Bento for iPad – App Review

FileMaker just released Bento for iPad and we wanted to give it a spring. We have been using the Mac version of Bento here at PadGadget to track new iPad applications and accessories and to schedule our editorial calendar. I was eager to try out Bento for the iPad to see how it would fit into our workflow and how it could enhance the way we operate.

When you first launch Bento, you’re presented with the home screen where you can create a new database or get a guided tour of the Bento app. Being the adventurous type, I jumped right in and opted to start using Bento without reading the manual or tutorial. The iPad version of Bento follows in the footsteps of the Mac and iPhone versions and was simple to learn and easy to start using within a few minutes.

After tapping the “Start using Bento” button you’re presented with a demo database so you can start playing with Bento’s many features. One of the first things that struck me, was the beautiful “real world” themes Bento uses for your database. The demo database was presented as a leather notebook complete with leather textures, stitching and paper. You have a choice of three built-in themes; leather notebook, clipboard or a modern stone look. FileMaker’s approach of using real world materials gives Bento a very polished feel.

Bento for iPad’s themes

Creating a new database is a snap. To get going quickly, you can choose from 25 pre-designed templates covering school, work, home and community. Once you’ve selected a template you can either get to work entering your data or you can customize the fields and layout to get a look and feel you like.

Bento’s template library

If you don’t want to use one of Bento’s pre-built templates, you can build a new database form scratch. Bento gives you 15 different field types to choose form including text, numeric, photos, ratings, check box and multi choice fields. Adding or editing fields is done with the touch of a finger, tap the edit button and then add, edit or rearrange the necessary fields.

Bento does a very nice job of handling a wide range of information you might want to store, including photos and movies. Adding photos from the iPad is straightforward; simply select a photo field in your database and a “Saved Photos” pop-up menu appears where you can select a photo from your iPad’s photo album.

We especially liked they way you can store e-mail and web addresses with Bento. One of my favorite features is the ability to browse a web link or send an e-mail without having to leave Bento, this is a great time saver for us here at PadGadget since we’re constantly tracking new iPad product introductions and maintaining correspondence with partners.

If you use Bento on your Mac, you’re going to love the wireless sync feature. Setting up the wireless sync is very intuitive. There is a menu option on the iPad to “Sync with a New Computer” and you follow a few easy steps and your Mac and iPad are now in sync. You can update the database copies at any time by selecting the “Sync Now” option from the iPad. Wireless sync is quick and much more convenient than having to drag out a USB cable to sync things with your Mac. We’d love to see more iPad apps follow Bento’s approach.

Bento is a great addition to the iPad and is one of the most polished apps we seen.  We’ve been a long time Bento user on the Mac and Bento for iPad is the perfect compliment.

What I liked: Great way to store, track and organize your information.  Slick design with a wide range of templates and themes.   The application works in both landscape and portrait modes and the wireless sync features with the Mac sets the bar for data sync on the iPad.

What I didn’t like: Lacks an undo command. No export options besides wireless syncing. Syncing only works with a Mac.

To buy or not to buy: If you’re a Mac owner with an iPad and want to organize or track your data, then Bento is one of the best apps out there and definitely worth $4.99.

  • App Name: Bento for iPad
  • Developer: FileMaker
  • Version: 1.0
  • Category: Productivity
  • Price: $4.99
  • Score:
  • About Bill: Contact me via Twitter: @PadGadgetBill

    • Charles Jenkins

      This review misses a fatal flaw: As far as I can tell, Bento for iPad has no UI for creating related tables. It is more of a list-manager program than a database program.

      A user who wants to manage lists can skip Bento entirely if he already has Numbers for iPad.

      A user who wants to manage an actual database with related tables should look at HanDBase for iPad instead.

      • Bill

        You’re correct that Bento is not a relational database. Bento is meant more for the the average consumer who needs to organize and track information. While Numbers certainly is an option, we think Bento is better suited to managing / tracking your data.

      • Matthew

        While Bento for iPad can not create related tables, Bento for Mac certainly can. And when Bento for Mac and Bento for iPad are synced, relationships between tables can be viewed (but not edited) on the iPad.

    • Sebastian

      Hm, I love Bento 3 on the Mac – I’ll certainly give it a try.

      Less than 2 weeks now…

    • Mr. Reeee

      Is it possible to build a Bento database from scratch, as I can do in FileMaker Pro? Or at least import data to a Bento database?

      I have a couple of simple databases in FMP that I’d love to transfer to Bento and carry with me on my iPad and iPod touch AND be able to sync back and forth with my Mac The iPad pretty much stays at home.

      Bento seems to more of a flat database than FMP.

      • Bill

        You can create a Bento database from scratch on the iPad. The best option for importing / exporting data is to have a copy of Bento on your Mac.

    • Cathy

      Is there a Bento “Grid View” available on the iPad? I’ve created a very cool student roster version that can double as an interactive seating chart with my Mac laptop, but I’d prefer to use my iPad.

    • Anonymous

      If you’re the sort that likes having data sync’d between devices you have to be aware they have refused to support any connection other than through their Mac app which means the real price is ten times more than the app store listing.

      And if you don’t have a Mac this app becomes useless.