Differences Between Excel & Filemaker Pro


Whether you want to manage your company's sales information or keep track of your household budget, using the right software tool for the job will help you work more effectively. Both the FileMaker Pro database program and Microsoft Excel spreadsheet software can be used for similar purposes. They both handle large amounts of data and are excellent for analyzing information. But each product has its own strengths. Here are some of the differences to help you choose the right software for the information you have to manage.

Spreadsheet vs. Database

  • A spreadsheet program is primarily designed for financial work and is modeled after paper bookkeeping ledgers with columns and rows. You can use a spreadsheet program like Excel to create accounting statements, time sheets and other forms containing numbers and calculations.

    A database is a collection of related information. With FileMaker Pro, you can link groups of related information, called "tables," to other groups. For example, your FileMaker Pro database can link your customer information to sales orders so you can easily see how many orders each customer has placed.


  • Each Excel workbook is laid out as a grid containing cells, columns and rows. Its design allows you to create lists of numbers or tables that can be quickly calculated by using formulas and worksheet functions.

    FileMaker allows you to design the layout of information by dragging and dropping fields on screen. You must define each field individually by type, format and length.


  • Consider how you want to search for and retrieve information when choosing between FileMaker and Excel.

    In FileMaker Find Mode, you enter search criteria into your fields. You can search a combination of fields, such as "restaurants" in "Los Angeles," and you can use Boolean operators like "and," "or" and "not."

    In Excel you are limited to the Microsoft Find command (Ctrl+F), which allows you to search for a single value or formula. You can also sort columns in ascending or descending order or use the Filter command to display only certain records.

Formulas and Scripts

  • Excel gives you many worksheet functions such as "sum," "count," "average" and "if" to do calculations on numbers and text. Calculations are entered as formulas in Excel cells.

    FileMaker gives you the ability to write scripts to manipulate your data. Scripts are small programming instructions designed to automate a task or small group of tasks, such as retrieving specific records and printing them. FileMaker provides a scripting tool that is easy to use so that you do not need to learn a programming language.


  • Security refers to the ability to limit access to all or parts of your data.

    In Excel, security is set by "protecting" cells and worksheets. Use cell protection when you want to restrict the editing of some cells but not others. For example, if you create a statement that calculates running totals, you can protect the formulas that calculate totals so these cannot be changed inadvertently.

    In FileMaker Pro, users are given "privileges" to fields and screens. Privileges are settings used to define who is allowed to view, add, update and delete data. You can set privileges in a FileMaker database, for example, so your customers can view product information and enter product reviews.

File Sharing

  • FileMaker Pro is designed to be shared on a network by many people at the same time. To do this efficiently, it locks only the record you are editing, preventing others from overwriting your changes, while allowing them to make changes to other records.

    Excel is designed to be used by one person at a time. When you are editing an Excel workbook on a network, Excel will lock the file to prevent others from changing it. Excel will allow read-only access to anyone else who attempts to access the file after you have opened it.

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  • Photo Credit "another look at the slab" is Copyrighted by Flickr user: blakespot (Blake Patterson) under the Creative Commons Attribution license.
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