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An appeal to FileMaker, Inc. on the eve of version 10

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It looks like a new version of Filemaker will be released very soon. Just like every other version, this one too is bound to have some new and exciting features. I'd like to take this opportunity to make an appeal to FileMaker, Inc.;)

We have had plenty of new and exciting features in the past. What we really need is for you to improve these existing features, so that we can use them to their full potential.

I have put together a few examples of what I mean:

Relationship Graph (v.7)

This was truly a revolutionary feature. However, as a visual tool it is hopelessly inadequate. It desperately needs improvements (such as orthogonal lines and multiple pages/layers) to make it truly usable with anything more than the simplest schema.

Multiple tables per file (v.7)

Another great new improvement, that led the way to ALMOST being able to separate the data from the logic. How about finishing the job and giving us a native "separation model"?

Record Commit (v.7)

This is a prime example of a great idea with a half-baked implementation. The option to set a layout not to commit changes automatically is great. The message "Do you want to save changes" one gets when accidentally clicking outside a field could easily be the most annoying thing ever invented. Must we really resort to such workarounds like placing a dummy web viewer in the layout's background just to get a decent edit/post scheme?

Web Viewer (v.8.5)

Unlike the other examples, this one was actually improved in v.9 (the data URL was extended to Windows). But without the ability to interact with Filemaker itself, the web viewer remains mostly just a layout ornament. We know this is possible, because there are plugins that provide this functionality - why can't it be a native feature?

Unicode support (v.7)

Another great feature that came up strong and got abandoned before being complete. How come OS X can include a mail application and a word processor, both with full Unicode implementation including bi-directional text, but in order to get Filemaker to support Czech, Polish, Turkish, Slovak, Romanian, Slovenian, Croatian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Latvian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew or one of the Indian languages, one must purchase (at a premium) a special version made by a third-party company? This is just not on in 2008.

XML Import/Export (v.6)

Probably one of the most powerful (and most under-utilized) features of Filemaker. Made a big splash when it was released in 2002. And what has happened to it since? Nothing, except FileMaker Server 8 Advanced being upgraded to provide support for EXSLT. Can you use EXSLT (or XSLT 1.1, not to mention XSLT 2.0) in Filemaker Pro 9? No, you're stuck with an old and buggy XSLT library (probably the same version as the one included in v.6). And this, mind you, is freely available open-source code.

These are only a few select examples. I have many more, but I do not want to turn this into a discussion about this feature or other. My point is much broader than that: I am speaking about a corporate culture. A culture of rushing new features out the door and forgetting about them the minute they're done (or half-done, as the case may be). A culture that allows known bugs to follow us around from version to version without being fixed.

This is an appeal to change this culture. To constantly monitor and improve the existing product, not just add more and more features to it. To release bug fixes - yes, even for older versions (look at Apple's continued support of Tiger - more than a year since the release of Leopard).

I am certainly not against new features being introduced. I could list a few badly needed ones myself. But I believe that the way things stand now, an investment in improvements could prove more beneficial, dollar for dollar, hour for hour, to the attractiveness of the product than more new features.

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Note to fellow forum members:

Please do not turn this into a "my wish-list" or a bug-report thread. This is not about any specific feature - it's about a general policy.

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Well looks like they are still heading in that direction...

FM10 officially released today.

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Hi John,

Agreed! Not one of the items mentioned above have been improved upon (that I can tell); only new features have been added. Look at their import/export dialogs. Oh correction ... they dropped a few old never-used extensions. But the poor design and use hasn't been improved upon and we've been complaining about it since vs. 5!

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On the bright side, version 7 is shaping up quite nicely... :P

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