FileMaker Inc. is hitting the delete key on Bento, its personal database app for iPhone, iPad and Mac. As of September 30, Bento will no longer be available, though it will be supported through July 30, 2014.
Bento is being phased out so FileMaker can focus on its flagship database product line, according to the company. It’s a shame, because I appreciate Bento’s ease-of-use and value—it's a good database program for just $5 (iPhone version) or $10 (for iPad).
FileMaker is offering Bento for Mac users a discounted upgrade to FileMaker Pro 12, its $299 Mac and Windows desktop software, for $179.
But Bento isn't your only option. Here are a few iOS database alternatives worth considering.
FileMaker Go 12
Unfortunately, you can’t do much with the free iOS apps unless you also have a license for the desktop version of FileMaker Pro 12 ($299) or FileMaker Pro 12 Advanced ($499) for Windows or Mac. Also, database sync between devices and programs isn’t natively supported. FileMaker says you can use a "custom development" as a workaround or email database files between your iOS device and the desktop software.
HanDBase has been around since the days of Palm's mobile OS. The app is similar to Bento in that its interface is nicely attuned to iOS and touchscreens, and you don’t need a desktop companion app. HanDBase also has a barcode-scanning feature, which could be useful for adding to product databases.
It’s only $10 for iPads, but you have to shell out another $10 for the iPhone version. Or you can just buy the iPhone app and view it magnified on your iPad. Use of the app's form-creation tool requires another $5 in-app purchase. Also, some App Store reviewers have complained about the lack of integration with iCloud, Dropbox or other cloud-syncing services.
Evernote’s popularity could be another reason for Bento's demise. Though it's technically an organization/note-taking app, many professionals use Evernote for much more, including basic databases, document collaboration and tracking online marketing campaigns.
Evernote is also everywhere: it’s free for iOS as well as for Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone, Windows 8 touch devices, Windows desktops and Macs. Lots of apps work with Evernote, too, thanks to a broad set of APIs. And it supports many languages.
Some advanced Evernnote features, including the ability to let other users edit your notebooks, cost $5 per month.
All three of the above options are worth a look. My advice: If you need a mobile database of some kind, give Evernote a try and see what you think. It's free. And you might not miss Bento after all.