Bento expands to iPad: Database for the masses, but sync needs attention
Bento 3, Filemaker’s easy-to-use but powerful database for Mac is one of my favourite applications. The integration with Mail, iCal, Address and iPhoto is slick and enables you to add extra fields to your records in those applications without affecting the underlying data. Your extras stay in Bento and allow you much more flexibility on data management. Now we’re told there’s an iPad version on the way to complement the iPhone Bento app that has been with us for twelve months or so.
Much as I like Bento, my big gripe concerns synchronisation. Unlike so many Mac programs and iPhone/Mac duos, Bento has very primitive syncing. You can share your databases with up to five other users on the same network; or you can sync your databases with your iPhone via local wifi. In my book “sharing” isn’t quite the same as syncing all the data. I’m now accustomed to applications that seamlessly sync data between my Macs and my iPhone. As far as I’m concerned, a program that syncs only via wifi or local network and needs to be told when to sync is useless.
I still use Bento for those tasks that only a database can manage. It’s easy to set up, easy to operate and is satisfyingly graphical. We’ve come a long way since I used to grapple with dBase II nearly thirty years ago on PCs, and Bento is a fine example of what is possible these days.
But please, Filemaker, get to grips with synchronisation. You are part of the Apple group and there really is no excuse for not introducing sync over MobileMe. Have a look at OmniFocus to see how it’s done: OF users are now totally used to finding their database up to date no matter which computer, or iPhone, they choose to work on.