FileMaker replacement

Since I wrote I have installed Panorama X Server and it makes so much nicer at a low cost. I just added the server software to the Mac mini running our 4D server. It is a different beast, everyone has a copy of the complete database and changes are synced from client to server to client(s).

Does anyone know if Provue is a one-man operation? Whilst I’m using TabForms (also one man I think) for a simple little project, I’m not sure I’d commit a larger project to a company with a ‘single point of failure’. I seem to recall a dozen or more years ago I received emails from Jim Rea directly when asking a few trial questions.

I must say his licensing scheme is innovative - if you don’t use the product for a month you don’t lose a credit.

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Whoa! Flashback to Lotus Notes. :slight_smile:

Yes, it is. Jim does everything himself. He’s great, and Panorama X is great, but don’t assume it will have the backing and longevity of an app with a multi-person company focused on the product. Then again, it’s not like larger companies are necessarily trustworthy in that regard, so you always have to think about how you would move forward if an app were to become stagnant.

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It’s lasted longer than apps from much bigger companies (as has Tap Forms)!

AppleWorks … cough, cough… Bento … cough, cough… Aperture … cough, cough…

Oh my. I can assure you that Panorama X is no Lotus Notes.

I had a quick dalliance with Lotus Notes years ago, I didn’t realize that each computer had the database and they synced.

To be fair, the DB could be replicated between servers, and between server and client, all configurable. In its day (early 1990s), local servers were extremely important (especially for geographically disperse clients), and its replication technology was really good. Many large enterprises also used it as an email system.

And to bring my reminiscence on-topic, the product (now “HCL Notes”) is still available for macOS! (Don’t consider that an endorsement.) :slight_smile:

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Well, it’s a few months after I bought TapForms and I thought I’d give a little update. It was going OK but I had trouble getting over some of the quirks of the interface. There was a time I deleted about a dozen rows in a related table when I thought I was hiding rows from a portal. I was able to restore them from a backup but the method is very strange.

The scripting, whilst reasonably readable for a language I don’t use, is a roadblock to rapid progress. I built an invoicing solution ‘parrot fashion’ but once it broke it took a few hours to try and work out where and why things weren’t working as expected.

Long story short, I think it’s a reasonable DB app at a pretty good price and if your requirements are fairly simple I think it’s a good option. However, once it starts getting to a largish, mullti-table solution it might become a bit trickier to manage.

So, a couple of weeks ago I wrote the same invoicing app in Filemaker. It took a couple of hours to get functional and probably 4 or 5 hours more to get it somewhat polished. It works well, feels comfortable, the interface is nicer (and far easier to build) and the scripting and reporting are simple for someone with a long history in FMP.

I have a single perpetual licence and will use it as long as possible. As much as I detest the idea, I can see going forward I’ll eventually have to enter the subscription world and keep it going. I could write an app from scratch but it would probably take 5 or 6 times as long and that investment in time would probably pay a few years subs.


Maybe eventually, but not yet. FileMaker still sells perpetual licenses. Still expensive, but there’s still no requirement to get a subscription if you don’t want one.

It’s not like Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of apps, where you have no choice if you want to run the current version.

I have FileMaker and prefer it for desktop use, but I wanted something to use on both desktop and mobile. The FileMaker solution for mobile was expensive and when I tried it, required a server or that the database reside on desktop or mobile, but not both. (I never could figure it out)

I am using TapForms which is new to learn, but syncs well and for my inventory project, seems to work well. I miss having more control over the forms, though.

I began using FileMaker around 2001. I developed a handful of databases for clients but in recent years I’ve just been using it for my invoicing system and for personal projects. This past fall it occurred to me that it might be time to move on. I was thinking in terms of future updates, cost, simplicity and easier access to data from multiple devices. I looked at several of the apps I’ve seen written about in this thread.

