What Is FileMaker Pro?

by Ellis Davidson

FileMaker Pro is a database application and programming environment for Windows and Macintosh. It is widely popular for its combination of easy-to-use features for non-programmers, along with powerful tools available to experts.


FileMaker has been published by several different companies, and under various names and version numbers, since the early 1980s. Originally a Macintosh-only product, releases for Windows have been available since 1992.


There are four software products in the FileMaker database line, as of 2009. FileMaker Pro 10 is the standard version of the software. FileMaker Pro Advanced has the same capabilities, but also includes additional programming tools to aid in database development and deployment. FileMaker Server is used to make a database available to other users of FileMaker Pro over a network. FileMaker Server Advanced extends the functionality of FileMaker Server with Web publishing tools, and the ability to connect with other database platforms. Each of these packages comes in separate versions for Macintosh and Windows.


FileMaker is the second most popular database on the Windows platform, and the most popular database for Macintosh. The most popular Windows database, Microsoft Access, is not available for Macintosh, which makes FileMaker a common choice for cross-platform deployment.


FileMaker Pro databases are relational, allowing for the creation of multiple tables of interlocking data in a single file. Users and developers can create customized forms for data entry, and reports for onscreen or printer output. FileMaker includes a proprietary scripting language for adding programming code to databases, and extensive calculation fields for working with summaries and mathematical results of stored data.


FileMaker Pro can be expensive to deploy for organizations, which require many people accessing the same database. A copy of FileMaker Pro is required for every user, unless the database is deployed over the Web; however, the required FileMaker Server Advanced software necessary for Web services is also expensive. Organizations may benefit from bulk licensing agreements with FileMaker, Inc., but alternative databases are available, which are much cheaper to deploy across multiple users.


About the Author

Ellis Davidson has been a self-employed Internet and technology consultant, entrepreneur and author since 1993. He has written a book about self-employment for recent college graduates and is a regular contributor to "Macworld" and the TidBITS technology newsletter. He is completing a book on self-employment options during a recession. Davidson holds a Bachelor of Arts in American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania.