07/26/2010 - When the Apple iPhone was released to the world in 2007, we FileMaker developers immediately saw an ideal platform for FileMaker Pro. A third-party solution was released that allowed users to put their databases on the iPhone, but the solution wasn't simple for use, and had limitations that discouraged me from recommending it to my clients or implementing in any solutions.

After repeated pleadings from the FileMaker community, FileMaker Inc. teased the attendees at last year's FileMaker Developer's Conference with a view of the upcoming FileMaker app for the iPhone. We were bound by our non-disclosure agreement and couldn't talk about it, but the possibilities were enticing to us all. For almost a year, we've all wondered whether we'd ever see FileMaker on the iPhone.

With the release of the iPad this year, the need only grew more pressing; the increased screen real-estate on the iPad is ideal for FileMaker, and many of us wondered what would be coming down the road.

The waiting is over. FileMaker Inc. released its latest gem for the FileMaker Pro line, named FileMaker Go for iPad and iPhone. I've now had a chance to work with this excellent new app, and am excited by the possibilities it presents for present and future FileMaker Pro users.

FILEMAKER GO IN A NUTSHELL
Briefly, FileMaker Go for iPad and iPhone are two separate apps; both provide the ability to use a database either locally or from any FileMaker Server running versions 10 or 11 (previous versions haven't been tested, according to FileMaker, Inc.). Setting up FileMaker Go is simple, uncomplicated, and doesn't require any special manipulation of your databases; you can either load your files directly onto your device, or access databases from servers anywhere in the world. In fact, I got FileMaker Go while on vacation in France, and was able to connect to one of my servers here and see my databases the very first night. Sweet.

WHAT IT DOES
FileMaker Go is a slimmed-down version of FileMaker Pro; you can add, edit, or delete records; search for records; view portals, value lists, popup menus; use your scripts to navigate your solution or perform complex tasks; use web viewers to embed pages from the web, such as card-processing pages; implement custom functions and script triggers; use automatic object resizing to present your data in a manner designed for a smaller screen… much much more.

In short, FileMaker Go gives us almost everything we could ask for in an app for a portable device. My wish list is short at this point, and I'm thrilled with what has been done with this first release of FileMaker Go. I will be suggesting updates to many of my clients so that we can get their data onto their phones and iPads.

WHAT IT DOESN'T DO
FileMaker Go is not a development platform; you can't edit scripts, design layouts, modify your field definitions, or change security settings. It's an end-user app, and as such is designed to be used for accessing data rather than designing the interface for your data.

You can't use plugins with FileMaker Go. While I don't generally use a lot of plugins in the solutions that I design, there are a couple of plugins that are critical; the first of these would be a credit-card processing plugin like 360 Works Plastic (my favorite card-processing plugin). Having an iPhone with the ability to run cards directly, without any extra app, would be ideal; with a card plugin, you can process a credit card directly from the database.

There's a workaround for this: you can use a web viewer to view a set of web pages that do the card-processing and pass the transaction results back to the database. In order to do this, the database would need to be hosted using FileMaker Server, but the results would be close to ideal.

HOW DOES IT FARE IN THE REAL WORLD?
As it happened, I was in France when FileMaker Go was released; at 6 in the morning, before a wonderful day trip to Normandy, I downloaded Go so that I could look at it in the bus and give it a test-drive. Within minutes of installing the app, I was viewing one of my in-house databases, looking up client contact information, and adding notes to a client's record.

A good 3G connection or strong WIFI signal is key; a sluggish Edge connection isn't going to cut it with FileMaker Go. With a decent hotel WIFI connection, I easily connected to one of my servers here in my data center in Nashville, pulled up databases, and checked out various layouts.

WE'RE READY FOR YOU!
When Go was released, we naturally wanted to be sure that we could offer this functionality to you. To prepare for this, we did… nothing. We were already able to provide connectivity for your iPhone or iPad--this in itself shows the excellent functionality of FileMaker Go, and portends a great future for FileMaker on mobile devices.