Ultimately I decided I’d like to learn more about Apple’s Numbers. I’ve used it a good bit over the years but thought I might try to make it work for my invoicing which was my main concern. I started exploring a couple of different possibilities and at some point in the process ended up looking online to answer a few questions when I found a video tutorial and example file at MacMost, a site I’d not heard of before. I liked the approach he was taking which was more advanced and all in a self contained, single file. I didn’t fully understand the techniques but downloaded it. I spent a couple days adding in data and tweaking a few things. After a few days I decided that this was the way to go.

It seems that invoicing is a common need so I thought I’d share a few things about why I decided to go this way.

  1. iCloud sync! I really wanted easy synching between my Mac and iPad. With FileMaker I was using FileMaker Go on the iPad most of the time and just copying that over to the Mac as a back-up. I rarely accessed the database from the Mac. I tend to do 90% of my computing on the iPad but wanted a more seamless sync for the times I do work on the Mac. iCloud makes this easy.
  2. This is 1 file, 3 sheets: Clients, consultations, invoice template. The flow is simple and efficient and perfect for my needs. Every client has a single row entry on the Client sheet with a client ID and relevant contact info. When I do a new task/consult I start with the client ID and then date, description, fee, etc. The invoice template sheet was easy to setup and when it’s time to send an invoice I just type in the client Id. The rest is autopopulated via lookup. I just manually increase the invoice number, add a date and description then just export a pdf for my records and email it. In this system the invoice sheet is really an invoice generator. The actual invoice that I save is a pdf.
  3. Of course it’s possible that Apple could stop updating Numbers or any other iWork app. I’m hopeful that at least for the foreseeable future we will continue to see support and updates. But for now I feel fairly comfortable knowing that the app is regularly updated, included on every device, easy to back-up and sync and export should I need to.

I settled into this new system within a few weeks and before the end of 2021. Interestingly one of my website/design clients who is also Mac-based asked me for advice on setting up a system for tracking/creating invoices and various other bits of data for his retreat which provides courses, lodging, etc. I’d just assumed he had a proper system in place as he’s been running his business for 20ish years. No, not so much. He’s made his patchwork reservation/invoicing system “work” for a long time but finally realized he was making too many mistakes and needed a fix.

In a couple of weeks I further modified and added new features and sheets to my base invoice to cover his more complicated needs. What I’ve learned is that Numbers is far more capable than I ever realized. I knew I was just scratching the surface of what can be done with this app and really, I’m still just dipping my toes in to what’s possible.

Obviously, it’s not a relational database and there are limits. But I find it is very enjoyable to use, fairly easy to learn as I go and has it’s above mentioned benefits. If anyone’s interested in my customized invoice I’d be happy to share via an iCloud file link… or follow the link above to the one provided by MacMost.


I worked along with the MacMost Numbers file for a week or so to take a look. It seemed to work OK but got a bit ugly when I needed to change a few things - caused mainly by me not fully understanding what he was doing with the hidden fields etc. I’d be interested to see your changes to see if they resolve some of the modifications I’d have made.

As a general aside, MacMost provides some excellent tutorial videos and is definitely worth subscribing to on YouTube. I too was surprised how powerful Numbers could be and he has some very illuminating videos on general Mac use - even for someone using Mac OS X since the beta.


Thank you for that case scenario and summary of your own efforts, Denny. I have wondered about the viability of Numbers for a while but never made the time to dive in too deep.

I am mostly in the camp of standalone FileMaker Pro user since before OSX. It worked great for tracking equipment inventory and myriad other things that never needed to be online or even relational. Why we don’t have a bare bones version resembling what AppleWorks had is beyond me. It can only come down to $$$.

Sidebar / rant …

The fact that Claris/FM is coded so that subsequent OSX/macOS updates break its basic functionality is inexcusable in many cases. FMP v12 was the last major file format change (.fp12), released in April 2012. macOS 10.13 High Sierra crashes FMP v12 if you open and close nearly any modal window including Preferences, or Search. Yet it does not crash if you Search from the tool bar, but then it crashes when you attempt to Sort that found set. FMP 12 also had stupid UI issues that could have been corrected or updated long before it was released, especially in light of the new file format (.fmp12).

