Switching from Filemaker

As with others, the deprecation of Runtime and high cost of FM WebDirect/ Server means I have to consider switching.

  1. Aside from bigger learning curve, can XOJO do what Filemaker does in terms of GUI and database?

  2. Is XOJO practically cross platform to W, OSX, linux, iOS and via servers? I have read criticism that yes it’s cross platform but each software version needs a mass of tweaking that costs a lot of developer time.

  3. XOJO is proprietary. Along with not permitting user bug fixes/ user-driven development what’s to stop XOJO doing what Filemaker did? ie. suddenly deprecating features. I am cautious about committing years of learning to a product that ‘dumps me’.

  4. XOJO permits continued use of software beyond 1y license; but how long does that software work in practice with changing OS requirements? Eg. I’m still using MS Office 2011 because there’s no good reason to upgrade, can you get away with that in XOJO if new features aren’t required?


  1. Can Xojo do everything the FileMaker can? short answer: Yes, long Answer, Xojo is a programming language that supports databases, while Filemaker is a database that supports programming. So the approach is different, but the results can be transparent to the end user.

  2. Xojo offers support for macOS, Window, Linux on Desktop, and iOS for mobile… is it a 100% “write-once compile many” , no… but it is pretty close (with [my opinion here] the exception of iOS, which is far from a mature product]

  3. Xojo is “proprietary”… no more so than any other programming language on the planet. Could they do what FM did? Sure they could. Do I believe they ever would? Not if they wanted to remain in business. The other side of that coin is, even if they did, nothing would stop you from continuing to write programs using the last version of Xojo that fit your needs

  4. Again, no more or less than any other language. The biggest transtion is moving from 32bit to 64bit, and once that is fully realized , then I think you are as future proofed as possible. That is not to say that Apple/Microsoft could not force some requirement that might make things difficult. As to MS Office 2011, I too use that on my iMac… but it is a 32bit application, meaning that when (if) I upgrade to Mojave in the future… it will cease to operate. As of now, that is not an issue with/for Xojo.

Note : I am not employed, nor do I have a vested interest in Xojo, Inc. Just a developer that has been using the desktop product since 2006.

Welcome to Xojo.


In some circumstances it’s true. Lets say you target Mac, Win & Lin, you can create one application that will happily run on those platforms without any specific targeting needed. iOS is a different kettle of fish, but they’ve said they’re working to improve it. There are circumstances where you may want to write specific platform code, normally for more advanced control over the interface or if you want to sell your product in the Mac App Store for instance.

I understand exactly where you’re coming from, Xojo’s been pretty good (at least in my experience), there was a time when I felt that Xojo was too limited for what I wanted; I have since learned how to break out of Xojo and into the OS frameworks myself. We’ve lost some functionality over the years, such as an easy to use 3D environment, or movie editing functions. But neither of those are Xojo’s fault, both of those were using Apple tech, that Apple dropped. There have been other things, such as Xojo not adopting Apple tech quick enough and people complained, and Xojo added it.

Hopefully others can chime in here with their real world experience. IMHO the #1 reason as to why apps no longer work on new OSes, is dependent on what API they use and how the OS vendor considers 3rd Party developers. Apple changes their APIs quicker than they release new Mac hardware, if your application uses an API that’s now broken, boom. If your application uses an API that’s marked for deprecation, it will go boom. I have some apps that need updating once a year, and some that I haven’t touched since the last Mac Mini update (almost 4 years).

I keep up-to-date with my Xojo license, even if I don’t always adopt a new version of Xojo so quickly.

p.s. You can create Sandboxed applications with Xojo, which means you can now target the Mac App Store, if you feel so inclined.

Hi Stephen,

I’m not sure if my comments relate to your circumstances, but I’ll give you my view.

The last FileMaker version I used was (Dev6.0) 15 yrs old - or more. It was my main development tool - I created some great solutions with it and I “still” use it for simple solutions. You could also create “stand-alone” solutions with it - kiosk mode etc.

Where it fell down (for me) was not being able to create graphs or access the peripheral devices, ie. mouse co-ordinates, usb/serial data etc. I know that the latest version of FileMaker allows you to do more but likely requires expensive plugins to do so.

Xojo is not a database solution as such, but you can customise it to suit your needs. You can create a database, but not as easily as FileMaker. As Dave points out: Xojo is NOT a database application that you create solutions from - Xojo is a programming language where you can create a database solutions (if you want) - or many other solutions. It’s much more powerful than FileMaker IMO.

The Database side of Xojo is not obvious and you have to put some work into it. I think there are some plugins to make it easier.

As far as cost goes, then using Xojo is a no-brainer. You can download it, fully functional except for building a distributed application. Then you buy a license which is very price competitive. The application you create can always be used weather or not your license has expired. Thank God (or your preferred deity) that Xojo is not subscription based.

