Monthly Archives: April 2016

What is The FileMaker Go

images-25For a business of any size, having a custom iPhone or iPad app developed is an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. Typically a far more cost-effective, versatile, and efficient solution is to develop a custom database using FileMaker Pro 13 and then grant employees access to it from an iOS mobile device using the FileMaker Go app.

In fact, the latest editions of FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server, as well as the companion FileMaker Go app, work even more seamlessly together and can provide customized database management solutions to companies in a wide range of industries.

FileMaker’s main attraction, especially for small businesses, is the capability to quickly and inexpensively create highly customized and branded solutions for handing a diverse range of tasks.

To see a small sampling of what’s possible using the FileMaker platform in conjunction with the FileMaker Go app, FileMaker has created a demonstration website.

As you’ll discover, most tasks that previously involved completing or accessing information from paper-based forms, spreadsheet data, and/or that required any type of data collection can now easily be handled using a custom database created with FileMaker Pro and accessed using FileMaker Go.

Companies have implemented FileMaker-based solutions related to point-of-sale applications (that involve processing credit card payments and capturing signatures in the field); time management and scheduling; guest list management for events, sales and customer management; Customer Relationship Management (CRM); invoicing; inventory; asset management; resource scheduling; project management; time billing; and on-site job estimates.

Using FileMaker Go with an iOS mobile device enables information to be collected and shared from anywhere—whether it involves manually entering data using a mobile device’s touch screen and virtual keyboard, capturing signatures on the touch screen, taking photos using one of the mobile device’s built in cameras, or scanning barcodes.

The same FileMaker Go app can also access and display data from a centralized database, or present customized reports on an iPhone or iPad’s screen.

When FileMaker Go is used, everything is managed from a secure server, and the FileMaker platform offers total control over who has access to what data. As a result, it’s never before been so easy to automate a wide range of tasks and ensure that everyone in a company or on a team can access the precise information they need, when and where they need it.

It’s important to understand that there are countless stand-alone database applications available for the iPhone or iPad, as well as for Macs and PCs. Many of them offer some level of customizability, but this is often limited. Plus, each database on each device or platform typically needs to be managed separately, even though it’s often possible to sync data between devices and platforms.

FileMaker has changed this database management approach entirely, allowing for one database to be custom created and then securely accessed by PCs, Macs, and iOS mobile devices, or any web browser.

FileMaker, as a company, is a subsidiary of Apple. The FileMaker database platform has been around since 1998, and has sold more than 20 million copies worldwide for PCs and Macs. The latest edition of FileMaker Pro, which was released in December 2013, represents a major evolution in the platform, with greater emphasis on ease-of-use, flexible design, as well as mobile device and online integration.

FileMaker Pro 13 offers more than 50 new features, including major improvements to its database design tools that require far less training to use than ever before.

The ability to access FileMaker databases remotely using an iPhone or iPad has allowed companies to envision and implement entirely new ways in which this database platform can be used to collect and disseminate information. In fact, as of February 2014, more than one million copies of the FileMaker Go app have been downloaded from the App Store for use in conjunction with FileMaker Pro 13 and FileMaker Server.

Now, within just a few hours, any company can use FileMaker Pro 13 to create a customized database solution that will be fully compatible with PCs, Macs, and iOS mobile devices, and also be accessible online. Yet, all data remains encrypted and secure.

FileMaker Pro 13 continues to be a complex application that has a learning curve associated with it. However, a wide range of free and fee-based training materials  are readily available in book, online, and video form. Once a custom database solution is created, it can be accessed and used by anyone with ease and virtually no training.

FileMaker Pro 13 includes 16 predesigned templates that can be fully customized to meet a company’s most popular database-related needs. Using one of these templates speeds up the “getting started” process. However, someone who understands how to use the FileMaker platform can just as easily create a fully customized and highly complex database application from scratch using the latest collection of tools that’s offered.

Pre-existing data from a spreadsheet, contact management, or scheduling application, for example, can easily be imported into a FileMaker database, typically by using a drag-and-drop method. Manual data entry to populate a newly created database with pre-existing data is seldom necessary.

Using FileMaker’s built-in design tools, once data is imported into the FileMaker platform, customized solutions for displaying and working with the data, from a computer, an online-based FileMaker application, or an iOS mobile device (using the FileMaker Go app) is a straightforward task that’s literally as easy as filling out or reading a form.

A database’s custom fields can be set up to accept and manage text, numbers, dates, or other types of content, including photos, documents, or videos. This is done by creating a database form that takes just minutes to create using FileMaker’s intuitive drag-and-drop method.

A database form can be created so it’s accessible from computers and/or mobile devices, meaning that forms can easily be set up to accept touch-based interactions, as well as signature captures from an iPad, for example.

Once a custom database solution is created using FileMaker Pro 13, it can be uploaded to the cloud-based FileMaker Server, and become an online-based application that’s secure but accessible from anywhere.

