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Airtable vs Filemaker: Which Database Platform is Right for You?

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Ryan Forrester
Sep 18th, 2023

A Comprehensive Comparison of Airtable vs Filemaker

FileMaker and Airtable are among the top choices for building bespoke, database-driven applications. FileMaker, with its long history and robust support community, stands out as a solid option for creating custom apps tailored to specific needs. Meanwhile, Airtable’s intuitive spreadsheet-like interface makes it especially accessible to those new to database projects. Another significant player in this space is Five, which offers tools for users to quickly build modern web applications, catering to both beginners and seasoned developers. Lets dive in!

Brief Overview of FileMaker

FileMaker is a renowned development environment developed by Claris. It’s a versatile low-code software development tool designed to simplify the creation of custom applications. Whether you’re automating manual processes, managing contact lists, tracking inventory, or organizing projects, FileMaker serves as a swift and reliable solution. The platform prides itself on speed and efficiency, enabling users to develop tailored applications in a fraction of the time it would take with traditional development methods.

Brief Overview of Airtable

Airtable is a relatively new yet robust player in the no-code development arena. Airtable has quickly made a name for itself as the ultimate tool to “organize anything, with anyone, from anywhere.” At its core, Airtable combines the simplicity of a spreadsheet with the power of a database, providing a grid-like view familiar to spreadsheet users while offering database functionalities. This cloud-based platform is celebrated for its ease of use, flexibility, and wide array of features, including customizable templates, API support, and advanced add-ons called “blocks.”

Brief Overview of Five

Five is rapid application development environment that enables tech-savvy users to build, test, and deploy modern, data-driven business applications.
Five comes with a built-in MySQL database or it can connect to any relational data source. Once connected to a data source, Five can be used to rapidly create user-friendly, bespoke web applications. One of Five’s biggest advantages are its auto-generated UI options, which make going from database to application extremely quick and easy.

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Ease of Use?

In the battle of usability between Airtable vs FileMaker, each platform showcases distinctive features designed to enhance the user experience.

User Interface & Experience in FileMaker

FileMaker offers a comprehensive and intuitive user interface that comes with a pixel-perfect UI builder and a visual database modeler. Its integration of databases, interface creation, and business logic into one tool makes it a versatile option for various use cases. FileMaker, with its comprehensive features and versatile applications, may initially seem daunting to new users, however with its robust community of developers and users, beginners will be able to grasp the platform.

User Interface & Experience in Airtable

Airtable, known for its spreadsheet-like interface, provides users with a familiar and straightforward experience. The grid view, reminiscent of traditional spreadsheets, coupled with advanced features like blocks and various view types, makes Airtable an accessible tool for organizing and managing data. Airtable’s design is aimed at simplification. The platform’s user-friendly nature is evident in its ease of customization and the availability of templates, making it a suitable choice for those seeking simplicity.

User Interface & Experience in Five

Five is modeled along the traditional software development process, incorporating database modeling, application logic, user interface creation, and deployment into one tool. Five assumes that its users have prior knowledge of relational databases, data structures, and logic. For anyone familiar with these topics, Five is an easy-to-use and highly intuitive tool.

Five’s offers several visual interfaces to simplify the application development process, such as a visual database modeler, a visual query builder and a visual, drag-and-drop logic builder. For more advanced developers, Five also offers a traditional code editor for SQL, JavaScript and TypeScript.

Moreover, Five offers a wealth of videos and tutorials, as well as a user community to ask questions.

Database and Spreadsheet Functionality

How FileMaker Balances Database Functionality

FileMaker is a cross-platform relational database application. It integrates a database engine with a graphical user interface (GUI) and security features FileMaker is a great solution for building custom database solutions for small to medium-scale systems.

As a database-driven solution, it is a solid option for all those who want to move away from spreadsheets and store their data in a more professional manner. FileMaker’s out-of-the-box database modeling features follow a standard relational approach and its visual table designer makes it easy to get an overview of the database, its tables, and relationships.

FileMaker can also be connected to existing databases using an ODBC connector.

Airtable: A Hybrid of Spreadsheet and Database

Airtable presents itself as a unique hybrid, combining the functionalities of both spreadsheets and databases. Its interface, resembling a spreadsheet, gives it a familiar feel, making it approachable and easy to adopt.

However, while Airtable offers a variety of database-like features, it does not provide a true relational database, which might limit its capabilities for more complex data relationships and structures.

