Bento

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Recently we’ve seen a huge wave of applications released to help us manage information in a database. You can get apps suited to a niche market, such as small businesses or media collections. However, Bento, available on the Mac, iPhone and iPad, takes a different approach, instead relying on custom templates so that you can mould the app to suit your requirements.

Bento is packed full of different features. It’s fantastic how you can manage lots of different types of files such as pictures, text, videos or contacts. You can set up libraries, which are the individual databases. You can then choose whether to use a template or make you own, as you then proceed to input the data. It’s nice how it’s integrated with address book, but unlike in other apps, it’s nice how you aren’t forced to use it. Searching is in each of the apps, and works really well, with additional platform specific features such as  password protection on the Mac, or web browsing on the iPad. The design is really good, with different changes on each platform to suit each one, which keeps everyone working as well as they possibly can. Especially on the iPad, it’s ideal to switch to portrait view just to look at the data. In the future, I can see this as the default app to replace a pen and paper for questionnaires.

Some similar apps can be incredibly hard to use, especially when it comes to the more advanced features. In Bento, it’s the opposite, as the app is incredibly easy to use, with the menus and features suited to even the most unskilled. You can be up and running within minutes, so you don’t have to spend hours setting the apps up.

One of the best things about Bento is the templates. Available from their website, they provide database templates to cover almost every single situation. This means it can suit almost anyone, with templates to suit wine cellars, DVD collections or even an event planner. While many apps for small businesses or databases might not suit you, with this, you can also make custom templates, so you can add fields that might be unique to you. With this in mind, it’s by far and away the best solution for anybody who wants to keep track of information in a database. It’s whatever you want it to be.

With multiple apps on different devices, it’s important that all of the information is kept in sync. While it can take some setting up to begin with, it’s incredibly easy after that. Even so, you will be up and running in seconds, and it works really well. It’s quick, and does exactly what you need it to, working with between the iPhone, iPad and Mac. The only negative is that you have to use the Mac as a base, and you can’t sync between the iPhone and iPad. However, I didn’t find this much of an issue as I found it best to keep everything on the Mac, and just use the iPad or iPhone to view the data or to make small changes or additions.

Compared to similar apps, Bento is certainly well priced. It’s not only a similar price to others, but it’s also a much better app, meaning that it stands out from the crowd. You do have to pay extra for the iPad and iPhone apps, but again, it’s worth purchasing with them for the ability to have access to your information on the move. At the same time, you’ve got to look at it in terms of value for money, and you’re certainly getting it with this app. For something that business owners will use everyday or for something with the range of capabilities that this app has, it’s astonishing value for money.

It’s a shame that many apps get neglected, but thankfully it’s not happening with Bento. In all three versions, FileMaker are showing the apps some love, constantly updating the app to add new features or to make sure that it runs perfectly. This means that you can be guaranteed that it’s money well spent, and it won’t be money down the drain, with the app being fixed if any bugs occur.

While it’s certainly not needed, it would be amazing if iCloud was added. This would make syncing between all three of the platforms very simple and further increase the simplicity. Apple will be pushing hard for iCloud to be added to all apps in the future, so it would be nice to see it added now.

Overall, Bento is simply brilliant due to the templates that are on offer. It works well as is, but with the templates it comes to life. You can mould the app to your exact needs, so not only is it a personal digital organiser, but it can also help your small business or hobby group. It would be nice to see iCloud, but even without it, it’s still worth purchasing on all three devices.

Rating: 5/5

iPhone: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bento/id314638461

iPad: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bento-for-ipad/id363230518

Mac: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bento/id413293930

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