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Filemaker vs 4D

#1 User is offline   leh3md 

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Posted 07 December 2003 - 07:50 PM

I have written some fairly sophisticated databases in Foxpro. However, Foxpro was never really finished for the Mac and doesn't work after OS 8.6. I'm finally upgrading to OS X so it's time to find a new database software. I want to write custom, multiuser, relational databases to be used over a small office network. I want to have double clickable applications with custom menus, buttons, etc. I have read the reviews of both filemaker pro and 4D and I can't tell there is a clear winner. I would be very interested in comments both pro and con to either database, especially if someone has used both. Thanks for the help
Les
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#2 User is offline   RobBrandt 

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Posted 19 January 2004 - 10:43 AM

I have little experience with Filemaker, although by reputation it's weaknesses are in relational data, business logic, validation, and large data sets in multi user. I've never considered it because I write applications for other people and with it's marriage of the program code and the data in the same file, upgrading would be a nightmare. Filemaker, also by reputation, can be awesome for putting together simple databases quickly. So I guess it's appropriate for the right project.
I use 4D for some of my projects, and it's considerably more sophisticated than Filemaker. That's good and bad. It takes more effort to create a finished application, but you're less likely to run into a limitation of some sort. It has it's own limitations though, and ain't cheap. Their support is good, but QC isn't so good. To me, it feels like it's held together with duct tape and bailing wire.
You might consider another alternative you've probably never heard of: Omnis Studio. See http://www.omnis.net. It's sophisticated and elegently designed, and has been around for 20 years. It's cross platform with Mac, Windows & Linux; in fact they released their native OSX version 1 day (!) after OSX itself was released. Applications can be written so that practically any SQL data source or a local data file will work . Pricing scales with your needs; it's inexpensive to get into at the low end ($250) and becomes more pricey when you needs get sophisticated (client/server or web services). It's not a cakewalk to learn, but the learning curve is worth it.
Good Luck;
Rob
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#3 User is offline   RonAnnArbor 

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Posted 19 January 2004 - 03:17 PM

I like Filemaker very much. On my old (PC) system, I used Microsoft Access, which I had migrated to after trying DBase, FoxPro, Lotus Approach...
When I switched, I hated the way Virtual PC worked with Access -- which it basically did NOT for my purposes.
I switched to FileMaker and I like it very much.
As to 4D, I am happy I did not change to that. The current issue of MacWorld (BRITISH EDITION WITH DISCS) includes a free full-version trial of 4D.
I installed it a week ago, played with it a day, and deleted it a few days ago.
FileMaker also comes with a gazillion add-ons and wizards that people have created over the years, which will make it very easy for you to use, upgrade, and set up the way that you like.
If nothing else, you can at least "test drive" 4D. MacWorld British Edition is handled here in the US by Barnes and Noble, Borders, and other large international magazine and book stores. You can give it a try.
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#4 User is offline   RobBrandt 

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Posted 19 January 2004 - 03:31 PM

In reply to:

The current issue of MacWorld (BRITISH EDITION WITH DISCS) includes a free full-version trial of 4D


... but of an old version. You can get test drive versions of both 4D and Omnis at their respective web sites. They are both fully enabled features-wise; 4D limits the number of methods, layouts and records you create, Omnis limits the number of records.
The latest version of 4D is the only one you should even consider for OSX; Omnis for OSX has been good quality for some years.
Filemaker is a great application, provided your needs aren't beyond it's reach. People have told me you can do pretty much anything you want with it. Then they go on to describe how much work it takes to get it to do something that Omnis does quite effortlessly, without add-ons.
Rob
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#5 User is offline   cilkay 

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Posted 19 January 2004 - 06:05 PM

