by James A. Martin

Top 3 Bento Database Alternatives for iOS

Aug 05, 20133 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsiPhoneMobile Apps

Bento, the personal database for iPhone, iPad and Mac, isn't long for this world. But have no fear; blogger James A. Martin found three quality alternative databases for iOS.

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 beavailable, 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

FileMaker Go 12 is free on iPhones and iPads. And the apps have some cool features, including the ability to record audio and video, then add that multimedia to a database or play it back in the app. 

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.