FileMaker Challenges Microsoft Office Developer

A new development environment is hoping to make some inroads into the corporate desktop development market. FileMaker Developer, from FileMaker Inc. (www.filemaker.com), provides developers with an XML-enabled toolkit for building database applications.

The FileMaker Pro database application is used for tasks such as analyzing sales information, managing corporate workgroups, and sharing data. With the release of FileMaker Developer 5, FileMaker provides a revamped development environment that it says can save IT departments time and money, potentially increasing employee productivity.

New in FileMaker Developer 5 is support for XML, which FileMaker says can reduce unnecessary network traffic and allow developers to leverage the power of XML as a means to integrate FileMaker Pro with other applications in e-business or e-commerce frameworks. FileMaker is hyping the XML support that it incorporated into FileMaker Developer 5, FileMaker Pro, and many of its other products. In March, for example, the company unveiled a Web site dubbed XML Central (www.filemaker.com/xml) that features information on XML support throughout its product lines. According to company sources, XML Central also serves as a resource for XML-related news.

FileMaker has made great strides in opening up its FileMaker Pro database environment to XML, as well as other ostensibly "open standards," such as Java Database Connectivity (JDBC) and ODBC, according to Steven Blackwell, a FileMaker database developer at Management Counseling Services, a FileMaker reseller and consulting firm (www.filemaker-power.com). "FileMaker Pro 5 with XML demonstrates support for use of 'open standards' in the enterprise environment," Blackwell says. "By supporting such standards, FileMaker shows its commitment to being the leading desktop database for the enterprise workgroup, for the Web, and beyond."

In addition to its support for JDBC and ODBC, FileMaker Developer 5 features support for its own proprietary Claris Dynamic Markup Language (CDML). Used in conjunction with FileMaker Developer 5's Web Companion plug-in, CDML makes it possible to publish a database to the Internet or to a corporate intranet by automatically creating a Web interface.

FileMaker sources estimate 17,000 developers use FileMaker Pro to create Web, workgroup, and database solutions for both corporate and commercial environments. To enhance the usability of the FileMaker Developer product for these programmers, version 5 includes a new "Developer Tool" that the company says will allow developers to create highly customized FileMaker Pro solutions.

For example, developers can take advantage of FileMaker Developer 5's new "Kiosk" mode to transform standard FileMaker-based catalogs into touch-screen catalog environments suitable for shopping mall or storefront settings in which the presence of an underlying operating system platform must be masked. Among other new features, FileMaker Developer 5's Developer Tool lets users add permanent passwords to protect databases, rename files, and incorporate graphics.

While FileMaker Developer 5 includes a fully functional version of the FileMaker Pro database for PC and Macintosh clients, it also lets developers create run-time applications that don't necessarily require that FileMaker Pro be installed. Moreover, such applications are royalty-free, which means developers don't have to pay FileMaker if they resell copies of such applications.

Jesse Feiler, a software director at Philmont Software Mill (www.philmontmill.com), says FileMaker Developer 5 brings RAD capabilities to the FileMaker Pro database environment. "You can develop and prototype quickly and easily," Feiler says. "The FileMaker Developer Tool makes it very simple to develop a database for end-users to experiment with."

On Windows platforms, however, FileMaker Developer 5 will face staunch competition from Microsoft Corp.'s (www.microsoft.com) Microsoft Office Developer. Microsoft Office Developer leverages Microsoft's Visual Basic programming language, enabling a development environment for Microsoft's Access database that provides features and functionality similar to those found in FileMaker Developer 5.