The FileMaker Go app can then be used to access and manage the database from anywhere by using an iPhone or iPad. As new data is entered, the entire database gets updated instantly, so everyone is always working with the most up-to-date data, whether they’re sitting at their desk, working from home, visiting with clients, or working in the field.

Using FileMaker Is Extremely Affordable

The FileMaker platform is priced based on the number of users who will be using it. An individual FileMaker Pro 13 license is priced starting at $329.00 (although per-month pricing, starting at $9.00 per user, is available). This allows a database to be created and managed from a PC or Mac.

To add the online component and FileMaker Go compatibility, FileMaker Server 13 is required. Access is billed on a monthly basis, starting at $29.99 per month (for up to five users). The FileMaker Go app, which is used to work with existing databases (not for creating them), is available for free from the App Store.

The advantages when you use apps for Xbox One

Although Xbox One is first and foremost a gaming platform, the Xbox One interface can download and run apps in a manner similar to Windows 8. Not surprisingly, some of the apps for Xbox One are far more useful than others. As such, I wanted to write this article as a way of sharing what I find to be the five most useful Xbox One apps.

Skype

Skype is the app that I was most excited about, leading up to the release of Xbox One. Sure, Xbox One is a gaming console, but the idea of o using it to make video calls to friends and family seemed like a nice perk.

Xbox One is not the only platform from which you can run Skype, but it may be the best platform in certain situations. To show you what I mean, consider how I normally use Skype.

I work out of my home as a full-time technology writer. I have Skype installed on a PC in my office, and I use it to communicate with my international clients. (This is a handy way of avoiding the cost of international phone calls.) Of course, the really nice thing about Skype is that you aren’t just limited to placing voice calls; you can also do video calls.

Naturally, clients are not the only people that I ever talk to through Skype. I have friends and family in other states that I like to connect with face to face once in a while. Although I have historically made Skype calls to my friends and family from the PC in my office, I really don’t want to spend my leisure time in my office. Xbox One allows me to run Skype in a more relaxed setting, away from my office.

Some might be quick to point out that I could easily accomplish the same thing with a tablet or a laptop. The advantage that Xbox One has over those devices is its big screen. During the holidays for instance, the big screen television connected to my Xbox One makes it possible for a whole room full of people to enjoy a Skype call with family members who couldn’t make it into town.

Upload Studio

Although Skype was the app that I was most excited about, Upload Studio is probably the coolest Xbox One app. Xbox One has a built-in feature called the Game DVR that lets you capture video of your game play. Upload Studio lets you edit your raw game clips and upload them to the Internet.

I’ll concede that Upload Studio’s editing capabilities are nowhere near as extensive as that of a PC-based video editor. Even so, Upload Studio is still a lot of fun to use. The app lets you stitch together video clips, and you can even add voice overs.

The most fun editing feature found in Upload Studio is the skins. Skins add a fun introduction to your video and then display your video in a rather unique surrounding. For instance, the Pop Art skin adds an introduction that makes it look as if someone is flipping through a comic book. After a few pages, the video is played within one of the frames inside the comic book.

Machinima

The Machinima app is a tool that you can use to improve your gaming skills. The app offers gamers access to tips and tricks as they play a game. After installation, it is possible to say “Xbox Snap Machinima.” Doing so will allow Machinima to be displayed alongside your game. As such, you can watch related videos and see tips and tricks without ever leaving the game.

When released, Machinima originally provided video based help for Battlefield 4, Ryse: Son of Rome,Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Dead Rising 3. However, additional videos are expected to be available soon, and you can even earn Xbox One achievements for watching Machinima videos.

SkyDrive

As you would probably expect, the SkyDrive app provides access to SkyDrive through the Xbox One console. In case you are not familiar with SkyDrive, SkyDrive is Microsoft’s consumer grade cloud storage solution. Microsoft provides Xbox One users with 7 GB of free storage in the cloud.

So why is the SkyDrive app so useful on Xbox One? Well, there are two main reasons. First, if you use Upload Studio to create video clips of your game play, you can export the clips that you create to SkyDrive. This means that you can access the clips from a PC or from any other device that can connect to SkyDrive. Doing so allows you to edit the clips or just save them to local storage for safe keeping.

The other reason why SkyDrive is useful is because you can use it to access your personal data from the Xbox One console. For example, I recently uploaded some pictures to SkyDrive from one of my trips, and when I got home I used Xbox One to show the pictures to my wife.

Speech Tutorial

Speech Tutorial isn’t an app that you are likely to keep for long-term usage, but it is useful nonetheless. As you probably know, one of the main functions of Kinect is that it allows you to control your Xbox One by voice. Although this probably sounds simple enough, there are a surprisingly large number of commands available for use.

The Speech Tutorial app is designed to help you to learn what commands are available and how to properly use those commands. The Speech Tutorial walks you through the usage of various commands and occasionally tests your memory by giving you the occasional pop quiz.

Even though you can learn the voice commands without using the Speech Tutorial app, my experience has been that the Speech Tutorial definitely makes it easier to learn how to control the Xbox One by voice.

