- Pre-built libraries make getting started easy
- Poorly laid out forms
- Very limited sync options
FileMaker’s Bento for iPad is designed to help you organize all the parts of your life into one cohesive whole, in much the same way that a bento box can do for your lunch. As with a traditional bento box, there’s a place for everything, from contacts and expenses to projects and inventories.
Bento for iPad is $4.99 in the App Store, and can also synchronize with Bento on the Mac if you already have that application.
When you first start the application, you are presented with just a few options — start using the program, take a guided tour, learn about the desktop application for the Mac, or access the help file.
The guided tour is just one screen, highlighting some of the controls, and serving as just enough of a tutorial to get you going. Fortunately Bento also comes with several starter libraries, so after just a few moments to decide where you want to begin, you can get going immediately.
I choose to start with the Address Book, since the program automatically imported everything from the Contacts application on my iPad. Everything is there, but there really isn’t much improvement over the built-in app — and it’s all so spread out that I have to scroll quite a bit to get what I need, like an address or phone number. While this database might be handy for someone who wants to get every detail of their life into Bento, it doesn’t add much in the way of extra functionality, and contact photos aren’t carried over either.
The recipe library fares somewhat better, though I found it to be a little frustrating. It is laid out quite nicely, with large photos at the top of each entry, but if I want to see any of the relevant details, I have to first tap on the small arrows to the right of the field in order to expand the view. Adding my own recipes was simple, but if I made a mistake and chose the wrong photo, there was no way to go back and correct that mistake — I had to delete the record and start over again.
Features and Controls
Starting at the top of the screen, the Libraries button is what you’ll use to select from among your databases, while the next button (which looks like a bar graph turned on its side) is what you’ll use to view and change the settings for the current library.
Slightly to the right of center you’ll see numbers which will let you know what record you are currently viewing. Next you will find buttons to add a new record, add a new field, use the collections feature (which are like categories), delete the currently viewed record, and access the general settings for the app.
Like most iPad apps, everything is basically “point and touch” so when you want to change an existing data entry form, you just tap and hold for a bit for the options to come up. Then you’ll be presented with a new button bar at the top of the page, where you can add a new field or drag and drop an existing field to reorder things on the form.
Since all of the libraries are predefined, the fields that are most likely to be used are also all predefined, which can save quite a bit of time. If none of the available options suit your needs, you can create a new field from a list of fifteen different options. Each one is explained as you contemplate your selection, so you can choose the right one.
Existing fields can also be modified by tapping on the info button at the top right corner of each one, or deleted with a single tap on the round button icon just to the right of the info button.
Once all of your information is entered into Bento, you can browse through the various forms by swiping left and right on your screen. In landscape mode, you’ll see a list for the various entries, which allows for faster navigation. There are no reporting features, so there’s no real way to summarize or analyze your data.