscale fine on the new iPad. Overall, I expect new and existing users to really enjoy using the 16 provided Starter Solutions.
If you are looking for a pre-built CRM solution, check out our own template we custom built, FM Quickstart. It is a free download and has been optimized to run on the latest version of FileMaker.
Layout Themes FileMaker 12 comes with 40 new designed themes out of the box. The FileMaker layout engine has been rebuilt and now uses CSS3. This change to CSS3 means you can now add gradients, rounded corners to fields, field highlighting and more. With the new layout engine, I expect to see more web-like abilities in the foreseeable future. When you upgrade, your theme will be set to Classic. The underlying CSS3 is not customizable to developers, so for now we will have to use the GUI to access the available CSS3 features.
Streaming Containers (binary files) We are very excited about the improved usability and capabilities of containers. You can now drag n drop files into containers. You can now progressively load FileMaker container data (images, movies, pdfs, etc) and navigate away like a web page. In addition, container data can be stored outside of the database, you can have external storage. One step further, you can store your data on the FileMaker server using external storage and have the files encrypted as well. Pretty nice set of new features. Learn more in article that goes into more depth, FileMaker 12 : Managing Container Data.
Now FileMaker Go 12 for iPad and iPhone apps are available free on the App Store. Previously they were $40 for the iPad and $10 for the iPhone. This will definitely make you build an app for your iPad using FileMaker Pro. You will need to upgrade to FileMaker Go 12 to be compatible with FileMaker 12 and the fmp12 file format.
Multi-Tasking FileMaker Go 12 now requires iOS 4.3, which takes advantage of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking means Go, when put in a suspended state, will continue to run a script once reopened.
Location A new Location function allows you to use GPS, Cell or WiFi connections to determine your location. The more pinpointed location accuracy you want, the longer time it may take to resolve.
Additional Features of FileMaker Go 12
I'm really excited about FileMaker Server 12. Finally, we have the database engine and web publishing engine 64-bit compatible! You can now also have up to 1 Terabyte of cache dedicated to FileMaker Server 12 by allocating up to 50% of the machine's RAM to the cache. Nice upgrades all around here, plus more listed below.
64-Bit Compatibility The Server is now 64-bit compatible and allows you to load up on memory to improve performance, which is very welcomed for larger systems. In addition, the FileMaker Server components have been separated individually to improve stability (database server, web publishing engine, FileMaker script engine, and XDBC listener).
Progressive Backups Server now supports incremental backups called Progressive Backups. If you have a large database, this will greatly reduce the time to back up your data and the disk space needed. To turn on Progressive Backups, mark the checkbox located in the FileMaker Server Admin console >> Database Server >> Folders. When you check the box and save the setting, FileMaker Server initially creates a full backup of all hosted files so beware. You can set up the interval to be anything from every 1 minute up to 99 minutes. Thereafter, only changes from the hosted file are put in the progressive backup timestamp folders.
Improved Web Publishing The FileMaker Web Publishing engine has been improved and is faster, allowing for more connections. The maximum number of concurrent connections for Custom Web Publishing (CWP) has been increased from 100 to 200. However, you are required to have FileMaker Server Advanced to take advantage of the increase from 100 to 200 connections.
Faster Wide Area Network Over the Wide Area Network (WAN), FileMaker is now faster. The network connections were improved to take less trips across the network and more tasks have been optimized for server processing.
Additional Features of FileMaker Server 12
The new FileMaker 12 product line lays the foundation with a new layout engine based on CSS3. The interface is becoming modern and web-like. I expect to see more improvements defining custom themes in future releases. The improvements to containers provide web-like performance and huge gains in usability for users of containers.
One thing we were hoping for was the ability to create custom themes and apply the custom theme to a layout. In addition, we were hoping to be able to edit the underlying CSS3 to further customize the theme. Both features we will continue to hope and wait for.
After 2 years, we are excited to see FileMaker 12 released and look forward to future capabilities that will come from this major release and new file format.
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Kevin is CEO and Business Project Manager for DB Services. He also a founding member of the FileMaker Partner Council and certified in FileMaker 18, 17, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, and 8. Kevin is passionate about FileMaker as a custom application platform and is constantly on a mission to improve how he approaches each assignment.