I'll second what Rob has to say about Omnis. In 1988, I asked exactly the same question as the original poster and ended up at my local Apple dealer to check out what they had in stock. Back in those days, you had a reasonable chance of finding someone who knew what they were talking about since the margins were much higher and the dealers could afford to hire such people. Anyway, I had narrowed my choices down to: Helix, Foxbase Mac, 4D, and Omnis. I had obtained trial versions of all of them and had eliminated the first two before I went to the Apple dealer. Fortunately, there were two fellows who worked there, one of whom was a very adept 4D developer and the other a very adept Omnis developer, who were both very helpful. They characterized the differences like so:
"Omnis and 4D reflect their respective heritages. Omnis is British while 4D is French. The French language is very expressive and has flair while the English language can be equally expressive but simply does not have the flair. There is nothing one can do in Omnis that one cannot in 4D and vice versa but Omnis code tends to be more concise and more English like. Also, an Oxford mathematician designed Omnis while 4D was designed by a 17 year old. Consequently, 4D often shows its lack of sophistication when one encounters challenging business problems to solve with the tool."
The paraphrasing above is from 1988 but I believe it still holds true today, though I am sure that skilled 4D developers can work around the limitations of 4D, just as skilled Omnis developers can work around the limitations of Omnis. I settled on Omnis then because a cross platform (Windows and Mac OS) version of Omnis was around the corner and Omnis seemed more intuitive. I have not regretted the decision because as the Mac OS lost ground to Windows in the mid '90s, the apps that I had developed on Mac OS were completely portable to Windows and were redeployed with little to no changes. In fact, if code longevity counts for anything, and I think it should, Omnis would win by a landslide since Omnis code from the mid '80s can still run today on the latest operating systems. Granted, business rules change, programming paradigms change, etc. but, I prefer to decide when the code gets upgraded or rewritten than having that forced upon me by the vendor of the tool.
One of the things I have noticed with 4D is that in order to get any sort of performance, one has to use the 4D Server. 4D connectivity to other SQL back ends seems to be an afterthought. Omnis on the other hand, is quite agnostic about the back end, i.e. the place that one stores data. It ships with a simple database that is more than adequate for many uses but it also has native middleware for just about every major RDBMS on the market, like Oracle, Sybase, DB2, Informix, and a few smaller ones, like FrontBase and OpenBase, which are both very Mac friendly, and of course to anything that supports ODBC or in the next release, JDBC, connections. If you want to build portable, long-lived, robust business applications that look like a native application on the underlying OS, Omnis is a great choice.
I suggest you download the free Omnis Studio evaluation package from Omnis.net. It is not time bombed and I think the limitations are that it cannot use any of the SQL RDBMS products mentioned above and there are a limited number of records that one can store in the native Omnis database. Other than that, I believe, it is exactly like the Workgroup Edition of Omnis Studio so it will at least give you an idea of what the product is like.

There is an active and friendly developer community who hang out on the Omnis Developer List and several developer organized and sponsored conferences world wide for Omnis developers. The one in North America is called AmerOmnis and it will be held from March 27 to April 1, in London, Ontario, Canada this year. You can learn more about the conference and subscribe to the developer list server at AmerOmnis.com.
If you decide to go with Omnis, to get up to speed quickly with it, you should probably get some training. AmerOmnis is a good place to do that since some of the leading Omnis developers from around the world will be there so you can learn more in four days there than you can in six months on your own. David Swain's Omnis Studio Training sessions are a very good and thorough overview of Omnis so I would recommend that highly, especially for someone with no prior Omnis experience.
Disclosures: I am one of owners and list administrators of the developer list server and also one of the organizers of the AmerOmnis conference. I have never owned OMNS stock so the only vested interest I have in talking about Omnis, running a list server for Omnis developers, and underwriting and organizing conferences is from the standpoint of a long time, satisfied Omnis developer.
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#6 User is offline   frozentundra 

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Posted 20 January 2004 - 07:15 AM

While I am not a power user, I have been very happy with Filemaker over the years.
Just a point of interest a real powerful new version is on the horizon.
http://www.thinksecr...4filemaker.html
Version 7 promises to be a major league upgrade.
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#7 User is offline   leh3md 

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Posted 25 January 2004 - 07:06 PM

Thanks for the info. I had actually tried to use Omnis back in 1989 (version 3 I believe) and was not that successful before I gave up on it. I have learned a lot since then using Foxpro and I am willing to give it another try. Les
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#8 User is offline   RobBrandt 

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Posted 25 January 2004 - 08:56 PM

I only started using Omnis in '91 with Omnis 7, and by reputation Omnis 3 and Omnis 7 were completely different beasts. And I know that Omnis Studio is a completely different beast than Omnis 7. You may recognise Studio's heritage, but you would probably benefit by going into it with no pre-conceived notion of how it works. It's evolved substantially.
One thing I'd like to clarify for my original post: the target markets of Filemaker and Omnis are completely different. While many Omnis developers start out as end users writing something for their own use, it is clearly a professional level tool. While many Filemaker developers are professional developers, it is clearly positioned as a user level tool. Make your choice based on the intention of the project and your coding abilities/ambitions.
Rob
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