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Recently we saw a public webinar, where Claris Inc. talked about their vision. While the vision is no announcement and all things are subject to change, I like to add a few points as context. And maybe this may help to cause change.
What we have for iOS
Current for iOS every user can go to the iOS App Store and download FileMaker Go application. It’s a stand alone app everyone can use locally with a FileMaker database downloaded somewhere. Like you find an interesting database, download the app and use it on the iOS device, e.g. to track your stuff.
If customers have a FileMaker Server with a solution, they can allow access, enter URL for the database on the server, enter credentials and connect to the solution. Easy to use. Admins in bigger companies can pre-install FileMaker Go on all devices in the company, so fmp:// URLs start working to open database right from links in emails or the browser.
For developers there is a FileMaker iOS SDK to download. This allows a developer to create a customized application for clients. Those apps can be branded with their own icon, own name and a custom start database. Distribution can be with App Store or without App Store, e.g. by Mobile Device Management. Beta version can be distributed via Test Flight.
If you like to use plugin functions on iOS, you can embed a plugin into the custom application. The plugin needs to be copied in the right folder, code signed by you and shipped with the application package.
By having both ways, Claris platform provides a lot of flexibility to create solutions and if needed, brand them. Your local database in FileMaker Go our your own app can connect to a server, you can provide updated versions of the local database and if needed even have clients connect to nearby servers if you have more than one.
For years clients asked for Android support. Last year Claris announced plans to support Android in the future. The recent webinar earlier in January mentioned, that they are partnering with LiveCode. No details are provided so far.
As of today you can visit the LiveCode website and check out the LCFM Native product. It basically allows you to use LiveCode’s software to convert your FileMaker database file to a LiveCode project. All layouts, scripts, calculations are translated and they cover a huge percentage of FileMakers features. LiveCode then builds an application for you to distribute to your users. Access is provided to FileMaker Server via Data API.
Since LiveCode supports other targets, you may also be able to let he converter produce an application for iOS or macOS, too. Technically possible would also be Windows. But as far as we know you are not able to edit the LiveCode project. Any change to your layouts is done in FileMaker and you convert the database again after each change. Since LiveCode translates, the Draco engine from Claris is not running on the device, so behavior of functions may be different. But you may get a local database within the solution, so you can work offline and sync later via Data API.
For a third party tool, this is phenomenal and certainly a great achievement!
What we may get
What I’d like to see for Android is the same as for iOS. A nice app from the App Store to load a local FileMaker database or to connect to a FileMaker Server and enjoy all the usual features. The SDK is a bonus, so we can rebrand it would be nice as well as plugins.
But what we may get is a Claris branded copy of LCFM Native application, which you can use to do the convert process and then distribute the final application. Since every FileMaker database would need to be converted, there would not be a ready to use FileMaker Go for Android app in the store, but you would have to build a custom app each time. A way for Claris to circumvent this could be that Claris offers an interface to transfer the whole solution as XML to the app and have layouts and scripts be converted on the fly.
Android is coming to the FileMaker world. That is good in general and anything coming is welcome. Clients are eager to use Android solutions with FileMaker beside Web Direct. We hope Claris will provide something closer to the iOS support. We look forward to future Vision webinars or the conference for an update.