With smartphones packing so much processing power, it’s only justified that we have the urge to carry all our data around with us. A lot in our lives has gone digital which means it can be saved, categorized, and retrieved from a personal digital database. Bento has been pioneering the concept of a personal database for years on the Mac.
Bento for iPad helps you manage contacts, track projects, plan events, and so much more – all the while syncing with its desktop counterpart. Follow me after the fold to learn how awesome the app really is.
Bento is a very popular Mac app that acts as personal database to save anything digital. From contacts, to notes, pictures, and videos, you can save any digital file into a Bento database. Consider it the forerunner to Evernote if you will.
A version of Bento for iPhone that syncs with the desktop app is available at the App Store. So it’s only natural for the developers to launch a native iPad app that leverages the power of a larger touch screen.
Bento sports the cool look of a bound leather notebook. The design is gorgeous and is very detailed – right from the stitches on the leather to the seasoned look of the notebook pages. In the landscape mode, the app has a two column layout and you can access the items and libraries (explained later) from the left column.
The portrait mode has no left column and is ideal for viewing items in the library in their full glory.
One problem with both online and offline personal database apps is getting started. There is a very good chance that the app will look deserted when you start using it and it might take some time and effort to get the hang of the app.
That’s not the case with Bento. The app comes with 25 ready made templates that help you hit the ground running. From notes to expense reports, and recipes, there is a template for all popular items one would store in a personal database.
Use the Libraries option to create a new personal database. All available templates will be displayed in a gorgeous Coverflow view, simply pick the right template for your database by swiping across the screen. Not only are the design and layout different for each template, but the fields are unique for each template too.
Once the database (library) is created, all the items stored in it will be listed in the left column. Tap on each one to view the contents in the right column. A quick tap lets you watch videos, view photos, files, and send emails without leaving the app. You can even browse web links in Safari and record voice memos with a single tap too.
Editing content on the left column is very simple in true iOS style. Swipe across an item to delete individual listings or use the Edit option to delete multiple items.
However, things are a bit more swanky when editing content inside the entries. As I mentioned earlier, each template is unique and hence there are quite a few editing/customization options available. For example, I tried to edit a To Do entry and was pleasantly surprised by the large buttons, number of themes available, and the ability to add custom fields.
In addition to templates, there are multiple themes available to customize each library. Just tap on the theme of your choice and the look of the library will change momentarily.
What makes Bento standout from the competitors is the freedom it gives the users when it comes to creating custom fields. You can go nuts and create whatever you want in an entry. Be it a simple date field, or an option to add multimedia, nothing is left out.
To create a custom field, select the appropriate one, give it a name, and voila, it will show up in the entry.
If the custom field you created is going to be used a lot, create a shortcut for the same in the menu bar at the top. This way, you can add that field to future entries in just a single tap. Drag and drop the fields to reorder them in a manner that makes sense.
Irrespective of the platform, Bento is a very powerful app loaded with a ton of features. The templates option is a godsend and makes everyone’s life very easy. The app also synchronizes directly with Bento running on a Mac, so you can automatically keep your desktop and iPad up-to-date, whether editing your information on your Mac or your iPad. It’s worth noting that you will need a working Wireless connection to initiate the sync.
What works against Bento is the steep price point. The Mac desktop app costs $49 and the mobile version costs $4.99.
In the era of cloud based personal databases like Evernote, that offer similar functionality across all operating systems and come with free desktop and mobile clients, you would have to think hard before making up your mind. At the very least, the developers should consider giving out free mobile apps to those who buy a desktop license.
Except for the pricing glitch, Bento is an all in one, easy to use personal database for your iPad, that excels both as a standalone app and as a companion to the desktop version.