Review: Bento for iPhone

If you’re a Mac user who has searched for a user-friendly personal database application, no doubt you’ve come across Filemaker’s Bento. Bento is a great way to keep your personal data organized, and it integrates well with Address Book, iCal and Mail.

This week, Filemaker released Bento for iPhone and iPod Touch, which can function as a standalone application, or sync with the latest version of Bento for the desktop. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical of the idea of a database application on a smaller device such as the iPhone, so I decided to test it out for a couple of days to see if it was as usable as advertised.

My first impression was that it’s clear that Filemaker took great care in making Bento for iPhone as iPhone-like as possible. I’d almost say that it’s easier to use than its desktop counterpart. And, while it lacks some of the deeper functionality of the desktop version, what’s included is extremely simple to use.

As I browsed through Bento for iPhone’s default templates, I was delighted to find one for creating a home inventory, something that has been on my mind ever since reading Gary’s experience of losing everything in a fire.

Adding a new inventory item was intuitive, and about as quick as possible given the limitations of the iPhone keyboard. But, adding a photo was much easier than it could ever be on a desktop, because Bento for iPhone integrates core functionality such as the iPhone’s camera. You can also use data from Contacts, iCal, Maps, Mail and Safari. I found that it was faster to add the item name and photo on the iPhone, then sync with the desktop to add other information. I was able to add a few dozen items in a fairly short amount of time, and never encountered any problems syncing data.

Bento for iPhone will appeal to anyone who wants to stay organized and take their data with them. The portability makes it much more convenient for capturing many type of personal data. Whether you want to take your recipe collection with you while you shop, track the foods you eat during the day, or make sure you’re prepared with a home inventory.

Bento for iPhone is currently available for $4.99 through the iTunes App Store. It’s bit more expensive than the typical iPhone App, but for what it does I consider it a bargain.

4 Comments for “Review: Bento for iPhone”

  1. posted by Review: Bento for iPhone | Unclutterer | Electronics and Gadgets Review, Information, News and Sale on

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  2. posted by deb on

    This looks great for a home inventory. But would a person also need the desktop Bento application? I’m finding myself with too many specialized applications on my computer. Right now I need something that will handle a home inventory, receipt management, scanned OCRed management, manuals… whatever else! It needs to have an encryption option and the easy iphone entry would be frosting on the cake. Can I do that with just 1 Mac application (and an iphone add-on)?

  3. posted by Ed Eubanks on

    Deb–

    What you’re looking for is found with DevonThink. This application is an unstructured database, which means that you aren’t forced to use a pre-defined set of fields to corral your data– you can drop in PDFs, images, etc.

    So, think of it this way: you take a bunch of photos of a home inventory, drop them all in, and add names, descriptions, and meta-tags that give you the information you need; you scan a bunch of receipts and, using DevonThink’s linkage with your scanner, they automatically appear as text-searchable PDFs in your database. You scan (or download) the manuals for the appliances and other things you own, and drop them in as well.

    DevonThink is great as the one-stop database for collecting a large amount of vastly different kinds of data. There are other applications that lean in this direction (like Yojimbo) but don’t offer as much flexibility, or have other limitations. Still these might be a better fit, depending on the kinds of data you want to manage.

    Where these sorts of applications fail (and where something like Bento is so helpful) is when you have a large number of records that are nearly or exactly the same kinds of data. For example, I have a database in Bento where I keep a record of the content for a document that I create weekly: the order of worship for our church. I need to be able to cross-reference multiple records, and see when the last time we sang that hymn or said this prayer was, but also to work within the individual record extensively. DevonThink (and the others) don’t offer as much function in this sort of more traditional (and structured) database.

    If it would be helpful to you, I would be happy to offer you some informed suggestions on how to wrangle the data you’re trying to manage. Feel free to contact me: www. edeubanks.com.

  4. posted by Jackie Pettus on

    Downloadable personal database applications such as Bento are fine for unattached people who use an iPhone, iPod or MAC, but once you have a partner or family, the “game” changes. Your “personal” database includes a lot of data (insurance, banking, medical, etc.) that both partners need access to. Also, a big drawback to keeping info like the household inventory on an iPhone, iPod or computer is that these items can be lost, stolen, destroyed in a fire or natural disaster or malfunction just like the family TV! It’s better to keep important data stored securely online. Habitudes is a new web service that offers record-keepers, checklists and charts for families. Called “HabiTools”, current offerings include “Matters of Fact” (things the family should know), “Emergency Information”, “Do Due Done” (recurring household task calendar), “Whose Job Is It?” (family chore chart), and “Gifts” (gift planner and tracker). The beauty of Habitudes is that data is password protected, encrypted and stored on ultra-secure servers. It’s safeguarded yet able to be updated and accessed by either partner 24/7, whether they use a PC, MAC, iPhone, Blackberry or other smart phone. Record-keepers for Passwords and PINs and Household Inventory are in the works. For more information: http://www.habitudes.info.

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