What is best between MSAccess, mysql or filemaker

I spent many years developing a robust database on MSAccess and now I have changed companies and need to start another.  A lot has changed in the 11 years since I started working with databases, but I don't know anything other than Access.  The database I need to build will be used entirely or primarily within our office with less than 6 users.  It would be great if I could create a limited interface usable on my iphone, but this is not at all necessary.

Filemaker issues: The reports will get fairly complicated by pulling from more than 15 tables and I have heard that filemaker may have some limitations with that.  I like to use comboboxes and listboxes a lot and I have heard filemaker has limited options with these.  

mysql: Is there a front-end development program that is similar to Access or possibly easier to use?  It seems like knowledge of php is necessary and I have heard it is fairly complicated.  I do not have any other programming knowledge as I was self taught on MSAccess and learned necessary coding primarily from this site and other online resources.
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Since you are asking the question in an Access forum, there is only one answer:)

MySQL does not belong in the list.  It is not an application development tool.  It is a relational database.  FileMaker is a fully integrated tool that includes a development platform AND a database engine.  I don't know if it can link to other RDBMS' but I think it can.  Access is also a fully integrated tool and I know it can link to other RDBMS' since almost all the apps I develop have SQL Server, Oracle, or DB2 back ends.  Only rarely do I actually use ACE to store data.

Access, the Rapid Application Development tool can be used with ANY relational database that offers an ODBC interface so if you want to develop the application with Access, you can choose to use MySQL to hold the data if that works better for you.

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Dave BaldwinFixer of ProblemsCommented:
The common SQL databases (MySQL, MS SQL, PostgreSQL, and Oracle) are servers and they do not come with 'front ends'  They all have admin programs of different types but those are not meant for a 'user interface'.  They are are designed so you can develop your own interface thru the web or on the desktop.
Dan CraciunIT ConsultantCommented:
If you only know Access, then that will be the easiest to use. No one is preventing you from using interfaces created with Access and MySQL as a back end. Just as long as you use something other than Access as back end for any large application.

That being said, the ERPs used by my clients are migrating now to web interfaces. Don't really know why, but I suspect that is the future, so I think it won't hurt if you learned some web development (basic HTML+CSS and php/ruby/python).

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Peter HarrisFileMaker Developer at CognitiveCommented:
Further to the other responses:

FileMaker has Windows, Mac and iOS (iPhone/iPad) client software so the database you develop can be easily used with the same interface on Mac or Win.

You can have custom layouts for different platforms - ie when an iPad user connects they can be taken to a purpose built layout perhaps with a simpler interface.

FileMaker has a proprietary server version for hosting the database for a group, with admin tools including backup, server scripts etc.

On layout controls and reporting:

FileMaker does have the usual user interface controls that can be used on layouts, they are generally read differently to how you might in Access.

The programming environment in FileMaker uses drag and drop scripting. There are calculation field types of course and custom function which are free form using FileMaker functions.

Complex reporting is possible in FileMaker, it may be implemented differently to what you are used to and may require learning different ways of setting up required table relationships and some work-around scripting.

Access has comprehensive programming using VBA.
snowbdrAuthor Commented:
PatHartman - I was posing the question here because people who have not used Access typically recommend staying away from all things Microsoft but there are a lot of people in this Access forum that have experience with various frontend options for mysql.  

Dan Craciun and PatHartman - I didn't know that you could use an access front end for a mysql database.  That may be the direction I take.  If I decide to make the database accessible online it will be far easier with the tables already in mysql.

Peter Harris - I'm intrigued by Filemaker because it seems like it's easy to create an app for my iphone with that, but I'll probably have to try it out for a bit to see if it can do what I want.  Looks like I'll have to experiment a bit.  

Does anyone have something they would recommend I use for developing a frontend for a mysql database?  I found this list, but it didn't give a recommendation and I'm sure there are others that may be better in the five years since this was published. http://www.databasejournal.com/features/mysql/article.php/3880961/Top-10-MySQL-GUI-Tools.htm
Gustav BrockCIOCommented:
Don't forget Microsoft SQL Server as the potential backend native to Access. The Express version is free to install and use, and the admin tool - the management studio - is superior. As you can distribute the Access Runtime for free, you can actually deliver a solution at zero software costs meaning that money -> your pocket.

A Filemaker setup may be quite expensive both initially and when distributing. If you are prepared to spend some money, I know some like Alpha Anywhere:


If I decide to make the database accessible online
If that is where you are going with this, Access is a poor choice.  Access web apps are wedded to SharePoint and are seriously limited in what they can do starting with no programming language support.  If you can't do it with a macro, you can't do it so be sure to carefully review the macro list before embarking on the Access Web app path.  Also, there is NO conversion from the standard client/server app to a web app.  It will be a complete rewrite, plus the Access web app since it is welded to SharePoint will only support Azure as the database.  It will not support MySQL

The propaganda (and we know how believable that is) for FileMaker says that the "same" app can be client/server or web with no changes.  I would investigate that very carefully.  Also FileMaker Pro requires a proprietary database server which isn't cheap and doesn't offer the free runtime that MS offers for Access.  So FM will be a more expensive path.
Chris StanyonWebDevCommented:
If you're really looking for the 'best' option, then consider decoupling your User Interface from your Data Layer - that's the proper, most robust way to do it, and gives you the flexibility to adapt to requirements later on, for example if your DataBase layer needs to be available online, or your User Interface needs to work on a completely different OS.

Keep them separate and you won't be 'locked in'. Also makes upgrades much easier.

And I would try and stay away from anything too 'proprietary'. If the company folds, or triples it's costs - you're screwed!
Dan CraciunIT ConsultantCommented:
decoupling your User Interface from your Data Layer
And that puts you straight into MVC terrain.
MVC is a very valuable paradigm to learn, albeit a bit difficult to grasp at the beginning.
Chris StanyonWebDevCommented:
^ absolutely Dan.

MVC / n-tier design etc - keep your layers separate and you'll build a much more robust solution.

They do take a little longer to get your head around, and certainly need some careful pre-planning before diving into code, but well worth the time and effort in my opinion :)
snowbdrAuthor Commented:
Gustav - I'll check that out.  However, this application will primarily be for use within my company.  Very few users.  If I make an app for my iphone it will just be for my use to access very few tables.

PatHartman - Thanks.  That's what I found out when we tried to take some of the last database online.  It was impossible.  

Chris and Dan - I'll look into that.  I always split the tables from the gui, but I'm leaning now toward making the tables with mysql and starting with an Access frontend.  I didn't realize that was possible before.  I think that will give me the most flexibility in the long run in case I want to make something for my iphone or accessible for clients in the future online.
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