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Review of second analysis tool – FMPerception

We stated in a previous post that we would be reviewing the FileMaker analysis tools. Two weeks ago we reviewed BaseElements, and today we have the second post in that series, a review of the tool, FMPerception.

FMPerception is sold by the team at Geist Interactive, headed by Todd Geist. You may know him from some of his other great products like Barcode creator which won FileMaker’s product of the year in 2014. He describes FMPerception this way:

“FMPerception™ is the fastest, most-accurate database utility for searching, analyzing and maintaining FileMaker custom apps.” This description contains one of their primary features. It’s fast.

So fast in fact it is possible to incorporate analyzing your solutions into your everyday workflow. He has a great video showing this capability here:

This speed is really unbelievable, and is their strongest advantage. They accomplish this by delivering the tool as a native installed application. This gives it great performance, but it does remove the flexibility you would get from having the tool be a FileMaker database with layout access for modifying the reports.

We are having a junior developer at our company run each tool through it’s paces, and these were his thoughts:

FMPerception was very user friendly. I got around 8,000 errors I believe, the same as I got on BaseElements. I was not confused on how to run the report on the database. I was able to clearly see where the errors were. I do not want to say it is better than BaseElements but it feels a lot more user friendly than BaseElements did.

I will say from a user help standpoint, Todd does a great job of providing a number of helpful videos on his site walking you through the usage which can be a godsend for newer users.

For our testing we are running a client’s system through that they developed in house, converting, upgrading and improving from FileMaker 3 on to FileMaker 16. We are expecting a lot of errors and are getting a lot, which is a good test of a tool like this.

Let me give you the rundown of what the tool reported for our test system:

Time to evaluate:

2 seconds

Aspects measured (Comparitive):

  • FeatureFMPerceptionBaseElements
    Calculations
    Custom Function
    Data Source
    Plugins
    Variables
    Tables
    Table Occurrences
    Fields
    Relationships
    Layouts
    Layout Objects
    Themes
    Styles
    Scripts
    Script Steps
    Privilege Sets
    Accounts
    Extended Privileges
    Menus
    Menu Sets
    Value Lists
    Serialized Fields
    Functions
    External Data Sources

As far as features go, FMPerception, as all these tools do, has a wide array of features, but the three that stood out to us were:

  • Raw Speed
  • Native Application
  • Great developer reporting

While I addressed the speed above, it is really worth re-visiting. The last tool we evaluated took just under 2 minutes, FMPerception took just under 2 seconds. That kind of performance is really felt when you are looking for an answer. The speed allows them to suggest working the DDR creation into your daily workflow. The automation they demonstrate works differently on Mac and Windows, and I found it much more elegant on Mac than Windows. This difference between the Mac and Windows experience is a by-product of it being a native application and so is to be expected.

The fact that FMPerception is a native application is also one of it’s key strengths. This means it installs just like any other application, can be run and quit independently from FileMaker and has all the OS level tools that any application would have. This is how the DDR creation is so smooth on the Mac OS. Using automator and applescript, it is very seamless to run a DDR and open it in FMPerception.

The developer reporting was excellent as well. Here is one place where they cheat the speed a bit. Their reports at the bottom come with a qualifier (slow).

Now for me, slow still wasn’t that slow (the longest report to run was the “Report Card” which still only took about 8 seconds to run) but I say cheat because other tools front load all that processing while FMPerception doesn’t do the report work until you ask. You can argue whether it is better to do it all up front or not, but in their case I think delivering the main answers lightning fast is the goal, and so to delay the more complex analysis until asked makes perfect sense.

There are a number of specific reports that can be detailed, but Todd has a ton of great help on his website so I’ll just refer to it for you to review.

Top Call Stats

 

Call Chain Diagram

Full Text Search

CSV Export, for building your own reports

 

XML Copy and Paste

On the topic of UI, I will say this, it covers the basics. It’s clean and easy to read, but it doesn’t really go above and beyond. Everything is in list views and the data is clearly arranged, but not a lot of design work went into it. It is a developers tool and works like one. One area where the design gets a bit nicer is the report card. Here they arrange the data a bit more and bring in just a bit of color.

If I had a complaint it would be that even some standard OS level controls don’t behave quite as I’d expect. One example of this is scrolling horizontally on Windows. A bit of a standard is that “shift-scroll” will scroll horizontally in a window, however that doesn’t work in FMPerception.

The reporting is great, and while the detail is amazing, the one thing that other tools provide that is a bit weaker here is a summary of all the problem areas in one place. If you know what problem you are trying to solve, it is very easy to find it. If however you are taking over development or support for an old system it is a little (and I do mean just a little) harder to find all the places you will want to eventually look into.

FMPreception is really an amazing tool, and it is surprisingly very different from the first tool we evaluated. I think that in general FMPerception is more focused on the developer than BaseElements is and with a different key user you get a focus on some attributes over others. In this case diversity is great and I can see making a case for owning both. The price point is a little higher, starting at $499.00 but it too comes with a free trial period, although only 14 days in this case.

If you have any comments or think we missed a key feature of FMPerception let us know in the comments below. Look for our next review in a couple weeks!

Author Court Bowman

Court Bowman has been working with in the IT field his whole life, working as a network engineer, database developer in Oracle and Progress and as a IT director for several firms. He has been working with FileMaker Pro since version 2 and has been a reoccurring speaker at the FileMaker developer conference. Apart from his expertise in FileMaker Pro he has experience in system architecture and design, data modeling and database architecture. He also has years of experience as a process and workflow consultant and has helped with the design and deployment of hundreds of systems in FileMaker and on the web.

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