Conclusion

Admittedly, I had a tough time picking out five apps to write about. Because the Xbox One is brand new, there aren’t a huge number of apps in the app store. I also tried to avoid writing about apps that were too obvious such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Blue-ray Player, Xbox Video, and Audio CD. Although these apps are certainly useful, I wanted to write about apps that were a bit more unique.

Xbox One May Change Next Year

Even though Xbox One has been on the market for only a couple months, some are already speculating that the device may undergo a drastic change in 2015. Although I don’t claim to have a crystal ball that lets me gaze into the future, I do think that the Xbox One interface could be replaced by something very different by the end of next year.

Xbox One Is Designed to Be Updatable

Before I explain why I think that Xbox One has a radical transformation coming, I want to point out that Xbox One was designed from the beginning to be updatable. In fact, Microsoft has a long history of providing various types of patches for many of its products. Such patches are commonly designed to fix software bugs, but there have been numerous occasions in which Microsoft has used a software patch as a way of adding new features to its products.

There Are Things on the Xbox One That Need to Be Fixed

Some might be quick to point out that just because a product can be updated, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be. Even so, Engadget recently published an interview with Xbox chief product officer Marc Whitten . In that interview, Whitten hinted at a major update coming in the near future that will address some of the feedback that Microsoft has received about shortcomings in Xbox One’s social networking features.

If nothing else, this interview signals Microsoft’s intent to update Xbox, at least in the short term. However, I think that we can also expect new features to be added periodically. For example, I think that Xbox One could benefit tremendously from the addition of some notification mechanisms. For instance, I would like to see live tiles or status icons that indicate controller battery status and hard disk space remaining.

One Microsoft Might Turn Out to Be More Than a Marketing Slogan

It’s easy to make the case for a major update to Xbox One that adds functionality while correcting bugs and various shortcomings. In fact, I think that a major service update is inevitable and that it will come sometime in 2014, rather than 2015. However, there is reason to speculate that an even bigger update might be on the horizon.

July 2013, Microsoft made a rather lengthy announcement (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/press/2013/jul13/07-11onemicrosoft.aspx) regarding a corporate restructuring. The essence of the announcement was that the company would become “one Microsoft.”  In other words, the philosophy is to rally behind a single strategy as one company, as opposed to Microsoft’s past approach of having numerous different strategies that vary widely from one division to the next.

So what does this new philosophy have to do with Xbox One? Well, for one thing, Microsoft has rebranded itself as a devices and services company, and one of the things that it has been working toward is a unified experience across all of its devices. Recent commercials have even featured the tag line “one experience for everything in your life.”

So far, however, Microsoft has failed to deliver a single experience for everything. Although it’s true that Windows 8 PCs, Xbox One, Surface Tablets, and Windows Phone devices all use a similar interface, there are major differences in the end user experience from one device to the next. Even the apps that can run on the various devices are different from one another. Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Surface RT each use their own type of app that is supported only by that specific OS. For instance, you can’t run a true Windows 8 app on a Windows Phone, nor can you run a Surface RT app on an Xbox One device.

If Microsoft is to truly deliver on its visions of “one Microsoft” and “one experience for everything in your life,” it needs to achieve a higher level of consistency between its various devices. Even so, I think it’s too late for Microsoft to provide a true Windows 8 experience across devices. Such changes will have to come in the Windows 9 timeframe.

Microsoft is expected to announce Windows 9 at the Build conference in April. Although I have not seen any early Windows 9 code, Windows 9 is expected to be a radical departure from Windows 8. Microsoft (as well as most of the rest of the world) seems to have acknowledged that Windows 8 is a flop. It has also been said that Windows 9 is going to be a make-or-break release for Microsoft.

The thing that people seem to most strongly detest about Windows 8 is the user interface. That being the case, I think that it’s safe to say that Windows 9 will look very different from Windows 8. Given Microsoft’s unification strategy, I’m sure that the new operating system will also show up on Surface 3 devices and on Windows Phone 9.

But here’s the problem: Xbox devices have historically been released much less frequently than Windows operating systems, or even Windows Phone devices. In fact, in its 12-year history, there have been only three Xbox releases:

  • Xbox         November 15, 2001
  • Xbox 360     November 22, 2005
  • Xbox One     November 22, 2013

Given the previous Xbox Console release history, it seems highly unlikely that Microsoft is going to throw in the towel on Xbox One so soon after its release. Because Xbox One was designed from the beginning to be updatable, it seems far more likely that Microsoft will eventually apply a Windows 9 update to Xbox One.

So what can we expect from such an update? I think that the Home screen will probably look a lot different than it does now. I also think that Xbox One will become much more PC-like. I expect to see a much deeper level of SkyDrive integration, and perhaps even the ability to run mainstream Windows 9 apps.

At the same time, I also think that consumer editions of Windows 9 will become more Xbox-like. I don’t expect to play Xbox One games on desktop PCs, but I do think that Windows 9 desktops and tablets and Windows Phone devices will provide native access to things like Xbox video and Xbox Music.