FileMaker 16 launches with improved tools for more advanced developers

FileMaker, a wholly owned subsidiary of Apple, is all about allowing non-developers to create line-of-business apps for Mac, Windows, iOS and the web. Increasingly, though, over the course of its last few releases, it also started to add more features for professional developers.

With the launch of FileMaker 16 today, the company is adding new features for both of these constituencies, though there is clearly a strong emphasis on offering better support for experienced developers with this release.

After more than 35 years on the market and with over a million active subscribers, the team behind FileMaker obviously knows a thing or two about what its users want and how to best present it to them. Its core market remains the small and medium business customer who uses it for small-scale projects. But that’s changing a bit, FileMaker’s director of platform evangelism Andrew LeCates tells me. “One of the interesting things that seems to be happening out there — even at the enterprise level — is that even pros are looking at low-code/no-code products.” He told me about the overall market for these kind of tools and added that he is enthusiastic to see competitors like Google and Microsoft are now paying attention to this category, too.

He doesn’t believe that supporting pro and citizen developers needs to be mutually exclusive. It’s always been true, after all, that in order to realize the full power of most low-code platforms, you had to go to the code sooner or later (and if they didn’t offer this, you’d inevitably end up being frustrated the moment you tried to break out of their constraints).

“We have decades of experience and we always believed in the idea of revealed power,” LeCates said. “We want to allow somebody to build in a graphical and declarative way, but if you are a pro, you can go deeper.”

He also noted that the company launched a lot of educational content over the course of the last year that helps put its citizen developers on the right path.

In FileMaker 16, some of the new features include better support for iBeacons and GPS locations, for example. That’s something the team originally launched with the last release, but now developers can build apps that also actively listen for beacons in the background (previously, you had to actively scan for them) and set up geofences. There is also improved support for signature capture, for example, as well as an improved printing solution for those customers that want to generate a receipt or invoice, for example.

But for the more advanced developers, there’s also now a REST API and developers will be able to access virtually any RESTful API using cUrl, for example. And FileMaker itself now offers a data API that exposes data from FileMaker apps in the standard JSON format. There is also now a data connector for integrating with Tableau. “A lot of pro developers will be able to tap into this and make magic pretty easily,” LeCates said.

Other new features include easier ways to make changes to complex layouts and support for declaring which animations you want to see in your final app (previously, there wasn’t really a way to customize them). There is also now support for OAuth 2.0, which enables users to integrate third-party authentication systems. Users can also sign in using their Amazon, Google and Microsoft Azure credentials.

The main message of this release is to give developers more control, as LeCates told me. With the last release, FileMaker also switched to an annual release cycle. That allows the company to not only respond a bit faster to market changes, but as LeCates noted, it also means that the company can now add some long-view features that tend to take a while to build. Many of the features that are launching in this release, for example, build on the infrastructure the team put in place with the last update.