While I used and appreciated what FMP was, I found these problems incomprehensible for a company that was directly tied to Apple and therefore should have had an inside track on upcoming changes and testing. AppleWorks is another example, although it mostly worked until OSX 10.7 pulled the plug on Rosetta. Sometimes it seems that some of the slowest adoption of Apple standards has been from Apple software products themselves.


Agreed, his tutorials are fantastic!

Here’s the file via iCloud.


I’m sorry to read about your experience. Mine has been very different. Maybe because I steadfastly refused to install High Sierra on my Macs (I never trusted it and still consider it inherently unstable).

Over the last 20 years or so, I have had to upgrade very infrequently:

  • I originally ran version 3 (1995) on a 68040 Mac, which ran Mac OS 7 and later 8.
  • When I got a PPC Mac, I upgraded to version 6 (2002). I could have kept on running v3 via 68K emulation (and I did for a while), but I wanted to upgrade to a version that natively supported Mac OS X. This Mac (a QuickSilver-2002) ran Mac OS X 10.2, 10.3, 10.4 and 10.5.
  • When I got my first Intel Macs (a 2011 mini server and a 2011 Air), it was running Mac OS X 10.7 and was therefore incompatible with PPC software, so I upgraded to version 11 (2010). I stopped upgrading this Mac at 10.12 (Sierra) and deliberately refused to install 10.13 (High Sierra). These Macs were quite successfully running Sierra until after Apple dropped support (and I’m actually still using the Air.)
  • And when I got my most recent Mac (a 2018 mini), it came preloaded with 10.15, having no support for 32-bit apps, so I upgraded to version 19 (2020). That Mac is what I’m using today (still on macOS 11 - I’m still waiting to upgrade to 12).

Although I hate being forced to upgrade, I don’t regret anything. I got a long run for every version (7 years at version 3, 8 years at version 6, >10 years at version 11.

Although Apple/Claris/FileMaker always said that the software was incompatible with OS versions they choose to not support, I never had any problems. Maybe I got lucky and never used the broken features, but I only upgraded when there were truly incompatible hardware/OS changes (68K-PPC, PPC-x86, x86-x86_64) and I never had any problems with it, even though their official statements said it was incompatible.

I expect my next upgrade to take place when I get a Mac that is incompatible with Intel apps. Which will be after I upgrade to an Apple Silicon Mac and after Apple drops Rosetta 2. I highly doubt the software will break before that point, and since I only replace my computers every 8-10 years, I’m not expecting any problems for quite some time.

My only gripe is that FM has become very expensive, with the elimination of the non-advanced version, but if I only have to pay it every 8-10 years, I’m OK with that.

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I should have clarified my rant to focus more on the last decade when macOS and FMP started this lockstep thing of the 3 years or 3 macOS versions cycle. And to be fair, many users get more years than “officially supported” from their own configurations.

I could open it in the browser but it wouldn’t open in Numbers. Seems odd as I have the newest Monterey version plus I use Numbers in iCloud without issue. Thank you anyway.

I have dealings with a company still running FMP3! There’s murmurs they want to move to the cloud and a local company has told them they’d run FMP 3 server in a VM on one of their servers. It would be absolutely ridiculous but I’m waiting for them to consult me before I give my opinion. It would be better to go FMP Cloud where they get the hosting AND access to the client apps for the one price.

Yeah, I think I still don’t quite understand how iCloud file sharing works! It seems that it’s not possible to simply share a file like one might do in Dropbox but rather just for collaboration. Well, should you or anyone else want to download and try, I also put it in Dropbox: Dropbox - Numbers Invoicing Template.numbers - Simplify your life

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Thanks again, I have it now but it will have to wait until tomorrow - it’s nearly 1am here and time for bed.

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