In regards to the “longevity” of Xojo - well who knows - but at least you can download it and check it out with no cost, then decide if it meets your needs.

as for the longevity of Xojo, you can open realbasic files, almost 20 years old, and recompile it with actuel xojo with almost no modification.
as Sam pointed out earlier, if your old program relies on external frameworks that have been abandonned (quicktime, etc)
then you have a lot of modifications, and sometimes it’s impossible to make it work.
but anytime this happened, it was (to what I recall) not xojo’s fault. more on apple.

if you like fancy GUI, then you will have to tweak it a lot between mac,win and linux to make it look like you want.
or rely on paid plug ins (which can dissapear of the market for some of them)
if you can use the build-in controls, or make your own based on the original ones, then your program can last a very long time.

you will have to learn OOP, and all it’s power. something filemaker doesn’t have.
once you master OOP, xojo becomes a very powerful language.
I used filemaker long long ago, then I used 4th dimension because I found filemaker language well non existent to be polite…
then I came to Xojo because of the non-oop features of 4th dimension (still sort of today, but not an oop language)
It took me some years (of part time work) to re-make 4th dimension and filemaker like tools in xojo.
now that I have them, it much much more powerful as you can suit them to your needs, something I could absolutely not do with 4th D or FM.

Just so you know, we try really hard not to deprecate things that we know people use. If we must deprecate, we try to give at least a year from the deprecation to the removal of a feature.

Thank you all for you advice and information. I think I might just be trying to learn OOP soon!

Just thought of 1 more related Q. A problem with FM is the cost of selling through v. costly hosting. Say I had XOJO apps A and B at sale price £10 and £100. I assume you can make Runtime and web-hosted apps, so:

  1. Do most people make a licensing mechanism within XOJO or rely on a website to do this and

  2. By the time any hosting cost has been deducted, how much of the £10 or £100 of these products might the developer reasonably expect to see?

Again, I ask this because the Filemaker/ Apple route appears v. expensive (once Runtimes disappear) and also v. controlled by Apple, which, yes, sometimes is good but relying on Corporate benevolence is unreliable!

  1. there are many ways to license you app… some do it them selves (such as I do), or others rely on various 3rd party plugins and/or websites… it all depends on your requirements

  2. For any webbased applications are YOU planning on hosting all of your customers? Or selling them the application and let them host (and therefore control their own data)? Otherwise you are really selling “software as a service”. Obviously this is not an issue for desktop/server based deployments.

I use Paddle to handle the transaction (they’re a UK based company), their cut is quite competitive and they handle all the various taxes for me. I then deal with the activation side of things myself. Upon completion of a sale, their system contacts my registration server (which is a Xojo web app) and it generates a serial number, which is passed back to Paddle and then onto the customer.

It’s not really that simple, there are a lot of variables in that equation. Hosting costs are relatively cheap, a couple of hundred bucks a year or so. Your cost per unit is of course going to go down the more units or subscribers you get.

Your biggest problem is going to be marketing, you really need to think about how people are going to find your product and what would make them part with their cash for it. I guess that’s two things, not one. The second is even easier than the first. Gone are the days when you could launch an cool application and sit back while the internet eats it up.

To be a bit more detailed in the my Q, I should say I’m considering moving from Filemaker to XOJO. I have no coding or XOJO experience as yet but I understand that X can do what Filemaker does. For my needs there would have to be a GUI run by dialogues, buttons, pop-up menus, contextual pop-up windows. Most of it’s function is as a calculation engine coupled to a relational database.

Before committing I’m trying to determine how much cost and dependence on 3rd party products (eg. GUI? Database?) will be required to get a XOJO app to market. Also, how vulnerable it is to arbitrary changes by companies (eg. Filemaker deprecated Runtimes 3y back cutting a swathe of developers routes to market).

it mainly depends on the complexity of the databases you’re planning to build.
how many relations between tables, will give you an (relative) idea of the time needed.
filemaker is very efficient for designing databases and gui, and completely dump when programing scripts.
xojo is a programming tool, with gui design capabilities, and multi databases access.
try to make the simplest database you’re actually using with filemaker, with xojo.
then you will understand your requirements for more complex databases.

Filemaker is awful in regards to interface. In Xojo you need to do everything yourself.

Dependency on code or plugins is a fact of life. There are built-in databases but many here use other databases like Valentina. Or use a plugin for database access (MBS).

Speaking about plugins you can factor the cost of the Monkeybread plugin into your purchase. Whatever you do you will need it sooner or later. If you have too much time you can do without the plugin. But in general it’s a huge timesaver. For instance, if there is a bug with accessing SQLite Christian will have a new plugin for you in a matter of hours.

I tend to disagree here… 99.99999% of what you need to do in regards to databases (SQLite, mySQL whatever) can be done without the need to purchase expensive plugins. That is my opinion (something that I am still entitled to)

Okay; so it’s a bit hard to put an exactly figure on what it will take, as there are simply many variables involved in this process. First lets start with what we do know.

Desktop applications.

