FileMaker Pro is a cross-platform relational database application from FileMaker Inc. (a subsidiary of Apple Inc.). It is noted for the integration of the database engine with the GUI-based interface, which allows users to modify the database by dragging new elements into the layouts/screens/forms that provide the user interface. This results in a "quasi-object" development environment that sets it apart from other commercial databases.

FileMaker was one of a handful of database applications released for the Apple Macintosh in the 1980s.

FileMaker is available for both the Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems and can be networked simultaneously to a mixed Windows and Mac OS X user base. FileMaker is also scalable, being offered in desktop, server, and web-delivery configurations.


FileMaker began as a DOS-based product known as “Nutshell,” developed by Nashoba Systems of Concord, Massachusetts around 1982 or 1983. Nutshell was distributed by Leading Edge, an electronics marketer that had recently started selling PC-compatible computers and software.

With the introduction of the Macintosh, Nashoba combined the basic data engine with a new forms-based GUI, creating a program that was dramatically easier to use. Leading Edge was not interested in the product, preferring to remain a DOS-only vendor, and kept the Nutshell name. Nashoba found another distributor, Forethought Inc., and introduced it to the Mac market as “FileMaker.” When the Macintosh Plus was introduced, the next version of FileMaker was named “FileMaker Plus” to reflect the computer’s name.

Forethought Inc. was purchased by Microsoft, which was then introducing a series of products that are today the core of Microsoft Office. Microsoft had introduced its own database application, Microsoft File, shortly before FileMaker but it was outsold by FileMaker and was withdrawn from the market. Microsoft negotiated with Nashoba for the right to publish FileMaker, but Nashoba decided to self-publish “FileMaker 4”.

Shortly thereafter, Apple Computer formed Claris, a wholly owned subsidiary, to market software. Within months they had purchased Nashoba to round out their software suite. By that time, Leading Edge and Nutshell had faded from the marketplace because of competition from other DOS and later Windows platform database products. FileMaker, however, continued to succeed on the Macintosh platform.

Claris changed the name to “FileMaker II” in order to be compatible with the naming of their other products, such as MacWrite II, but the product was changed little from the last Nashoba version. Several seemingly randomly numbered minor versions followed, and things finally settled down with the release of “FileMaker Pro” 1.0 in 1990. At this point, FileMaker was still a Mac OS–only application.

A significant milestone in FileMaker’s history came with the release in September 1992 of a multiplatform version. Except for few platform-specific functionalities, a “solution” (as FileMaker Pro databases are called) looks and feels the same in Windows as on a Mac. This gave it a very strong position in the marketplace and continues to be one of its key advantages. The following version 3.0, released around 1995, was a significant upgrade with new relational and scripting features.

By 1995 FileMaker was the only strong-selling product in Claris’s lineup. In 1998, Apple moved development of some of the other Claris products in house, dropped most of the rest, and renamed Claris to “FileMaker, Inc.” to further develop and market FileMaker.

Version 4.0, introduced in 1997, added a plug-in architecture much like Photoshop, which provided for third-party developers to add various non-native functionalities to FileMaker. A bundled plug-in was the Web Companion, which allowed the database to act as a web server; other “plugs” add new features to the interface or allow FileMaker to act as an FTP client, perform external file operations, and send messages to remote FileMaker files over internet or intranet.

Since its emergence from the Apple fold, FileMaker Inc. has invested substantially in software development. Version 7 of FileMaker Pro, released in March 2004, supported file sizes of up to 8 terabytes (up from 2 gigabytes in previous versions). Individual fields could hold up to 2 gigabytes (up from 64 kilobytes in previous versions) and FileMaker’s relational model was enriched, offering multiple tables per file and a graphical relationship editor which displayed (and allowed manipulation of) related tables in a form which in some respects resembled the familiar “entity-relationship diagram” format. With this change, FileMaker Inc. also introduced a worldwide developer certification program in recognition of the growing numbers of professional developers working with FileMaker.

On August 29, 2005, FileMaker Inc. announced the FileMaker 8 product family.

FileMaker 8 offered the developer an expanded feature set. One feature is the tabbed interface, which allows the user to easily create a multi-tabbed layout. Script variables, tooltips, enhanced debug features, custom menus, and the ability to copy and paste entire tables and field definitions, scripts, and script steps within and between files all increase FileMaker's reputation as a rapid development environment.

Version 8.5, released July 10, 2006, added an integrated web viewer (the ability to directly view such things as shipment tracking information from Federal Express and Wikipedia entries) and Named Layout Objects.

FileMaker 9 was released on July 10, 2007. This update for Windows and Macintosh brought a quick start screen, conditional formatting, hyperlinked pointers into databases, and external SQL links.


A defining characteristic of FileMaker is that the database engine is integrated with the forms (screen, layouts, reports etc) used to access it. Most database systems separate these tasks, concerning themselves primarily with organization and storage of the data.

