Sunday, April 26, 2009

FMTouch – the closest thing to FileMaker for iPhone?

I’d been hoping FileMaker would do an iPhone version, like the one they did for the Palm.

They haven’t. This morning I decided on a whim to look if there was any rumor in the blogs I read. Google Reader search turned up an older post that led me to FMTouch - FileMaker Mobile Software for the iPhone and iPod touch.

They’re at version 1.35 now; it is supposed to work with FileMaker 8 – 10 (I’m on version 8; FM Inc hasn’t done anything of interest to me for a while – I’m only on v8 because OS X required an update).

Problem is, it’s $70, and there’s no “LITE” version to test with.

Other signs are not incredibly encouraging.

The App Store reviews are marginal; some of the more positive ones smell suspicious. The app is reasonably popular, but the vendor’s blog has been pretty quiet and the web site has been poorly maintained (ex. “A new updated user Guide will be available 9/12” and I don’t think they mean 9/12/09). The “tutorial” on sync is a screencast only. I can’t find any reviews from my usual trusted sources.

I’m tempted ... but it smells wrong. I’m going to see if FileMaker does anything when version 3.0 comes out.

Update 4/27/09: An FMTouch developer wrote in with a detailed response to this post. I'll update with an excerpt later, but for now see also an unrelated comment below.

So FMTouch is not "smelly" to me any more, and I'm even more tempted. They'd benefit enormously from a web site refresh and a "LITE" version that would serve as a "trial" app (since the app store doesn't support trial versions). I'm going to review the app store money-back guarantee procedure; maybe that will make it easier for me to pull the trigger.

Update 4/27/09b: The FMTouch developer posted a response in comments, and also wrote a less diplomatic response on the FMTouch blog (subsequently amended so it's quite diplomatic now). This is a passionate group of developers, and that's a good thing.

Update 4/27/09c: Six more passionate comments from happy users. Ok, Ok, I'll buy the damned thing tonight! Sheesh. Review to come in future. This was not one of my better posts!

11 comments:

aflgenx said...

Hey John,

Just a few notes on this:

1) This product functions a LOT better than any of the FileMaker Mobile versions ever did, manages to support a large chunk of the core FileMaker features and integrates quite nicely with the iPhone (for example it lets you take photos straight into container fields).

2) I'm a beta tester for this product and can say without a doubt that the development team addresses bugs and integrates new features very rapidly - the main limiting factor is how often the apple store let's them release the updates. I believe they've got a new release with some new goodies coming out in a few days, so you might want to check back then.

3) As for the reviews, i just took a look and they all seem pretty positive to me, but the only way you're really going to find out is to give it a shot yourself. That $70 investment could save you a lot of time and effort especially given that FMTouch is going cross platform to the Blackberry and Android platforms shortly.

Cheers.

Stephen Knight said...

John thank you for your post. I am one of the developers of FMTouch and I would like to clarify a few misstatements and questions.

* Yes FMTouch works with versions 8-10.

* There is no lite version. Very true and we did this so we could continue to develop and support a quality product. This price point enables us to create a superior product and to support our technical team to answer questions our customers may have. FMTouch is the same price point as FileMaker Mobile - and does much much more.

* App store reviews are marginal? 75 reviews with a 4 star rating? That is not marginal that is very difficult to achieve in the software industry! Plus only people that purchase the application can leave reviews.

* Yes our blog has been somewhat quiet - we have a very strong mailing list and we have been working more and more through email as it allows us to make sure everyone is contacted and informed. But yes we could certainly do better on the blogging end :)

* The user guide is indeed current - and has been updated - as well as numerous movies - a style-guide and other tutorials sent to our users.

* Syncing is available through a movie as well as via step-by-step directions in the users guide.

* We are releasing a new exciting version to the App store today for approval. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. We are developers that care about a quality product - that is heavily tested and customer focused.

In Kindness
Stephen Knight

Dan Weiss said...

I give the guys at fmwebschool HUGE props for making the effort they have - basically rebuilding FileMaker on the iPhone from scratch.

Is it a perfect product? No, but is it better then anything FileMaker has made for a mobile platform? Hands down yes.

I too have been a tester of this product, and the guys at FMWebschool have made huge strides on the product and are planning even more in the future.