  1. [Required] Xojo Desktop, so you can make Mac, Windows & Linux apps. $299.
  2. [Required] Apple code signing certificate, required so that your users can run your application without having to bypass security. Also includes one year MAS capability. $99 a year.
  3. [Optional] Hosting for a web site where customers can download or purchase outside of MAS. $250 a year. (Actually price can vary, but avoid cheap web hosting if you don’t want problems).
  4. [Optional] Payment processor for your site. No up front costs, but 5~10% transaction fee.

Total: $398 ~ $648.

Web applications.

  1. [Required] Xojo Web $299 or Xojo Professional allowing for desktop, web & mobile $699.
  2. [Required] Hosting with application support. $250 ~ $600 a year.
  3. Payment processor for handling charges. No up front costs, but 5~10% transaction fee.

Total: $549 ~ $1,299

Development time
I can’t help you with that one, as I can only go by how long it takes me, which is based upon how I build my application. My 1.0 versions, tend to be more like 5.0 versions, hence my development time is long, average is about 18 months for me to create what I’d call a premium application. Often the prototype to test an idea is done in 1~2 days.

I would suggest using a trial of Xojo, taking a weekend and follow some tutorials on how to create a simple database application. It is very different to FM. Ask lots of questions. I would be very surprised if by the end of the weekend, you’d hadn’t already learned enough about creating relational database applications in Xojo.

As for plug-ins or other code extensions, don’t worry about these for the time being. As you get more confident in building real applications, you’ll be wanting to add advanced things that Xojo doesn’t include in the box, but everything you need to build a database application to replace an FM application is already there.

Thank you all for info. I’ll do some testing.

As someone who is in the process of bailing out of FileMaker, I’ll add that you will need to consider your database needs, as well. We chose PostgreSQL and it’s working wonderfully. I’m sure MySQL would be fine, too. The point is, you’ll need to learn DB administration along with everything else. It’s a steep learning curve, but doable. We have successfully made the change and are in the process of replacing numerous FileMaker solutions with Xojo apps.

I will also suggest you take a look at Tim Dietrich’s Aloe Express and Hal Gumbert’s Xanadu solutions. We use them both and they have really speeded (and eased) our conversion to Xojo and PostgreSQL. Good luck.

Thanks Bill! So awesome for you to say!

Aloe & Xanadu Links:

Since the Xojo Dev Conference, I’ve been reworking Xanadu to use Aloe Templates which rock. That lead me to creating Zeus to generate Xanadu Modules which I hope to release ASAP. Here’s now Zeus works:
Zeus: Module Generator for Xanadu

As Bill mentioned, moving from FileMaker to Xojo can be done, but you must be ready to learn Xojo and discover your options with what Xojo can do. As other’s said, FileMaker is a database with a ‘language’ and Xojo is a language that can connect to a database. That’s really interesting because FileMaker locks you into their database for the most part, but with Xojo you can connect to just about anything. FileMaker makes creating database apps SUPER quick, but is SUPER expensive. With Xojo, you could essentially recreate FileMaker if you had the time… Xojo is a lower level tool than FileMaker.

In my opinion, using Xojo to create apps for every platform that Xojo targets isn’t ideal since Xojo uses native controls for each platform. A Desktop App, Web App, and iOS App each have a different ‘Text Field’ control which stinks for being able to create one app from one App Project. I think Xojo is working towards that goal where there would be a ‘Text Field’ control that could be shared between each platform, with the ability to have specific properties for each specific platform.

I’ve decided to focus on Web Apps to get around these issues since a Xojo Web App can run on all of Xojo’s current platform targets as well as Android and anything else with an HTML5 browser.

FileMaker deprecated Runtimes. FileMaker added the ‘FileMaker API’ which makes you pay for sending your own data thru the API on your own server on your own internet connection. I’d imagine that FileMaker XML Web Publishing will be deprecated too. FileMaker does not want hosting companies from hosting other peoples databases on their FileMaker Servers as they expect every persons database be hosted on its own server. Don’t get me started about FileMaker Annual Licensing which is essentially a rental. FileMaker makes their money by charging end users and is doing that via licensing and deprecations.

Xojo is completely different. Xojo is licensed to developers to create apps their own apps. That’s the way it’s been since v1. :slight_smile: When Xojo deprecates a feature, its probably not really used or replaced by something newer. That said, Xojo could do something wacky, but I don’t see that as a risk. One other thing. Xojo does charge per year, but you get to keep and use what you bought FOREVER as well as any updates that come out within that year. You could go and purchase Xojo right now and never pay for another year…

That depends on the timing of when you purchase. Mac OS, Windows, or iOS could make a change and you may need Xojo updated. An example of that is that soon we won’t be able to run 32bit apps on Mac OS. If you bought Xojo before they added 64bit you’d need to update.

Xojo staff, don’t read this part… Xojo is REALLY cheap compared to FileMaker. $700 per year for Xojo is about the cost of two copies of FileMaker Pro. For that, only two users could use those copies of FileMaker Pro but with Xojo could can develop and deploy as many apps as you desire! I update every year. :slight_smile: