Make Canoe my Homepage

New Bento 4 for iPad stands alone

- June 21st, 2012

 bento4_for_ipad_logo_wchicklet

Bento is a personal database application and often considered a baby brother to the legendary Filemaker Pro. But unlike the first version or even its big brother, the new Bento 4 for iPad, by FileMaker (they skipped 2 & 3) has been completely redesigned from the ground up. It now allows you to quickly and easily create your own little personal productivity apps right on the iPad, without the need to be tethered to your Mac.

Now we’re not talking games, but rather the opportunity to create your own customized apps like contact managers, project tracker to do list management, inventory – whatever you need to run your day, all right from within that 9.7” screen.

If starting from scratch seems daunting, no worries, Bento 4 for iPad ships with 25 ready-to-use mini-apps.  With a few taps you’ll get a ready to use database all you need to do is add your data.  At the risk of sounding like a late night infomercial, it gets better and there’s more. From right within Bento, you can go online and get more choices through Bento Template Exchange now available for iPad. There, you can get access to a plethora of other user created apps that are free for the taking. And should you create your own masterpiece, you can submit it and share it too with the rest of the world.

There’s even a Customer Management Template for Piano Tuners. Who knew?

 

bento exchange

The exchange is popular with already having had more than 1 million downloads and it’s expected that once this new release gets into the hands of more iPad users, that number will jump.

Bento 4 for iPad has 40 new built-in Retina-ready themes for all tastes ranging from renaissance to whimsical, holiday to business or just plain black and white. If you’re using Bento for Mac, no need to redesign or set your themes again as they will automatically sync back to your desktop’s app.

 

Full Design Capabilities

If you’ve used Bento before, the design tools have been significantly enhanced and ported over from the Mac version, allowing you full-form drag and drop design capabilities.  You can also stack forms and simply tab between them. You can add fields, move them, delete them, make them larger, change shading, colours, etc. right on the iPad, without having to do them on the Mac first.

EncryptedFields

Fields Galore

Fields are not limited to numbers and text; you can organize virtually any type of information – even things like ratings and checkboxes. Media fields can contain things like photos, audio – up to 40 minutes and video, up to 10MB. If you’re running iOS 5 or later you can even add voice memos and notes directly into your database using the built-in microphone.

The new version also brings in fields for calculations, GPS locations and password-protected encrypted fields to store sensitive personal information like Social Insurance Numbers to keep them secure from prying eyes.

 BentoSplit

Viewing Options

To view your data, the previous version pretty much restricted you to the form you created. The new version offers additional options for seeing and interacting with your data. While you can still see your data in a form, you now also have a table view which looks like a spreadsheet, a split screen view with full scrolling capabilities by swiping up and down or side to side as well as a full screen view to maximize the screen’s real estate. Of course, you can take advantage of the iPad’s portrait and landscape mode.

Interacting with your data has much improved. You can highlight search results and even sort on multiple fields. There’s even a slider to zip through those results. You can enter its calculation mode and as one example, get the average cost of a selected number of items you selected.

Another neat feature is the ability for apps to talk to each other. This is done through a related records field. So for example, if you were working within the project app, you can select that individual, link out to that person’s contact and even look up the tasks they need to do (another app).

This is best illustrated in Bento Business Organizer for iPad, one of the featured downloads from the free Bento Template Exchange. It houses To Do items, Projects, Contacts, Events, Tasks and Voice Memos all under one roof.

 

Data Import/Export Via Email

The nature of creating and running a standalone app also adds to its challenges. Databases or Libraries as they are called, cannot be exported although the data from within those can be – albeit in .csv format and only by email.

Importing has the same challenges although there is a provision for importing data from Apple’s Contact’s app and Address Book.  However you cannot sync directly with them.

 BentoSYNC

Syncing

Bento 4 for iPad can also be synchronized with Bento 4.1 for Mac by simply taping a button and entering a passcode. Both devices must be on. Once you sync for the first time, you’ll be able to make changes on either the Mac or iPad and changes will appear in both places. (If your database already exists on the Mac, better back it up first!)

While this setup seems ideal, it’s not 100%. Bento iCal events, tasks, address book and iPhoto libraries do not sync with Bento 4 for iPad. Furthermore both (or all) of your synced devices must reside on the same Wi-Fi or ad-hoc network. So if you leave your iPad at the office, your database at home will not be updated until they are together again.

 

Printing?

One more thing! There does not seem to be a way, unless I totally missed it, to print directly from Bento 4 for iPad. You can however sync and print it from the desktop version which kind of defeats the purpose.

 

Bottom Line

For a redesign from the ground up and despite a few quirks, Bento 4 for iPad is still a winner. For one, the ability to create and use an professional looking and useful app without a Mac makes it worth the price of admission. This is especially true given the number of people who are going iOS only.

Furthermore once you buy it, you can create an unlimited number of your own apps and select from the goldmine of freebies through the template exchange. With Bento 4 for iPad, there’s no reason you can’t be productive.

Something does need to be done about the printing. As well the folks at Bento need to look at something like the DocStorm app, which allows you to upload files from your PC or Mac via Wi-Fi. Plus, syncing over the net like DropBox, would certainly take Bento to the next level.

Bento 4 for iPad is ideal for the solopreneur or individual – someone who needs the power of a personal database but doesn’t have the need to a full fledged features of FileMaker or really doesn’t want to spend the time designing.

 

Pricing and availability

Bento 4 for iPad is available from the iTunes app store. Until July 31, you can purchase Bento 4 for iPad at the special introductory price of $4.99 ($9.99 after).  Bento for iPhone can be purchased for $4.99.

At that price, it pays for itself the first time you use it.

New users can also get Bento 4.1 for Mac at the special price of $29.99 until July 31, $20 off the regular price, ($49.99 after). Bento 4.1 for Mac is available as a free update and provides existing Bento 4 for Mac users compatibility with the new Bento 4 for iPad. Bento 4.1 for Mac is available on the Mac App Store and filemaker.com.

 

Greg Gazin is the Real Canadian Gadget Guy.

Follow me on Twitter @gadgetgreg or Empire Avenue (e)GADGET1.

 

Subscribe to the post

2 comments

  1. compounding interest | July 5, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Great article! That is the type of info that are meant to
    be shared across the web. Shame on Google for no longer positioning this publish upper!

    Come on over and visit my website . Thanks =)

  2. LP | January 9, 2013 at 11:13 am

    While Bento 4 for iPad seems on the whole to be an improvement, the lack of integration especially with the contacts on iPad is a major and critical drawback. I had been using the earlier version with great ease and effortlessly when it came to client management and other contacts related work for my business until version 4.

    The absence of integration in v. 4 is crippling in my context with 1117 contacts. With day to day updating and addition and deletions, it is impossible and impractical trying to keep the Bento 4 contacts current and up to date with my main list in contacts.

Leave a comment

 characters available