One characteristic of maturing software platforms is to see more and more complex applications become available. This is certainly the case with iOS and has been demonstrated by FileMaker Go for iPhone (there’s also a separate version for the iPad, recently reviewed by my colleague Anthony Caruana).
FileMaker Go (FMG), priced at $23.99, is positioned not as a standalone database for your iPhone but as a companion product that helps you interact with your existing FM database when you’re on the go. And why wouldn’t you want access to this information in your pocket?
I’m also glad to see that FMG isn’t a half-baked solution but rather a full implementation of FileMaker for iPhone.
FileMaker Go lets you view, edit and search your FileMaker Pro records. You’ll also have access to all the different views in your database. You can find, sort and navigate through records and search for information using QuickFind.
The other nice thing about FMG is that there’s no requirement to create custom views for your iPhone – the app literally renders all your existing desktop views perfectly.
FileMaker has provided a number of different options for accessing your data. The easiest, and most direct, is to copy your database file across to the iPhone; you do this via the File Sharing feature in iTunes. This method, however, only really works for a single user and doesn’t allow for file sharing.
The better way, if you can, is to use FMG to connect to your FileMaker server either on your local network or over the internet (via Wi-Fi or 3G).
Using FMG over the network means that any changes you make to the database will be instantly available to anyone else also using the database. You can also use FMG to connect to external SQL data sources, assuming you’ve got FileMaker Server.
FMG also has some other useful features. The ability to save data as a PDF is the probably the most important as it lets users, for example, create invoices on the spot and email them to clients. The second important feature is the native photo support, so you can access the iPhone’s camera and take images that can be directly inserted into your database.
FileMaker Go is a great tool for taking an existing database on the road, but if you’re looking for a standalone database app take a look at a companion product called Bento.
Bento ($5.99) is the portable version of FileMaker and comes with 25 database templates that you can customise and use quickly. There are some great templates, such as Diet Logs, Event Planning, Equipment and Vehicle Maintenance.
Bento also has deep iPhone integration and can talk to other apps on your iPhone including Contacts, Safari, Mail and Google Maps.
Your Bento database can support a variety of field types including text, numbers, dates, times, durations, pictures, sounds, video clips and even pop-up choices and checkboxes. There’s fast iTunes-style searching and instant sorting, which makes Bento really easy to use.
Bento for iPhone also has the capability to sync information with the desktop version of Bento. However, unlike FMG, it is designed for one user at a time.
Lastly, another mini-database app that I have used recently is called Dayta ($2.49). It’s more of a free-flowing information collection app and lets you track literally anything. I’m using it to track the height of my kids over time. You simply tell it what you want to count, and in what units, and then enter data as you see fit.
Dayta has some nice organisation features such as creating data sets within folders, and also provides the ability to consolidate data daily. Lastly, it presents you with an attractive graph and lets you export your information as a CSV file via email.
This article originally appeared in the December issue of Australian Macworld magazine.