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Introduction to FileMaker Go

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In this article, Jason R. Rich takes a look at the latest FileMaker Pro 13 database management application and explores how businesses of all sizes use the FileMaker Go app to offer secure access to database content from an iPhone or iPad.

For a business of any size, having a custom iPhone or iPad app developed is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. Typically a far more cost-effective, versatile, and efficient solution is to develop a custom database using FileMaker Pro 13 and then grant employees access to it from an iOS mobile device using the FileMaker Go app.

In fact, the latest editions of FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server, as well as the companion FileMaker Go app, work even more seamlessly together and can provide customized database management solutions to companies in a wide range of industries.

FileMaker's main attraction, especially for small businesses, is the capability to quickly and inexpensively create highly customized and branded solutions for handing a diverse range of tasks.

To see a small sampling of what's possible using the FileMaker platform in conjunction with the FileMaker Go app, FileMaker has created a demonstration website.

As you'll discover, most tasks that previously involved completing or accessing information from paper-based forms, spreadsheet data, and/or that required any type of data collection can now easily be handled using a custom database created with FileMaker Pro and accessed using FileMaker Go.

Companies have implemented FileMaker-based solutions related to point-of-sale applications (that involve processing credit card payments and capturing signatures in the field); time management and scheduling; guest list management for events, sales and customer management; Customer Relationship Management (CRM); invoicing; inventory; asset management; resource scheduling; project management; time billing; and on-site job estimates.

Using FileMaker Go with an iOS mobile device enables information to be collected and shared from anywhere—whether it involves manually entering data using a mobile device's touch screen and virtual keyboard, capturing signatures on the touch screen, taking photos using one of the mobile device's built in cameras, or scanning barcodes.

The same FileMaker Go app can also access and display data from a centralized database, or present customized reports on an iPhone or iPad's screen.

When FileMaker Go is used, everything is managed from a secure server, and the FileMaker platform offers total control over who has access to what data. As a result, it's never before been so easy to automate a wide range of tasks and ensure that everyone in a company or on a team can access the precise information they need, when and where they need it.

It's important to understand that there are countless stand-alone database applications available for the iPhone or iPad, as well as for Macs and PCs. Many of them offer some level of customizability, but this is often limited. Plus, each database on each device or platform typically needs to be managed separately, even though it's often possible to sync data between devices and platforms.

FileMaker has changed this database management approach entirely, allowing for one database to be custom created and then securely accessed by PCs, Macs, and iOS mobile devices, or any web browser.

FileMaker, as a company, is a subsidiary of Apple. The FileMaker database platform has been around since 1998, and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide for PCs and Macs. The latest edition of FileMaker Pro, which was released in December 2013, represents a major evolution in the platform, with greater emphasis on ease-of-use, flexible design, as well as mobile device and online integration.

FileMaker Pro 13 offers more than 50 new features, including major improvements to its database design tools that require far less training to use than ever before.

The ability to access FileMaker databases remotely using an iPhone or iPad has allowed companies to envision and implement entirely new ways in which this database platform can be used to collect and disseminate information. In fact, as of February 2014, more than one million copies of the FileMaker Go app have been downloaded from the App Store for use in conjunction with FileMaker Pro 13 and FileMaker Server.

Now, within just a few hours, any company can use FileMaker Pro 13 to create a customized database solution that will be fully compatible with PCs, Macs, and iOS mobile devices, and also be accessible online. Yet, all data remains encrypted and secure.

FileMaker Pro 13 continues to be a complex application that has a learning curve associated with it. However, a wide range of free and fee-based training materials (which you can learn about by visiting http://www.filemaker.com/support/training) are readily available in book, online, and video form. Once a custom database solution is created, it can be accessed and used by anyone with ease and virtually no training.

FileMaker Pro 13 includes 16 predesigned templates that can be fully customized to meet a company's most popular database-related needs. Using one of these templates speeds up the "getting started" process. However, someone who understands how to use the FileMaker platform can just as easily create a fully customized and highly complex database application from scratch using the latest collection of tools that's offered.

Pre-existing data from a spreadsheet, contact management, or scheduling application, for example, can easily be imported into a FileMaker database, typically by using a drag-and-drop method. Manual data entry to populate a newly created database with pre-existing data is seldom necessary.

Using FileMaker's built-in design tools, once data is imported into the FileMaker platform, customized solutions for displaying and working with the data, from a computer, an online-based FileMaker application, or an iOS mobile device (using the FileMaker Go app) is a straightforward task that's literally as easy as filling out or reading a form.

A database's custom fields can be set up to accept and manage text, numbers, dates, or other types of content, including photos, documents, or videos. This is done by creating a database form that takes just minutes to create using FileMaker's intuitive drag-and-drop method.

A database form can be created so it's accessible from computers and/or mobile devices, meaning that forms can easily be set up to accept touch-based interactions, as well as signature captures from an iPad, for example.

Once a custom database solution is created using FileMaker Pro 13, it can be uploaded to the cloud-based FileMaker Server, and become an online-based application that's secure but accessible from anywhere.

The FileMaker Go app can then be used to access and manage the database from anywhere by using an iPhone or iPad. As new data is entered, the entire database gets updated instantly, so everyone is always working with the most up-to-date data, whether they're sitting at their desk, working from home, visiting with clients, or working in the field.

Using FileMaker Is Extremely Affordable

The FileMaker platform is priced based on the number of users who will be using it. An individual FileMaker Pro 13 license is priced starting at $329.00 (although per-month pricing, starting at $9.00 per user, is available). This allows a database to be created and managed from a PC or Mac.

To add the online component and FileMaker Go compatibility, FileMaker Server 13 is required. Access is billed on a monthly basis, starting at $29.99 per month (for up to five users). The FileMaker Go app, which is used to work with existing databases (not for creating them), is available for free from the App Store.

Final Thoughts...

It's one thing to explain just how innovative FileMaker Pro 13's approach to database creation and management has become, but it's something else entirely to see FileMaker Pro 13, FileMaker Server 13, and FileMaker Go working seamlessly together handling real-world applications designed to streamline many tasks required on a daily basis by businesses.

You can see FileMaker in action from the FileMaker website, which should be the starting point for any business interested in harnessing cutting-edge database functionality with its deployment of iOS mobile devices to employees.

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