MacWorld has a short but good review of FileMaker 9 out already. Since I haven't written my own thoughts yet, I thought it would be helpful to point you to this in the meantime.
Well written. Friendly to FileMaker by someone who seems to know it well. The author, William Porter, is an independent database developer and writer in Dallas. William is the founder of Polytrope LLC and is a classics scholar with a penchant for FileMaker. Sounds like a neat guy. I hope we can meet up at the Developer's Conference this year.
FileMaker 9 can, by itself, serve to up to 9 FileMaker clients (without using FileMaker Server). The previous limit was 5. It used to be 10 before FileMaker 7. That's a nice thing when a client is trying to get started and wants to cut some corners temporarily to get in the game.
There's a cool PHP Site Assistant feature now. FileMaker 9 still has instant web publishing and custom web publishing but now FileMaker Server 9 gives us an intermediate option - a PHP site creation tool that is extendable. Instant Web Publishing is fantastic as far as it goes, but it has a fairly low ceiling. If you need something else, you are stuck. But, the easy PHP stuff here can be programmed additionally to handle extras and exceptional situations. I will be brushing up on my PHP pronto because of this tool that gives you a jump start.
FileMaker Server 9 and Server 9 Advanced are much easier to install. I rarely install FileMaker Server, but I do know my customers have frequently gotten stuck trying to get it up and running. I always attributed it to short attention spans and unwillingness to crack up the documentation, but, the new versions apparently can be installed in around 20 minutes, William, says.
FileMaker 9 should in almost all cases be compatible with FileMaker 7, 8 and 8.5 databases. William says: “it's reassuring to know that upgrading to FileMaker 9 is not going to break anything”. This means you can operate with some users on one version and some on another but remember that if a feature is Filemaker 9-specific, it won't work in earlier versions. That's the reason to consider a maintenance contract so you can just put a maintenance payment into your annual software budget to keep your software current.
You can now easily create interactions between FileMaker databases and the big iron SQL databases. FileMaker 9 can talk to MySQL, MS SQL and Oracle databases. That covers most of what's out there. This will be helpful when you want to connect to web-based databases which are often MySQL or corporate databases that typically use Oracle or MS SQL.
You can combine filemaker reports into one PDF. This is practically my favorite new feature. Now I can create a single invoice pdf that actually involves three different pieces such as a cover page, a middle detail piece and terms. Very handy. Previously, you had to resort to buying and integrating an external plug-in to get this functionality.
William promises a more extensive review for MacWorld.com. This initial review was technically called a “first look”.