FileMaker 16 – Biggest Change Since FileMaker 7

FileMaker 16 is the most important release since FileMaker 7. It fundamentally changes both what you can do with the FileMaker platform and how you can do it. It provides first class connectivity to the global API economy, better user interface design tools, and new scripting and calculation features, that make it easier to write better, testable code.  These add up to radical new opportunities for those developers and business who choose to take advantage of them.

FileMaker is Changing. Maybe We Should Too

The technology landscape today is nothing like it was when FileMaker made its way onto the global stage.  There was no internet to speak of. Most FileMaker systems were written by 1 or 2 people and ran on a local area network.  Today applications are collaboratively written by hundreds or even thousands of people and then run in an always available global network of applications, APIs, and services.

FileMaker is adapting, adding new features that let us connect to this new world and design software that delights our users.  But we may need to change how we think in order to make the most of what we have been given. The usual practice of trying to solve old problems with new tools may not suffice.  What if those old problems are not even relevant anymore?  How would we know?  What are the new problems we can solve?  How do we learn this new approach?

John Sindelar and I designed this year’s PauseOnError conference to directly address questions like these.  We thought that a meditation retreat / tech conference / running clinic / art project would be an interesting way to try generate some new ideas, and maybe some new approaches to learning something new.  FileMaker 16 represents something new. There are still a few spots left if you would like to go.

I’ll have a lot more to say about what FileMaker 16 represents and the ways it has changed how I think about application building in FileMaker.  But for now, let me highlight a few of the most important features in FileMaker 16.

Card Windows

This new window type makes it possible to easily display two unconnected contexts in what appears to be the same window for the first time. This radically reduces the complexity required to handle many very common usage patterns. We can now spend time working on custom features for our customers instead of inventing complex and fragile user interfaces.

Native JSON Parsing

This solves a long standing problem around how to pass data around FileMaker. Obviously, it’s valuable for working with APIs, but it has a lot of value just for use within FileMaker itself. We can now create and process complex nested data structures, without having to hit the database. This will make it easier to create modular and testable code.  I’ll be introducing the concept of “Functional Scripting” in a later blog post that will cover this in more detail.

HTTP Support with cURL

Coupled with native JSON functions, FileMaker Pro is now a very capable HTTP Client.  For the first time, FileMaker Pro can natively take part in the API Economy, this vast globe-spanning network of interconnected services, APIs, and Apps. This is incredibly important. Custom Applications that don’t connect with the global network are at a serious disadvantage to those that do. It is getting harder to imagine a valuable custom application that doesn’t connect to APIs.

JSON and cURL may be very new to many FileMaker people. They aren’t actually very complicated, but they are different. Sometimes that can be a roadblock. We wanted to give people a tool that could help them use and learn these new features. So we created Generator, a FREE utility that you can use to try out the new stuff.  We have a version for FileMaker 15 and a new one for FileMaker 16 as well.  We hope you find them useful.

FM Data API & node.js

This one may not have a huge impact right away.  The Data API is in a beta release and is missing some key features.  But the decision to move to a standards-based based API server, built on node.js, will lay the foundation for even tighter integration with the global network of apps, APIs, and services. If you saw my presentation last year, “JavaScript is Eating the World“, you’ll know why I think JavaScript and node.js are important to pay attention to.

The Network Effect

This release begins to open up the FileMaker platform to the Network Effect.  I wrote a little about this back in 2014 in a post titled “What Can WordPress Teach FileMaker”. In that post, I pointed out that collaboration always wins. Make it possible for lots and lots of people to work on a problem, and it will get solved.  It’s a simple equation.  1,000 brains are more powerful than 1 or 2. Now that we can connect natively to the global network, we can gain access to the work product of millions of brains.

And Everything Else…

There are tons of other great features in this release, like PDF printing on the server, layout animations, and OAuth for Accounts.  Plus a whole new interface on Windows, and the awesome new Layout Objects viewer. Pro is better, Go is better, Server and Web Direct are better.  FileMaker 16 is a great big giant release. So glad it’s here.

Now… when is 17 coming?  🙂

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