Bento in Review – Manage Who You Are and What You Are. No Matter Where You Are.

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With the goal of keeping it “as easy to use as your Mac”, Bento is one of the best Mac-based personal organisation and database tools available from its creator, FileMaker Inc. It boasts such features as across the board synchronization with iCal, Mail, as well as all your files and photos. Inclusion of Excel or iWork spreadsheets and a pretty stylish set of included ready-to-use templates makes it itself extremely useful on its own. Now, with the release of Bento for iPhone, all your information will be easily accessible no matter where you are.

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Bento for the iPhone is really quite simple to use. Whether you are familiar with this type of software or not, the design is made to ease new users into the joy of using/maintaining databases of information, while allowing seasoned veterans a nice clean interface that they should have no problems managing and manipulating.

On first launch, you are brought to the New Library screen where you can select and create your database templates. Not wanting to pace themselves, Bento provides you with 25 different library templates to start with. Not enough for you? No problem! They also provide a “blank” template as well that you can fill with all sorts of field types (text, number, check boxes, rating, etc.).

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Once you select a library template (provided you aren’t creating your own from scratch) you are brought to that templates listings. Here you can view all the data that belongs to that library type in alphabetical order based on the field of your choosing. Also included are pre filled versions of that file type to give you an idea of what the entries will look like once you’ve started filling them out. From this main screen you can add items to a “collection”, effectively sorting them. Clicking on a title will bring up that entry and allow you to view/edit the info within.

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Once again, Bento steps up and allows you to edit fields, move/sort them however you want, as well as add any new fields you like.  For example, if you happen to like one type of template, but it’s missing a couple fields you want, rather than making a whole new one from scratch, you can just edit that template once you’ve installed it, add whatever you want, save it, and your done.

Another exciting feature is the complete integration of web/mail apps. If you have stored any email or web addresses clicking them from within the app will launch the app related to that info.

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After you’ve exited and returned to the Home screen you will see all the library types you have installed sorted in a itunes-esque coverflow style (you also have the option of viewing all the libraries in a simple list format). The first library you see is Address Book. Bento automatically scans and adds a library of all your contacts for you so that you don’t have to.

As you scroll through your library types you’ll notice the 2 icons to the side of the main viewing area, an edit icon and info icon. Selecting the edit icon will bring up a list of all your installed libraries where you have the option of deleting or renaming. The info button will cause the icon of the specific library you have in front of you to flip over (again just like itunes) showing you how many records are contained overall as well as how many entries are in each “collection” (if applicable).

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Searching within the app is incredibly easy. Selecting search from the nav bar at the bottom you enter in any term you are trying to match and it will crawl through all your libraries and show anything relevant to your search terms.

When it comes time to sync with your mac you simply press the sync button from the nav. On first setup, you connect it just like syncing your itunes with the remote app. Once connected on the same wifi network, you are provided a 4 digit code that you enter in the desktop Bento and click continue through the desktop. There’s also a help area provided should you run into any problems.

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In the end I think that this app could be used by anyone. The interface is not very difficult to pick up and once you’ve got it down the options for databases of information you can create and manage are almost limitless. Aside from a few minor inconveniences within the app, and the mac only desktop version of the software, this is definitely one of the better organizational tools available for any market today.

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App Summary
Title: Bento (Version 1.0.1) Developer: FileMaker Inc.
Price: $4.99 App Size: 5.8 MB
  • Easy to use interface
  • Almost limitless database abilities
  • 25 templates to start (plus ability to build your own)
  • Integrated mail/web app links
  • Scrolling in coverflow screen choppy if you’re too fast
  • Cannot edit a premade template without any entries
  • Mac only desktop version

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