Five: A Comprehensive Approach to Databases

Any application built with Five comes with its own fully-provisioned, dedicated MySQL database. What sets Five apart is its ability to connect to multiple external data sources, including relational databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, SQLite, and any RESTful API endpoint. This feature enables users to build applications that can send, transform, or extract data from a variety of sources, making it a versatile tool for data management.

Five is designed to facilitate the seamless building and querying of data, enabling the construction of charts, dashboards, and reports with ease.

Moreover, Five provides a visual database builder that simplifies the creation of MySQL databases. Users can visually create tables, fields, primary and foreign keys, and relationships, eliminating the need for spreadsheets and offering a scalable, purpose-built online database instead. The platform also supports SQL queries, allowing users to write SELECT, JOIN, and UNION statements or build queries visually using Five’s query builder.

Five stands out by providing a platform suitable for developing a wide variety of modern, data-driven applications. It caters to the needs of various industries by enabling the creation of customizable and scalable solutions, from content management systems to healthcare management applications.

Airtable vs Filemaker vs Five- Which Database Platform is Right for You?

Advanced Features: Blocks in Airtable vs FileMaker’s Extensions

Diving into the advanced features, Airtable offers Blocks, modular apps that extend the platform’s functionality. These Blocks allow users to add features like Pivot Tables, SMS sending, and mapping, enhancing the platform’s capabilities. In contrast, FileMaker provides Extensions, which offer additional functionalities and integration options. These Extensions enable users to enhance their applications and integrate with external platforms and applications.

Both FileMaker and Airtable come equipped with a range of features and capabilities, each catering to different user needs and applications. While FileMaker offers a comprehensive set of tools for custom application development, Airtable provides a unique and user-friendly platform with a variety of customization options. The advanced features available in both platforms further enhance their versatility and adaptability, making them suitable choices for a wide range of tasks and industries.

Pricing and Costs

Budget considerations play a crucial role in the Airtable vs FileMaker vs Five debate, with each platform offering varied pricing structures to cater to different user needs.

FeatureFileMaker EssentialsFileMaker StandardAirtable FreeAirtable Team ($20/month)Airtable Business ($45/month)Five FreeFive ($27.49/month)
Price (per user/month)US$21US$43US$0US$20US$45US$0US$27.49 (per app)
Billing CycleAnnuallyAnnuallyAnnually/MonthlyAnnually/MonthlyMonthly
User Limit5-105-99 (100+ contact sales)UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited
Apps/ Bases Limit3125UnlimitedUnlimitedUnlimited1 (development)1
Storage2 GB/user/year6 GB/user/year (upgradable)1 GB/base20 GB/base100 GB/baseLocal 3 GB/app
Records Limit1,000/base50,000/base125,000/baseUnlimitedUnlimited

With a free development option and deployment starting at $27.49 per month for unlimited end-users and a generous storage limit, Five emerges as the most cost-effective solution among FileMaker and Airtable.

Use Cases and Applications

When to Choose FileMaker: Ideal Scenarios

FileMaker is a versatile tool, ideal for a variety of scenarios. It excels in environments like corporations running departmental systems with complex business rules and significant integration with other systems and data sources. Medical institutions conducting research, engineering companies facing complex field data collection challenges, and educational institutions are among the many sectors that can benefit from FileMaker’s capabilities. With its ability to integrate database, interface creation, and business rules and logic in a single package, FileMaker is a go-to solution for small to medium scale systems.

When to Choose Airtable: Ideal Scenarios

Airtable stands out as the optimal choice in diverse situations, particularly for teams and individuals seeking a seamless blend of spreadsheet and database functionality. Its user-friendly interface, customizable templates, and integration capabilities make it a favorite for collaborative projects and workflow management. Whether you’re a freelancer managing projects, a small team collaborating on shared workflows, or a department in a larger organization needing advanced features and administration, Airtable offers a flexible and scalable solution.

When to Choose Five: Ideal Scenarios

While the comparison of Airtable vs FileMaker reveals the strengths of each, introducing Five provides users with an additional versatile and cost-effective solution. With its extensive flexibility, it is ideally suited for creating anything from Project Management Tools and Content Management Systems to Custom CRMs and Healthcare Management Systems. Its versatility makes it a great option for businesses across various industries, including real estate, healthcare, finance, marketing, and education. Whether you are looking to streamline internal processes with Employee Scheduling Software, optimize marketing strategies with a Digital Marketing Dashboard, or manage assets with a Property Management Software, Five offers a customizable and scalable solution.

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