by James A. Martin

Bento Database App for iPad on Sale for $5 Until August

Jul 18, 20124 mins
Project Management ToolsTablets

FileMaker is offering its full-featured Bento 4 personal database tool for only $5 through the end of July. That's a great deal on an awesome (mostly) iPad app, according to blogger James A. Martin.

Not long ago, if someone offered you a full-featured database program from a leading software maker for $10, you might have looked for a “Sucker” sticker on your back—or you should have.

But today Bento 4 for iPad, which is indeed a complete, self-contained database application, costs just ten bucks. Even better, between now and July 31, FileMaker, Bento’s developer, is offering the iPad app for $5. (There’s a separate Bento app for iPhone and iPod touch that costs $5 but isn’t on sale; I didn’t test that app.)

Mind you, Bento 4 for iPad isn’t for corporate types. It’s a personal database tool for individuals and small-business users who spend a lot of time on their tablets. And for them, it’s an ideal app, despite a few minor drawbacks.

With the recently updated Bento 4 for iPad, you can easily drag and drop fields; sort them in multiple ways; switch between form, table, split and full-screen views; create encrypted fields (an excellent new feature for security-conscious users); and add calculation and GPS location fields.

The app includes 25 database templates to get you started. And if that’s not enough, a link within Bento 4 for iPad gets you to a FileMaker Web page, where you can browse and download additional Bento templates. However, I had issues with some of those templates, including the as “Get a Job” template, which I couldn’t import into the app. The reason, according to the error message I received, was that  “templates exported from Bento 3 or earlier are not supported.”

You can import data from Excel, Numbers or other spreadsheet programs, but doing so requires several steps. You must first export the data into CSV format and email the CSV file to yourself. Then, on your iPad, you have to open your email message, click to open the CSV file and then choose Bento as the app with which to open the file. If your Excel spreadsheet contains multiple worksheets, the CSV export will create a file for each worksheet. Each sheet must be imported into Bento separately.

Exporting a Bento database is a similar process accomplished via CSV export and emailing, but Bento 4 for iPad makes it extremely easy.

Bento 4 for iPad includes 40 new database themes, which are, in essence, color and font treatments. Unfortunately, you can’t set a default theme for all your new databases. Also, the theme you choose is only applied to the first form of a database, and a database may have multiple forms. I’d rather have the theme unilaterally applied to all the database’s forms.

Another nit: Bento’s search function is a bit weak. When I searched for “Andy” in my Contacts database, for example, Bento 4 for iPad’s search served up not only the Andys in my life, but also the Randys and Sandys.

You can sync Bento 4 for iPad files with the Bento Mac OS software application over a shared Wi-Fi connection. But unlike FileMaker Go 12 for iOS and FileMaker Pro 12 for Windows and Mac, Bento’s iPad app doesn’t rely upon its desktop software counterpart for any features. A few things are easier to do in the Mac version, however, such as renaming existing databases.

Even so, for many users I suspect Bento 4 for iPad will be a gateway drug to the Mac OS Bento program. Mac Bento is also a great piece of software, and it too is on sale through July 31 for $29 (down from $49). Though the Bento apps for iPad and Mac have some room for improvement, you’d be a sucker not to jump on either of them at these prices.