Bento 4 for iPad

8/16/2012 3:36:32 PM

For your information

Bento 4 represents a complete rethink of FileMaker’s personal database app for iOS. No longer do you have to have Bento for Mac to use it: databases, called Libraries in Bento parlance - although confusingly also referred to by FileMaker as ‘personal productivity apps’ - can now be created on the iPad itself.

Description: You can view information as a Form or a Table, or a Split, which shows both of those together

You can view information as a Form or a Table, or a Split, which shows both of those together

There are 25 preformatted Library templates ranging from Exercise Log and Recipes to Vehicle Maintenance and Expense tracking. Lots more are available on the Bento Template Exchange, which is accessible from within the app.

Each Library can be customised using one of 40 available themes. Sadly, many of these have succumbed to Apple’s fondness for skeuomorphic user interfaces (we’re looking at you, fake hand-stitched Leather, and you, poorly rendered linen Cloth). A great deal of thought, care and effort has been put into this revamp, but seemingly none of it was spent on the theme designs.

There’s better news elsewhere. You can view information as a Form, Table or Split, which shows both Form and Table. Customising forms is easy, too. Tap on the pencil on the top right of the screen and then tap the field you want to edit. From there, you can rename it, hide or delete it, change the text size or background colour, or change the data source depending on the field type. You can also add objects such as text boxes, images and spacers, or new fields.

Description: Tap the field you want to add to a calculation in the Calculation Editor and choose your arithmetical operator in another field

Tap the field you want to add to a calculation in the Calculation Editor and choose your arithmetical operator in another field

There are three new field types in Bento 4. GPS location is handy, but Encrypted and Calculation are much more useful. The former enables you to store sensitive data such as credit card numbers and passwords securely, while the latter lets you combine the data from two or more fields in a calculation and display the result. The Calculation Editor is well thought out and easy to use. It displays a list of fields from the Library and allows you to view only those with specific types -for example, Number or Currency. You then tap the field you want to add to the calculation and then choose the appropriate arithmetical operator and another field.

Bento for iPad can also sync wirelessly with Bento 4.1 for Mac, allowing you to edit Libraries in one version and share the results with the other.

There’s plenty to like in Bento 4, but there are a couple of niggles. The first time you sync with the Mac version, it wipes everything on the iPad and substitutes it with data from the Mac. Tough luck if you’ve already created Libraries on the iPad. Also, while you can email data as a CSV from the iPad version, you can’t email the Library itself. And while Bento is supposed to allow you to sort on multiple fields, we found that applying sort to, say, Last Name followed by First Name just re-sorted the data, rather than sorting on both fields.

Description: Bento 4 for iPad

Bento’s biggest challenge might be persuading you that you need it. While it’s a powerful and remarkably friendly tool for collecting, processing, and viewing collections of data, there are so many excellent, inexpensive dedicated apps for, say inventory management or exercise logging, that many users will find it more productive and economical to opt for one or two of those instead. If the idea of creating your own personal databases on the iPad appeals, however, you’ll love Bento 4.


Price $4.75

From App Store

Pro Easy to create useful databases * Easy to manipulate data * Template exchange

Con First-time sync wipes iPad Libraries * Multiple sorting didn’t work as intended for us

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