Claris is a well-remembered name in the computing world — at least for early Mac users. Through MacWrite, MacPaint, and ClarisWorks, the Apple subsidiary introduced newcomers to personal computing long before Windows 95 and its successors pointed many consumers in another direction.
By 1998, Claris International, Inc. concentrated on only one product, FileMaker, and thus became FileMaker Inc. In 2019, however, the Claris named returned as the company started to focus on Claris Connect, a cloud-based integration platform that works a lot like Dropbox and Slack.
And yet, Claris FileMaker remains. The relational database program, now on version 19, continues to have a dedicated following of business and power users. Besides Mac, FileMaker is also available on Windows and iOS.
Though not for everyone, FileMaker is worth considering if your organization looks to create apps to solve everyday business problems without prior coding experience. Here's a fresh look at FileMaker and its many benefits.
Plans and pricing
FileMaker is currently offered in two flavors: Essentials and Standard. The former is for organizations with between five and 10 users with a hosting limit of three apps. Priced at $19/month per user, the Essential package comes with 2GB of FileMaker Data Storage per user that can't be upgraded.
Organizations with five to 99 users should consider the Standard package, priced at $39/month per user. This package comes with a 125 app hosting limit and 6GB of FileMaker Data Storage per user that you can upgrade for an extra cost.
Claris offers site licenses for those expecting more than 100 users.
Each plan comes with end-to-end encryption, single sign-on, 24/7 support, and more.
For most, the Standard package is best. However, the price might cause some to pause. Luckily, new users can try FileMaker Pro free for a limited time, so you can see if it's worth it.
Perhaps the most critical reason companies first turn to FileMaker Pro is its ease of use. Extensive coding experience isn't necessary (although it helps), which cuts down on time between its introduction and implementation in an organization. And because it works on Apple devices, Windows PCs, and through the web, it's accessible everywhere by anyone with the correct credentials.
One of the first things anyone new to FileMaker Pro will notice is its complete set of training tools. Found directly within the app through built-in templates and externally through the Claris website with video-based tutorials, these tools are designed for newbies who don't have prior database experience.
Perhaps the most effective training tool is the FileMaker Pro quick start experience. This no-code app builder is designed with simplicity in mind. And yet, combined with the available templates, it's powerful enough to get basic relational databases online in just a few minutes.
Beyond the simple setup, there are other FileMaker Pro features worth considering.
Many companies seeking a relational database solution do so because they are drowning in mountains of data that aren't connected. Claris makes importing content from other sources such as Microsoft Excel, dBASE, XML, and HTML relatively pain-free. It also fully supports .csv, .txt, and .tab filename extensions.
Before importing data, it's essential to spend time with FileMaker Pro documentation, as some conversions are easier than others.
Customization is another point worth exploring. FileMaker Pro makes it possible to quickly change the layout of your business apps to match your needs. You can also create different forms for different personnel. All this makes it easy to share and manage files amount stakeholders.
There's also the Claris Marketplace, where you'll find already created databases. So, in turn, you won't even have to start from scratch.
One of the hallmarks of a valuable database is the ability to share. At one time, sharing through FileMaker Pro was only possible through a Mac desktop. Not anymore. Today, you can have installations on Mac, Windows PC, the web, and through Apple devices such as iPhone and iPad.
FileMaker Pro app sharing isn't limited to database dashboards. You can also create reports and charts populated by the Xs and Os found in the database. The reports are convertible into Microsoft Excel, PDF, or other formats.
Claris gives administrators complete control of every database created concerning security. This involves assigning permissions based on the access requirements for each user. Access to data and the ability to change layouts is tied to those permissions and carry around all devices.
Finally, another benefit to using FileMaker Pro is third-party integrations. Through Claris Connect, you can create workflow integrations with products such as Box, Asana, Clouding, Eventbrite, Freshdesk, and many more. In turn, you can add workflow automation with user-defined triggers and actions.
It's also possible to create two-way connections between FileMaker Pro databases and Microsoft SQL Service, Oracle, and other products.
Interface and in use
Given FileMaker Pro's ease of use, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise to know its interface is uncluttered, user-friendly, and easy to navigate. A good starting point is to use one of the many templates and see how it's arranged, then make changes to take things a step further.
Claris offers some of the best support options to software users on the planet. From impressive online documentation to an ever-growing knowledge base to 24/7 support, Claris is there with a helping hand. There's also a robust FileMaker Community full of current users ready to help.
Do a Google search on "FileMaker Pro alternatives" and you'll find plenty of candidates. This includes Ninox, Zoho Creator, and Kintone, among others. If your organization is looking for something more powerful than what FileMaker Pro can provide, consider any of our favorite database software titles.
Elsewhere, Symphyturn is an often-cited open-source alternative.
The chief reasons to consider alternatives are scalability and the extra features larger relational database options provide.
For small organizations looking for better workflow control, you can't go wrong with Claris FileMaker Pro. The simple-to-use rational database is backed but plenty of resources to get your team moving in the right direction. It's available across many platforms, including Windows, Mac, Apple mobile, and through the web.
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