Bento 2 updates Filemaker’s ‘database for the rest of us’

David Braue
16 October, 2008
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It was only released at Macworld nine months ago, but Filemaker’s personal database Bento is already in version 2 after the company today released an upgraded version with new views and better support for email and spreadsheets.

Available exclusively at Australia’s three Apple Stores until October 29, the $79 Bento 2 (also available in a $129 family pack) reflects both feedback from its users and the growing popularity of the iPhone 3G to bolster its credentials in the entry-level and small-business crowd at which it is targeted.

Bento was originally intended as an entry-level alternative to the ubiquitous Mac database Filemaker Pro, which has swelled after decades in development and now sites at the high end of the food chain. By contrast, says Steve McManus, general manager with Filemaker Australia, Bento was designed from the ground up to appeal to people who start running when they hear phrases like ‘database fields’.

“Even though databases are the workhorses of modern computing, they’re intrinsically difficult and you’ve got to invest a lot of effort as a learning curve,” he explains. “People who grew up with a mature product like FileMaker want more and more bits added, and they can digest those bits as they’re added because they grew up with it. But it is a mammoth meal to digest if you’re totally new to it; there’s definitely a space for a truly easy to use, predictable database.”

Bolstering his claims that Bento is easy to use, McManus points out that Bento 2 was developed in close co-ordination with Apple’s iWork team, helping ensure it has a consistent and intuitive interface with features such as iTunes-style searching. Bento also provided tight integration with, and access to details from, the Mac OS X Address Book and iCal, with changes reflected in both directions to reinforce the idea that Bento is an adjunct to users’ existing information.

Bento 2 expands this approach with features such as drag-and-drop integration with Apple Mail (but not Microsoft Entourage), better support for data importing and exporting formats, cutting and pasting of Excel and Numbers data, “more spreadsheet-like behaviour”, sharing of Bento templates between users, a new Split View that shows summary and details at the same time, built-in links to Google Maps and chatting, and more.

McManus is confident the additional improvements to Bento 2 will help continue the success of the first version, which “definitely exceeded expectations” and sold so well that Filemaker had to do a second manufacturing run to meet demand. “This is the database for the rest of us,” he laughs.

Once the product is generally available, Filemaker is going to work with resellers and its own salespeople to help them pick up on cues from customers who need a database but don’t know it yet.

“People don’t tend to ring up a reseller saying ‘I need a database’,” he explains. “They’re in a blissful state of ignorance, and don’t know what they don’t know. But they say ‘I organise parties, or take lot of calls, and how would I organise that?’ These are the people who are using spreadsheets – a pretty abused piece of software – for lists, and think using databases is going to be way more difficult than it is. Once they watch a demo and you show them some templates, they get it.”

Bento 2 is available today at Apple Store Sydney, Chatswood and Chadstone, and will be generally available through Apple resellers on October 29. Visit Filemaker’s Australian site for more information.

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