Until recently, each table of a FileMaker database system was stored as a separate file (with relational links to other files) and each file had its own built-in interface capabilities. Version 7 introduced the capability to build multiple tables into one document. Compared to other RDBMS products, it is fairly easy to develop quickly and to make changes on the fly as the data structure is altered. More complex systems may introduce some separation between interface and data files and FileMaker provides the flexibility to accommodate this.

A substantial body of professional FileMaker developers has grown up around the product and provides the expertise required for complex systems and implementations. A certification program was introduced by FileMaker Inc. in 2004 to provide differentiation of professionals in the field. FileMaker also provides an interface (API) for integration of third-party tools, making it highly extensible. In addition there are a variety of web publishing options suited to both low-end and larger scale project requirements.

Version history

Date Version Published by Comment
Apr. 1985 FileMaker, v1.0 Forethought Inc.
Oct. 1986 FileMaker Plus, v2.1
June 1988 FileMaker 4, v4 Nashoba Systems
Aug. 1988 FileMaker II, v 1.0
July 1989 FileMaker II, version 1.1v2
Oct. 1990 FileMaker Pro 1.0v1 Claris Corporation
Mar. 1991 FileMaker Pro 1.0v2
Apr. 1992 FileMaker Pro 1.0v3
Oct. 1992 FileMaker Pro 2.0v1 First Multi-platform (Macintosh and Windows) version
Nov. 1992 FileMaker Pro 2.0v2
Mar. 1993 FileMaker Pro 2.0v3
Apr. 1993 FileMaker Pro 2.0v4
Aug. 1993 FileMaker Pro 2.1v1
Feb. 1994 FileMaker Pro 2.1v2
July 1994 FileMaker Pro 2.1v3/SDK 2.1
July 1994 FileMaker Pro Server 2.0v
July 1994 FileMaker Pro SDK 2.1v1
Mar. 1995 FileMaker Pro Server 2.1v1
Dec. 1995 FileMaker Pro 3.0v1 Relational architecture, TCP/IP networking introduced
Jan. 1996 FileMaker Pro Server 3.0v1
Jan. 1996 FileMaker Pro 3.0v2
June 1996 FileMaker Pro 3.0v3
June 1996 FileMaker Pro 3.0v4
June 1996 FileMaker Pro SDK 3.0v1
Sep. 1997 FileMaker Pro 4.0v1 Plug-in architecture introduced
May. 1998 FileMaker Pro 4.0 Developer Edition Aimed at expert/professional FileMaker user
June 1999 FileMaker Pro 4.1v2 FileMaker, Inc.
Sep. 1999 FileMaker Pro 5.0v1
Nov. 1999 FileMaker Server 5.0v1
Apr 2001 FileMaker Pro 5.5v1 Built-in support for Mac OS X
July 2001 FileMaker Server 5.5v1
Sep. 2002 FileMaker Pro 6.0v1
Mar. 2004 FileMaker Pro 7.0v1 Multiple tables/file architecture introduced;
multiple windows;
entity relationship diagrams;
calc variables
May 2004 FileMaker Server 7.0v1
May 2004 FileMaker Pro 7.0v2
Sep. 2004 FileMaker Server 7.0v2
Oct. 2004 FileMaker Pro 7.0v3
Aug. 2005 FileMaker Pro 8.0v1 Scriptable creation of PDF reports; script variables
Aug. 2005 FileMaker Pro Advanced 8.0v1
Sep. 2005 FileMaker Server 8.0v1
Dec. 2005 FileMaker Pro 8.0v2
Dec. 2005 FileMaker Pro Advanced 8.0v2
Jan. 2006 FileMaker Server Advanced 8.0v1
Jan. 2006 FileMaker Mobile 8
Apr. 2006 FileMaker Pro 8.0v3
Apr. 2006 FileMaker Pro Advanced 8.0v3
Apr. 2006 FileMaker Server 8.0v3
Apr. 2006 FileMaker Server Advanced 8.0v3
July 2006 FileMaker Pro 8.5v1 Mac OS X Universal Binary Support;
Embedded browser (Web Viewer)
July 2006 FileMaker Pro Advanced 8.5v1 Mac OS X Universal Binary Support
July 2006 FileMaker Server 8.0v4 Mac OS X Universal Binary Support
Mar. 2007 FileMaker Pro Advanced 8.5v2 Windows Vista Support
July 2007 FileMaker 9 Native support for the SQL databases MS SQL, MySQL and Oracle.
Sep 2007 FileMaker Server & Server Advanced 9.0v2 Update Web Publishing Bug Fixes
Nov 2007 FileMaker & Filemaker Advanced 9.0v2 Update Bug Fixes
Dec 2007 FileMaker & Filemaker Advanced 9.0v3 Update Bug Fixes
Feb 2008 FileMaker Server & Server Advanced 9.0v3 Update Mac OS X Server 10.5 (Leopard) Support
Mar 2008 FileMaker Server and Server Advanced Update Bug Fixes

FileMaker files are compatible between Mac and Windows. File type extensions are

  • .fm since FileMaker Pro 2.0
  • .fp3 since FileMaker Pro 3.0
  • .fp5 since FileMaker Pro 5.0
  • .fp7 since FileMaker Pro 7.0, up to FileMaker Pro 9.0

Self running applications (runtime, kiosk mode) are platform specific only.

