FileMaker, Inc. has shipped FileMaker Pro 4.1 for Macintosh and Windows, the latest version of its flagship database product. The most important new feature in version 4.1 is the capability to import information from industry standard ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) data sources, enabling FileMaker users to use information served via products like Microsoft Access 97, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft SQL Server, or Oracle 7. Users can create SQL queries by pointing and clicking their way through FileMaker’s ODBC SQL Query Dialog, and experienced SQL users can enter SQL commands directly. Data from ODBC sources can be incorporated into an existing FileMaker database or used to create a new database on the fly. ODBC imports should be particularly useful for applying FileMaker’s extensive reporting and printing capabilities to information stored in high-end database systems. FileMaker Pro 4.1 also supports special features of database solutions created with the FileMaker Pro Developer Edition (including Kiosk mode, Help and About items, and renamed Script menus) and recognizes the new currency symbol for the euro (ECU).
FileMaker Pro 4.1 requires a Mac with System 7.1 or higher, a CD-ROM drive, and at least 8 MB of RAM (16 MB or more strongly recommended). FileMaker Pro 4.1 is priced at $199, with upgrades from previous versions of FileMaker (and a host of competing products including versions of Microsoft Access, 4th Dimension, and Corel Paradox) priced at $149. Although FileMaker is still inexpensive as database products go, the upgrade cost for version 4.1 is $50 higher than Claris charged for upgrades to FileMaker Pro 4.0. Also note that FileMaker Pro 4.1 requires ODBC drivers to import information from ODBC databases; it ships with 30-day trial versions of ODBC drivers from Intersolv, Inc. certified for use with FileMaker Pro 4.1. These drivers must be purchased separately to be used beyond the 30-day trial period; pricing is not clear, but Intersolv charges in the neighborhood of $750 apiece for its DataDirect drivers. Another option would be to use ODBC drivers from a different vendor, which should work in many cases even though they aren’t certified for use with FileMaker Pro 4.1. Frankly, unless you absolutely need ODBC access from FileMaker (and can’t use a third-party plug-in with FileMaker Pro 4), it’s difficult to recommend most FileMaker Pro 4 users upgrade to 4.1; instead, consider waiting for the anticipated bug-fix update to FileMaker Pro 4.0 that should be available from FileMaker Inc. in a few weeks.