Bento for iPad: it is not Access, but still worth buying

Having recently purchased the wonderful iPad, I have found many uses for the device and, while browsing the App Store, I found apps that caused the proverbial light bulb to go off.  One such app is Bento.  Bento for iPad is the iPad incarnation of Filmaker’s Bento database for Mac.  Not having a Mac, but being familiar with Filemaker from my contracting days, I thought Bento would be a fantastic addition to my iPad and I immediately thought of several uses.  I put forth a question on Bento’s forum about getting the data out of the database on a Windows machine.  I got a response that indicated I could do so, so I purchased the database.  Alas, I should have dug deeper into the forums.  Turns out, the iPad version is severely limited.

bento1 First off, you do need Bento and a Mac in order to take advantage of the application as this is, currently, the only way to get new templates and, apparently, media other than photos (unless I am totally missing something here.)  Worse, you get lots of field types, but many seem to lack full functionality like the Media type field.  On Mac and iPhone, you can select photos, audio and video to embed in the field.  On iPad, you can only embed photos.  I found this out by searching the forum and finding a rather tersely worded response.  In fact, most answers I found said ‘this feature is currently not available on iPad.’  It seems as if iPad users who purchased Bento were nothing more than beta testers.

Still, as is, Bento is a useful product and the price is certainly right: $4.99.  bento2

Creating a database is simple. You can select from one of 25 built in templates and then modify that or your can create one from scratch.  You have a choice of about 15 or so field types, including text, date, time, numeric, media file, url and more.  To place a field, you drag the plus sign icon to your form, select the field type and give it a friendly name.  Depending of the field type, there may be more things to set, but they are all pretty simple.  There are three built in themes to pretty it all up: the Notebook, clipboard and the shiny black theme. 

It is clear that Bento is aimed at people who want to create small, simple databases.  For this purpose, Bento excels.   The breadth of field types will allow the ‘designer’ to create some fairly smart yet simple databases.

Bento uses SQLite so one should be able to get the data, once iTunes backs it up. The problem, as I have discovered, is that I don’t know where iTunes backs up the database files.  The directory that I found that says ‘backup’ does not appear to contain the Bento databases.  If they are there, they must be hidden in plain sight.  Or I am just stupid. Or a little of both.  I’m sure someone will happily let me know.

For five bucks, I should not have expected too much, but I do expect that certain expectations be met IF they imply certain things like a ‘media’ field that should allow more than photos be placed in it (other wise, rename the damned field to ‘photo’.)  At any rate, for five dollars, Bento is certainly worth buying.  It adds more value to iPad.

UPDATE:

Here is a list of differences between the iPad, iPhone and Mac versions of Bento.

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