Hi everyone, about 6 months ago I took a job as Technical Coordinator for a small nutrition education institution in Northern California. We currently use a fairly large and complex Filemaker Pro database to manage most of our info on students and other contacts. We have about 20,000 records, 15 or so active layouts (30 or so total) and several hundred database fields, including about 15-20 calculated fields. We use this database over our LAN as well as hosted to the outside world for remote use by our 2 other campuses.
We are soon to be embarking on a massive effort to move much of our business online. As part of that process we would very much like to sever our ties to running our own server for Filemaker, licensing Filemaker (we will need to pay for a costly upgrade soon if we want to expand to host more simultaneous users), and hopefully also end up with a greater ability to integrate our database with other parts of our business. We would like to work on automating a lot of things based on database info and changes.
To this end we are now looking at solutions for online databases and, more importantly, database management and front-ends. I know SQL can handle pretty much everything our Filemaker DB is doing as far as back-end storage is concerned. What we need - and what I am not yet aware of - is a replacement for the incredibly easy and powerful Filemaker Pro front end database manager and layout system. For those of you not familiar with Filemaker, it's basically like a more accessible version of Access.
The underlying structure is normal database fields, which are basically containers for data of a (possibly) specified type, or in some cases calculated values based on other fields. You enter data through fields, you can control how data is entered, data validation, etc. For our purposes it's also extremely important that there is powerful layout and visual formatting support. You can easily and fully control font, color, size, embossing, borders, text wrapping, draw boxes and lines, create buttons that lead to other layouts, etc, etc. For the low-end DB admin it's basically a dream come true. You can do many of the powerful things high-end DB's can do, but through a really simple interface.
So basically what we need is Filemaker but web-based and using SQL as the storage engine. This could be realized through any one of many different ways, but I know of none yet that is really an adequate solution. It may even be possible to make a local install of Filemaker interact with a remote SQL DB and use Filemaker as the front end - that would be great, but if that's possible to do well and seamlessly I'm not aware of it. Preferably we would find a tool that basically allowed everything Filemaker does, either totally online, or using a local management tool that interacted with the remote DB (like Drupal, or is it Plone?).
Is anyone aware of anything even remotely like this? If no such application exists it seems like there's probably a good market for it! I'll help fund development if someone wants to create it.
Basically combine an SQL management front end with a WYSIWYG web editor.
Any help is greatly appreciated and will be rewarded with credits!