Review: Bento 4 for iPad improves on winning database formula

June 19, 2012
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Databases aren't often described as "simple", and they're not known for being much to look at. FileMaker's new Bento 4 for iPad aims to change that, improving its design tools, and adding tons of new Retina-ready templates and themes to its outstanding iPad database app.

Bento 4 for iPad includes several key new features. The biggest is direct access to the Bento Template Exchange. Launched in 2009 for users of the Mac version of the application, Bento Template Exchange features more than 1,000 templates created by users of Bento and its more full-featured sibling FileMaker.

Using the Template Exchange on the iPad is simple. Tapping the More Templates button takes you to the Template Exchange website, where you can instantly download new designs for use in Bento 4 for iPad. Rather than starting from scratch, you can work from an existing database template, or modify a template to better fit your needs. 

Unfortunately, not all of the templates listed will work with Bento 4. Out of 1,166 templates listed in the Exchange at press time, only 345 of the templates work with Bento 4. Hopefully that number will grow as users adopt the new version and update existing templates or create new solutions.

If you can't find the right template, designing a database from scratch on the iPad is simple. Bento 4 comes with 24 templates pre-loaded, with options for everything from inventory management to customer and issue tracking. Editing forms is as easy as dragging fields and dropping them into position. Handy pop-up guides help with horizontal and vertical alignment. With 40 different color and texture themes available, you won't be looking at boring white screens all day. 

Bento 4 also features new views to help put your data to use. The Table view presents your data in rows and columns, like a spreadsheet. Table view is great for getting a bird's-eye view of your information, and you can tap into individual cells to quickly update records. For a closer look, Split Screen does just that, allowing you to view individual records side-by-side with a table of all your data.

Bento 4 for iPad might be FileMaker's younger sibling, but new calculations and encrypted data fields work perfectly for serious number crunching. For moving data around, You can wirelessly sync back to a Mac running Bento, or email CSV files for importing into other desktop applications.

Whether you're tracking parts, products, or people, Bento 4 for iPad is the best database solution available for the iPad. Creating new forms is simple, and easy sync and sharing options offer plenty of flexibility for managing your data.

Bento 4 for iPad is on sale for $4.99 in the App Store until July 31.

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