I too encourage you to spend the $70 and understand the limitations and the power of the tool. You won't be disappointed.

Kevin Hammond said...

John, having an option like FMTouch is great for the FileMaker community.

1) You never mentioned your intentions for integrating FileMaker with the iPhone. Knowing what you want to do will lead to how to do it and whether FMTouch is a good fit.

2) The FMWebSchool team is in the process of rebuilding FileMaker on the iPhone and other mobile devices. They are adding new features and improving the product constantly. Buy it and try it, you will get free upgrades. A new version always seems to be around the corner.

3) I recommend you upgrade to the latest version of FileMaker. A number of great improvements have been made to the product. Since your using FileMaker 8, that is the last version that qualifies for upgrade pricing.

Kevin Hammond
FileMaker Business Alliance
FileMaker Certified Developer

Anonymous said...

Here's another positive comment about FMTouch.

I also used Filemaker Mobile on Palm for a few years and always dreamed that Filemaker would develop one for the iPhone. I was disappointed when they did not (an Apple owned company not developing for their own products? WTF?)

Anyway, when FMTouch was released, I decided to give it a try. I have developed an electronic medical record system for my practice and now with FMTouch, I have everything I need in my pocket. I honestly don't see how I lived without this for so long. I save time and effort with FMTouch and makes it worth significantly more than I paid for it.

As the previous poster stated, it is updated with features and fixes by a very responsive development team. Go FMWebSchool!!!

atom said...

I couldn't disagree more.

I'm a big fan of FMtouch. I have been a FileMaker user for years and have been waiting for a solution that would let me take my databases with me on the jobs (I'm an environmental consultant that now does all inspections on my Ipod using FMTouch). FileMaker mobile just didn't cut it because it was not relational and with other handheld database programs I had to recreate my databases from scratch.

FMTouch is a relational database program that works seamlessly with FileMaker. I have only had FMTouch for a few months, but it seems to me that they are always looking to make it a better product and add new features.

Kevin Becker said...

Personally I LOVE FMTouch. Even though it has some shortcomings at this time, it keeps getting better with each update that they roll out, and each update brings tons of improvements. Another update is coming soon from what I understand, depending on how fast Apple approves updates. And the updates they make are based on the features that YOU ask for. You have a direct line of communication between you and the FMTouch developers. You would never have that with a true FileMaker product.

If you develop your own databases in FileMaker, you will be thrilled at how fast and easy it is to develop for FMTouch. In the end you feel like you developed a true iPhone app, not a poor trimmed down version of a FileMaker database like FM Mobile felt to me.

If you don't develop your own databases in FileMaker, you can buy ready made solutions and unlocked templates from the FMTouch app store. Most are very low cost, and there is a growing community of developers, myself included, who are making custom apps for individuals and businesses.

The bottom line for me is that the $70 cost is well worth it. It allowed me to become an "iPhone app developer" overnight. So now if I need a unique database styled app for my iPhone, I make it myself instead of waiting for one to show up in the iPhone app store.

Eric said...

I've been using FM Touch for a while, now. It's work as expected, and I use it every day with quite a big database (all informations about the pupils and their family in the school I work in). The only thing missing (according to me): an easy way to build templates looking good on my iPhone. But I'm just a "basic" FileMaker user, and I'm sure advanced users know how to do so ;-)
Eric, Paris, France

Michal said...

Jump in John. FMTouch is built by a solid company committed to developing it as far as possible. We use it daily for a rather critical inventory with wireless synching to a big FM file and it's been stout and reliable. New features will allow us to do customer billing in the field and, as the owner of the business, I try not to waste my time going down dead-ends. I'm a fan and convinced this product will keep getting better... as FM itself has. Support is A+ too.

Michal

John Gordon said...

Mea culpa!

I give up.

I'll read the manual and if the sync looks at all plausible I'll buy the darned thing.

This was not one of my better posts!

Patricia said...

I have been working with the FMTouch for awhile. It is exciting because of the constant new features that Stephen and his group are willing to explore. Each version makes the product richer in features.
No software is perfect. But when they see a problem they are their to correct it. They provide wonderful support when you need it.
Yes, the site can be confusing but I find I am less on it because of the constant emails. They now have their own folder:)
The big question is does it work,do what is suppose to do, and is it worth the price. The is answer is an unqualified Yes.