I tried. I wanted to make this work, but the software and hardware does not seem to be there yet. When the iPad/FileMaker Go combo came out, I immediately wished that I could program FileMaker Pro on my favorite reclining device — an iPad tablet. It seems unlikely that FileMaker Inc., will add developer tools to the iPad or iPhone versions of FileMaker Go anytime soon. I decided to give the next best thing a try — a full version of FileMaker Pro Advanced running on a Windows 8 tablet.
Not wanting to spend too much money on the experiment, I chose the Asus Transformer tablet for around $400. It comes with a detachable keyboard. The keyboard turns out to be quite integral to the system—it is not a Bluetooth keyboard, and must be clicked into place in order to work. This means you can’t disconnect the keyboard and position the screen wherever you like, adjusting for comfort. It is all or nothing. Also the SD card slot is in the keyboard, not the tablet.
This usability complaint has been levelled by other reviewers at Windows 8. Everything is great in ‘TileWorld‘ as David Pogue calls it, but when you tap past the initial screen of colorful tiles, all the traditional Windows menus are the same size they were back in XP, Vista or Windows 7. They are very small and it is easy to tap the wrong item with big fingers. Strangely, a small square appears when you tap and hold on the screen. It seems like a magnifying glass should pop up at this point and allow more refined selection, but no such luck.
The first thing I tried was defining a field in FileMaker Pro. I managed to get through the tiny menus to select the Define Fields dialog box. I tapped into the Field Name definition area and was surprised to see no onscreen keyboard pop up.
Dude – Where is My Keyboard?
OK, perhaps it was just a FileMaker Pro issue, not making the Define Fields dialog be onscreen keyboard-aware, I thought I would try some data entry. Back in Browse Mode, I tapped into a field and nothing happened, no pop up onscreen keyboard appeared. On an iOS device, this is when the onscreen keyboard pops up ready for text entry. It seems that FileMaker Pro is unusable on a Windows 8 tablet at this stage of the game.
Turning the tablet sideways will cause the screen to redraw in the new orientation.
Unfortunately the FileMaker window doesn’t redraw the way it does in iOS. Presumably this is just a matter of time before FileMaker’s programmers add this capability, but for now it does not appear to be there. Doing the same thing on an iOS device causes a redraw and the database window fills the screen.
It seems like FileMaker needs to add another device type to their list in the Script definition screen. ‘Windows Tablet’ (or perhaps ‘Windows Touchscreen’) needs to be its own category for FileMaker Pro to really succeed on Windows 8.
With no ability to enter data or programming text into FileMaker on the Asus Transformer in tablet mode, I switched to trying it as a netbook. Unfortunately, with the keyboard attached, the screen angle is too low for my standard reclining productivity position. The little computer won’t open any further than what you see above.
Bad viewing angle
The net result is that the computer screen is almost unreadable from this angle — certainly not conducive to productivity, and annoying. This oversight makes me wonder if the engineers at Asus ever actually use their own computers, or if they all just have iPads.
Another complaint is the touchpad on the Transformer. Anyone who has used and grown to love Apple’s MacBook touchpads will be sorely disappointed by the one from Asus. It is slow and unresponsive. Usability of the Transformer drops even further.
Three strikes and you are out little Windows 8 tablet:
- lousy ergonomics from Asus,
- tiny menus and buttons from Microsoft in Windows 8 once you leave ‘TileWorld’,
- the lack of orientation awareness, an onscreen keyboard capability and device support from FileMaker Pro.
I wanted to like you — you looked so sweet on the rack, but back to Best Buy you go — I tried. Sigh, maybe next year….