I was sent a free copy of Bento to try out. Here is my take on the software after playing around with it for awhile. We are giving the software away to a reader. See the bottom of this post for info on how to win.
What is it?
Bento most reminds me of the database program that came with Appleworks on the Apple IIc. It isn’t so much that it works the same, but it is geared toward the same type of market. People who need to store database type information without becoming an expert at understanding databases. The program runs on OS X and has the nice look and feel that you’d expect from an Apple application.
Libraries and Collections
Bento uses the idea of Libraries and Collections. If you think of your address book, that would be a library. If you think of all of the address records of your college friends, that would be a collection. AddressBook in OS X works like this now. You add addresses to the application and then add them to groups. The application corresponds to a Library in Bento and the group corresponds to a Collection.
Bento can pull in your AddressBook, iCal Events and iCal Tasks and display them as Libraries. They are kept synchronized. If you delete an address from AddressBook, it disappears out of the Bento AddressBook library.
In addition to these build in Libraries, you can add a number of other predefined Libraries or even customize your own. So there are libraries for To Do Items, Projects, Events, Exercise Log, Expenses, Membership Lists etc.
You can customize the existing Library templates or create one from scratch. Bento gives you all the fields you need to add text fields, date fields with calendar popups, pictures, calculated fields, etc. This makes Bento a very good general tool for keeping track of almost anything. Data can be imported and exported so you can easily get data in or out of the system.
Some of the different customized fields can be seen in the image on the right.
This is one of the more advanced database functions and Bento does a good job of keeping things simple. The items in a Library can link to other items. For example, if you create a Projects Library you can create records for each of your projects. One of the fields on each record is a list of team members. You can type in team members directly into the list or pull them in from the Address Book.
You can add these types of linked records to your own Libraries. For example, if you have Library that holds all your Projects, you can add another Library that contains To Do items and then link them so you can see all of your outstanding To Do items for each Project from within the Project record.
Working with Your Data
You can view your data as a table (like a spreadsheet) or using a form. You can create multiple forms to hold your data fields. Adding fields to the forms is a simple matter of dragging them from a list and dropping them where you want them.
The fields are easy to work with and you can do a lot of drag and drop. For example, you can drag an image from a web browser into the graphic box and then resize it using the same type of tool that is used to add images to Address Book.
Overall Bento seems well polished. Databases aren’t particularly easy to make simple, but Bento does a good job. Once you get familiar with how it works, you’ll find yourself thinking “this feels easy” as you make changes and customize your database. If you need a simple database, Bento is worth checking out–especially if you use iCal and AddressBook in OS X already.
I have a copy of Bento to give away, so we are going to have a contest. Whoever is the last person to comment on this post, gets a free copy mailed to them. When 48 hours goes by without a comment, the last comment wins. :) Good luck!
That being said, it isn’t something I’m probably going to use personally. However, for many people, it can be an ideal way to keep track of information.
Some of us don’t even own a Mac. To me, it’s more about the *win* than the prize :) I say let the comments continue. And may the most persistent commenter win!
Well I think you will find me to be the most persistent.
I think there are a couple really persistent people trying to get this app.
I would agree.
So.. running out of things to say.. What does everyone here do for a living?
I am a senior at Rice U in religious studies and cognitive science. I am also starting a community commons in Houston… which is what I want Bento for. Our website is http://www.marionsledge.org
I’m a Junior at Knox College (majoring in Classical Studies) and I’m president of a organization that promotes Latin and Greek in public schools. We’re just starting out, so building a database would be wonderful.
Web Developer, currently working as a contractor for http://www.univision.com. I can’t belive this didn’t end over the long weekend! I even resisted the urge to post from my phone assuming it would finally end. :) Maybe we can set a record for the longest active blog comments?
This is a little crazy, isn’t it? Oh well.
Crazy? We’re talking about Bento here!
@Eric: I agree, I could use it to track golf scores or something equally unproductive!
Jon Rehurek says
Can I use Bento on my Mac and iPhone to replace my PDA?
Jon Rehurek says
To follow up. I’ve got all kinds of data stored on my PDA that just doesn’t seem to “fit” anywhere on my Mac. Can Bento help?
@Jon: Unfortunately, I do not know of an iPhone version that is coming yet, much less available sync. :( It would be great though, like an easy way for everyone to build information tracking apps on the iphone that sync to the desktop.
I wrote a very long note about the Bento trial on June 27th and at that time I had only used the trial a couple of days. I have used up the trial days and I have decided that I will purchase this software. I used the Bento software for variety of uses and the “ONE” that stuck was using the templates/database for my studio classes and student/parent accounts, class rollsheets, account notes (fees) etc. It worked out great for that paticular purpose. I was able to understand the majority of it as it was basic (and that’s all I need). I was able to work through the address book sync with Bento in a backward approach. I would love to get the software for free via this little contest, but as everyone has mentioned – it will go on for quite some time and business would fall behind LOL due to paperwork. Good luck to y’all
@Sheila: class / students / parents / business…do youmind if I ask what you do?…just being nosy, and curious about people’s ideas of uses for Bento.
