FileMaker as a development platform has grown over the 20+ years we have been using it professionally. We are starting to see more and more complex systems and have taken over a couple large internally developed projects in the last few years. I have been familiar with the analysis tools that have been developed and released over the years, but to be honest, I haven’t looked closely at them since about version 14 of FileMaker.
I thought it would benefit us as a firm to do an internal review of the DDR analysis products there were for the purposes of choosing one or more tools we could standardize on to use internally. Over the next few posts I’ll share our results with everyone else in case they benefit anyone else.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with what the FileMaker analysis tools do, let me provide a brief explanation.
FileMaker can be a complex development environment. There are scripts, fields layouts, relationships, custom menus, account, privilege sets, custom functions, tool tips, plugins and a variety of other places that code, logic and business rules can exist in a complex FileMaker system. FileMaker gives us a great development environment, with a lot of flexibility, but when you want to see everywhere in your system you reference a single field, it can get tricky.
Analysis tools give us as developers and database administrators a way to sort through code stored in a myriad of places and get clear answers. They will usually take the Database Design Report (or DDR) and sort through all the data FileMaker gives us and display it in a more easily readable and searchable interface.
So to share our review, let me first share how we will go about the testing, what we will be doing, and what we are going to be using as metrics to evaluate.
We wanted as close to a real world test as we could get, without dedicating an inordinate amount internal resources to it. We also wanted the person doing the work to be somewhat representative of the typical deployer. For us that meant using an apprentice developer.
For us this year that meant turning to Alex Wolford. He is a graduate of a software development program who had never launched FileMaker before joining us, but is a trained developer, so he has above average technical expertise. His only FileMaker training before beginning this project was to go through the FTS himself to gain product familiarity. We will have him use each of the tools with a relatively complex solution built in house by one of our clients.
All testing was done on both Mac and Windows where possible. We are initially planning on looking at three tools, but we are open to looking at others is anyone has any recommendations. Our initial products to review are:
Our review and testing is going to cover 6 main areas:
- Speed of import and speed of analysis
- FileMaker features measured (layouts, errors, missing fields, etc.)
- Feature comparison
- Ease of use and readability
- Simplicity of use
- General opinion of user interface
- Effectiveness of insight offered
For us the process so far has been interesting and educational. We will post a review every other week on Friday, if you have any questions or feedback, please let us know in the comments below.