When a new version of the FileMaker platform is released I immediately locate the “New Features” list to familiarise myself with the changes in the new version. When v0 was released recently I was a bit surprised when reading the list of new features – only 1 new function, 1 new script step, the new concealed edit box, some important changes to the Script Workspace, a swag of SSL certificate enhancements and a bunch of usability improvements.
These are all great new features – support for iBeacons and Touch ID on FileMaker Go, multiple undo in the Script Workspace/Specify Calculation dialog, being able to delete all records in a table immediately, and support for additional external ODBC data sources are all great additions and will allow developers to create some amazing solutions for our customers. I certainly look forward to using these in the future when a project requires these features – but it didn’t “feel” like there was a lot of new features we could start using immediately on all projects regardless of whether they were deployed using FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go or FileMaker WebDirect.
Another thing happened shortly after FileMaker v15 was released – I started getting notifications from the FileMaker Community letting me know that product issues that I had previously reported with FileMaker Pro/Go v14 had been fixed in v15 (here’s an example). I’ve been pretty good at reporting product issues as they arise via the official FileMaker Inc site over the years – often all you’ll hear back is that the issue has been confirmed and sent to Development for review, but at least I know that FileMaker Inc. are aware of the issue and it will hopefully be fixed in a future update.
After receiving over half a dozen of these notifications I started to wonder how many bugs were fixed in v15 and if there was a list of these. A quick look at the FileMaker Pro v15 Release Notes showed no list of bugs that were fixed in this release. FileMaker Inc. haven’t released a list of bug fixes for many years unfortunately – I remember back in the 2000’s getting a nice list of bug fixes with each new version of FileMaker Pro that was released. Knowing which bugs have been fixed is important to both developers and customers – we can remove workarounds that we put in place or we can release new features knowing they are now going to work in situations where they didn’t work before.
I then thought I would search the list of Product Issues for ones that had the same update as my notifications, e.g. “This issue has been addressed in FileMaker Pro 15”, “This issue has been addressed in FileMaker Go 15”, etc. A quick search of the FileMaker Product Issues for these patterns found over 150 matching results – a substantial number by any measure and an indication of the effort the FileMaker engineers have put into this new release. Whilst the list of new features isn’t as “meaty” as previous releases it’s great to see soo many bugs being fixed in one release – it would be great if there was an easier way to review these without having to do searches in the FileMaker Community.
Some developers will argue that FileMaker Inc. should have patched previous versions (e.g. v13, v14) as well and not force users to upgrade to get these “bug fixes”, and I have some sympathy with that argument. However you only have to look at the pattern for previous releases to know that FileMaker Inc. are generally going to roll bug fixes into a future version and have been encouraging customers to move to annual licensing so they immediately get any new releases every 12 months, along the lines of a subscription model.
The software industry has been moving towards the “software as a subscription” model for the past few years – looking at my own currently installed suite of software I now have a number of applications that I use on a subscription basis, including:
- Microsoft Office
- Adobe applications
- Xero (online accounting)
- various WordPress plugins/extensions
and no doubt that list will increase every year. Given the industry trend it’s not surprising to see FileMaker move towards an annual release/licensing model. Personally I would love to see “updates” released to the currently shipping version that fix these bugs (some of them are critical for certain deployments) more frequently, rather than having to wait 12 months for a new annual release. And an easier way to read the list of bug fixes.
I encourage everyone to go and read the list of issues that were addressed in the FileMaker v15 platform – it’s very likely you’ll see fixes to issues that you had encountered but didn’t realise were now fixed.