Speaking of iPhone, I am so getting a 3G on asap
I really hope that apple releases iworks iphone at some point soon. :-)
I’d really like this to end now…
Ok. You win, Carolyn. ;) @Mark: If I win I want my copy of Bento to go to Carolyn. Seriously. I am really just competing for fun. On an unrelated note, I am really enjoying iPhone OSX 2.0
I was going to wait for the iPhone 2.0 download until tomorrow, but you’re enthusiasm and the fact that I have some time has convinced me! I’m going to install it now and dive into the App Store.
Maybe someday we’ll see a Bento App come out for the iPhone, since this little contest still has “legs”. :D
Well, Elliot, I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s done for me in a long time. I’m serious. Thank you very, very much. Also: I’m a huge Mariners fan, and I thought you’d like to know that you have the same last name as one of our rising stars. If you’re not otherwise attached to a team, you should seriously consider becoming an M’s fan. It’s a bleak existence, but a great one.
Sorry, but I’m not giving up that easy. I think we are in similar situations, and both have good uses for Bento and both of our organizations are strapped for cash. Either way it goes, it will be used well. And I’m kinda having fun playing. :-)
Hailey, I agree. Your organization definitely seems admirable :). I guess we’ll be sticking around here a while longer.
Yep. Looks like we will be. :-)
I can live with that.
@ Elliot, I own a dance studio and teach classes to over 500 students. I am going to try to set up the database for class rosters, class schedules, registration forms, class syllabus, class fees (by month, by semester/session). Also setting it up to invoice parents and track billing and customer information.
i have used many apps with my old PC and with my ‘great’ move to the mac, i look forward to finding software to set up a database in a way that I am familiar. In other words, I am going to set up Bento as a Database and use all of the things I liked in each program on my PC and try to put it all in one. I just hope that the integration with the address book, email and calendar will blend together seamlessly? Still unsure at this time if I will be able to do mail merges & word processing type of documents etc…. I am going to give it a shot.
I have been on endless searches to find software that will organize all of my home & work information inside of one program/database/software. It would be nice to learn only one application and work inside of it, as opposed to learning several and then having to learn how to integrate each one of them. You have probably realized by now that I am not computer literate because most of my brains are in my feet; LOL, put me on the dance floor and I am smart as a whip, but behind a computer, well, uhh, urrrgg it takes me a while to get comfy with any software.
Anyway, sometimes I wish I could have help writing/making a program that would integrate together i.e…. Calendars, emails, contacts, to-do’s with hierarchy sub-folders, notes, home inventory, ideas & thoughts and work sections for small business or self-employed, and more… GEEZ Asking a lot huh? I am most certain that it is even possible, but a great wish doesn’t hurt anyone.
I am just now becoming familiar with Mac OS & am trying to make decisions with trial software. I am always wandering that perhaps something else may linger in & it might work better. Who knows???
Let me know your thoughts-Thanks for your interest.
I’m tired today. Too much dancing last night.
@shiela I am a swing dance teacher on the side. I should tell our head instructor about Bento. He would like it. He currently uses a very custom filemaker database. He’s a database programmer, so yeah.
Like the software idea.. you are asking a lot. :-)
I really respect you ladies for dancing so much, and Sheila– 500 students is nothing to sneeze at! What kind of dance do you teach, mostly?
Wow. It’s been a long day. I’m looking forward to going to sleep.
How was y’all day?
I’ve been reading about Bento and I came across this page. Interesting, and I am sure it would be even more intersting if I win..;-)
Anyways,….thanks fof the offer, and I hope I win..oh yeah!
My day’s been good so far, Hailey. How’s yours been?
Mine has been good. The car is in the shop getting a new AC. ::yay:: It’s been broken for 2 years and I finally got enough money to fix it.
There are two good things about being a gentleman:
One, knowing to allow ladies to go first.
Two, winning the contest.
Well, I think you’d like to win, anyway.
And Hailey– AC is definitely a good good thing.
Glenn, we shall see about that.
So did the contest end? Where are all your posts?
it appears to have ended. :-)
Mark Shead says
Yes it looks like Hailey won! Hailey please send your address to [email protected] and I’ll get it out to you in the mail.
Congrats, Hailey. My boyfriend surprised me and took me fishing for the weekend, so I was without computer access. You certainly deserve it, though! When Marion’s Ledge is built, maybe I’ll come down to Houston and visit the hostel and you can show me what you’ve done with the program :). Enjoy it!
Brendon Dellar says
I’m unsure of Bento. It looks nice, and is easy to create fields etc.. but I’m not sure if this is of any real use. I can’t print merge to Pages, I can sync the Bento database across several macs, and the printing options for Bento are all but useless (try printing for yourself – its a insanely frustrating experience).
I’m still sad I didn’t win this. I wish there were a consolation prize for tenacity…