Internationalization and localization

Languages available

FileMaker is available in the following languages:

There are specific versions of FileMaker for Central European, Middle Eastern and Indian users. These versions are available from WinSoft , FileMaker’s Internationalization and localization partner.

Specific features for Central European languages

The Central EuropeanEnglish, Polish, Czech, Turkish versions are specifically developed for Central European languages.

FileMaker Pro 9 also includes the support of “cocoAspell” tool (Mac OS X interface for Aspell) from Mac OS 10.4.x for Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Slovenian, Croatian, Turkish, Estonian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian and Greek.

  • Sorting /Indexing options: Czech, Polish, Turkish, Estonian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Serbian, Bulgarian, are included in the sorting and indexing options.
  • Greek Mix Sorting: Greek users can choose either "Greek" or "Greek Mix" language sort option. Greek Mix option recognized Latin alphabet and sort it inside the Greek text.
  • Migration from previous FileMaker versions (prior to version 7): A specific conversion encoding option allows users of previous FileMaker versions (prior to version 7) to migrate their databases with ease and confidence. Users can work with FileMaker Pro 9Central European versions, with no risk of text incorrectly converted to Unicode.
  • Text import and export options: The user can choose to import or export text files in a non-roman text, according to his settings.

Specific features for Middle Eastern languages

The Middle EasternEnglish, French versions are specifically developed for Arabic and Hebrew languages.

  • Data entry, display and printing: Users can enter and display text in Arabic and Hebrew languages.
  • Localised templates: Templates are available in Arabic and Hebrew.
  • Instant Web Publishing: The Instant Web Publishing is available in Arabic and Hebrew.
  • Sorting /Indexing options: Arabic and Hebrew are included in the sorting and indexing options.
  • Mirror Layout: FileMaker Pro Middle Eastern versions propose a specific feature that allows users to switch in one click, the English Layout geometry (Left To Right oriented) to an Arabic or Hebrew one (Right To Left). This feature is directly in the Layout menu.
  • Diacritics and Ligatures: For Arabic users, ligatures and diacritics are totally supported when exporting the database in pdf format.

Specific features for Indian languages

The South East AsiaEnglish version is specifically developed for Indian languages.

  • Data entry, display and printing: Users can enter and display text in all Indian languages.
  • Sorting /Indexing options: Eight languages Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Panjabi, Gujarati, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, are included in the sorting and indexing options.
  • Digits: FileMaker allows you to use the right digits according to the language you have selected for a field.


FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Pro Advanced allow you to write and edit scripts for automation of common tasks and complex calculations: Over 130 “script steps” are available for navigation, conditional execution of script steps, editing records, controlling windows, finding specific records, checking spelling and managing user accounts. In addition, many of these script steps can use built-in functions for a variety of mathematical calculations, text manipulation and querying your database configuration.

FileMaker and SQL

Older versions

Older versions have also an ODBC interface, at least from FileMaker Pro 5.5 onwards. Here are the files that can be imported or exported from this version:

Application File extension Description
BASIC .BAS Import/export from/to Microsoft BASIC
ClarisWorks .CWK/.CWS Import or conversion from databases created in ClarisWorks.
Comma-separated Text .CSV/.TXT For import from/export to BASIC programs
DBF .DBF For import/export with dBASE III or dBASE IV.
DIF .DIF For import/export with spreadsheets (like MS Excel).
Microsoft Excel .XLS For import or conversion of Microsoft Excel data.
FileMaker Pro .FP5, .FP3, .FM Import from FileMaker Pro 3.0-5.0 and export to FileMaker Pro 5.
HTML Table .HTM Export for a web site in form of a relational database table.
ODBC For imports from other data sources, and to make FileMaker Pro a data accessible.
Tabbed text .TAB/.TXT Import or conversion from/export to most of the existing programs.
Lotus 1-2-3 .WK1/.WKS For data exchange with Lotus 1-2-3 & other spreadsheet applications.

FileMaker 9 and SQL

FileMaker 9 includes the ability to connect directly to a number of SQL databases, including MySQL, SQL Server, and Oracle. This requires installation of the SQL database ODBC driver and configuration of said ODBC driver (using the operating system’s ODBC manager) to connect to a SQL database. Once this is complete, SQL databases can then be used as data sources in FileMaker’s relationship graph, thus allowing the developer to create new layouts based on the SQL database; create, edit, and delete SQL records via FileMaker layouts and functions; and reference SQL fields in FileMaker calculations and script steps.


External links

  • FileMaker Inc. website, including Technical Knowledge Base
  • / CDML, CDML, FDML, html like mark up language for rapid deployment of FileMaker to the web.

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