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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Hello, FileMaker!

For those of you who are not on the FileMaker Technical Network (and if you aren't why aren't you?!?), a little background: A few weeks ago a developer posted to the forums saying that he was frustrated with FileMaker to the point that he was giving up on it. I've probably read his post a half dozen times, and read every reply to it. I resisted the urge to reply immediately, and after thinking about it, I finally posted this reply this evening:

I've been thinking about this "Bye Bye FileMaker" thread for a few days now - and from the responses I've seen, a lot of others have been, too. The thread seems to have taken on a life of its own.

Something about it struck a chord with me. Maybe it's because I've been where Daniel (the original poster) seems to be - frustrated with FileMaker, and ready to throw in the towel. In fact, I've been there several times in the 20 years that I've been using FileMaker. (I've been using it since FileMaker version 2.) 

Like many of you, when I've reached that point of frustration, I've taken time to research some of the alternatives to FileMaker. I've been down the Access path before. (Access is... Well, it's Microsoft. It's Windows. It's not me. I'm a Mac guy, and happy and proud to be able to say that.) I've experimented with 4D and been intrigued by Servoy (both of which are too obscure for me). And I have a very heavy SQL and Web development background, having built my fair share of browser-based solutions using combinations of PHP, ColdFusion, ASP along with SQL Server, MySQL, and Oracle. The browser-based solutions that I've created have been very successful, but I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed working on those projects. (Things like the DOM and CSS and JQuery, and how they work sometimes and not others, drive me insane!)

So here's what I've found: Not one of those technologies is a silver bullet. Each one has its strengths and weaknesses, is good for certain things but not for others. And the same can be said for FileMaker. 

And that is what I think we tend to forget. We get so caught up in how cool FileMaker is that we forget to take the time to ask if it is the right tool for the problem that we need to solve. That's especially true when prospective clients come along wanting "help with FileMaker." They've seen how amazing FileMaker is, and have already made the assumption that FileMaker is the right technology for their situation - so it's all too easy to make that assumption with them. There's a quote attributed to Abraham Maslow that reads, "If you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." 

My most recent episode of being frustrated with FileMaker started towards the end of June. I'm not exactly sure what brought this one on, but if I had to guess, I'd say it was months of burnout, a severe lack of sleep, and the insane heat that we've had here in Virginia this summer. But it couldn't have happened at a better time, because a few weeks into it I found myself at DevCon, where I saw:

  • New techniques that are now possible using the new features in FileMaker 12.
  • The talent and knowledge of the FileMaker Inc development team that has helped to make the FileMaker 12 product line the best version of FileMaker yet - and some of the amazing things that they are working on now that will be coming in the future.
  • A general sense of excitement and enthusiasm from the hundreds of other FileMaker developers that attended.
  • A community that I feel good being a part of - one where people share ideas, help each other, and genuinely care.
  • A business (FileMaker Inc) being run by some extremely talented people that is thriving and making all the right moves, even in this insane economic climate.
  • And much, much more.

But of all the things that I saw at DevCon, it was the seeing solutions that other developers have created that really helped me to get perspective (or, as my mom would say, helped me to "get my head screwed on straight"). Their solutions were inspiring and enlightening. They were diverse - everything from a database being used by a company that works on ponds to one being used to manage motorcycle races, and everything in between. But what those solutions had in common - and what I think made them successful - were that in every case FileMaker was the right tool for the job. And that is the biggest takeaway for me this year, making DevCon worth every penny.

And so, once again, I've come back to FileMaker. It's comfortable. It's fast. It's powerful. It's flexible. It's forgiving. It's stable. It runs on iPhones and iPads. It freakin' rocks!

I'm not sure if Daniel will see this post or not - it sure sounded like it was his last post here. But if he does see it, I hope he'll read it and take this advice: Think about what FileMaker is good for, and what it isn't. Use it where it makes sense, and don't use it where it doesn't. That will very likely save you from having to use those "endless workarounds" and from the "endless problems" that you've been experiencing. 

As far as the "ignorance from filemaker to acknowledge any problems" and "persistence from filemaker not to address any known bugs and problems," I can assure you - and I think the hundreds of other developers that were at DevCon this year can, too - that FileMaker is listening to us. It's in their best interest to continue to make the platform the best tool that it can be, and they are working hard to do just that.

- Tim

Saturday, April 14, 2012

FileMaker Professional

I'm finally getting around to (somewhat) officially announcing my new blog. It's called FileMaker Professional, and the goal is to use it to provide advice and resources to FileMaker professionals. Please check it out, here:

I'll continue posting to FileMaker Addict, so keep coming back for more here, too.

-- Tim

Monday, November 21, 2011

Handling FileMaker Licensing Questions

Quite often, especially when working with a client that is new to FileMaker, I'll get asked questions about licensing. I typically try to refer the client directly to FileMaker Inc for answers and pricing. However, there are resources online that I also recommend to them. They are:

  • Licensing FAQ:
  • License Program FAQ:
One question that comes up quite often is, "Is FileMaker licensed per user or per machine. Here's what I refer them to:
May I use FileMaker software on different computers over a network so long as I never use more copies concurrently than the number of copies licensed?

No. Your software copies may not be shared concurrently by different computers. You must acquire and dedicate a license for each computer which will be using the FileMaker software. Although you may run the software from an internal network, each computer which has access to the software from such network requires its own license. The same rule applies to use of the software in a terminal server environment. Again, you must acquire and dedicate a license for each computer or client which is provided access to the FileMaker software on the terminal server.

Another question that comes up often is whether FileMaker can be used on both a "work" computer and a "home" computer. Here's the answer:
Am I allowed to use FileMaker software that I've licensed on my computer at work on my home or portable computer?

In order to provide our customers with the flexibility to take their work home with them, we provide limited home/portable use rights for FileMaker Pro software. As long as you are the primary user of the computer at work, you may make a second copy of FileMaker software for your exclusive use on either a home or portable computer. Note that you may only make one such additional copy for either your home or portable computer, but not both. And only you, and no one else, may use the copy of the FileMaker software installed on such second computer. Please note that these rights do not apply to students if the software is part of a volume license program ordered at an education discount. Further, these rights do not apply to FileMaker Server software.

Again, I try to refer licensing-related questions to the experts. Here's the contact info for FileMaker's licensing team:

Got any licensing-related tips that you'd like to share?

-- Tim