New: Sharing, iPhoto integration headline Filemaker’s Bento 3 update

30 September, 2009
View more articles fromthe author

FileMaker has launched a new version of Bento, its slimmed-down, easy-to-use database that’s fully Mac-integrated. Building on the success of the previous two versions, Bento 3 adds eight key new features including iPhoto integration, grid view, multi-user capability and security.

For those new to the world of relational databases, Bento is a program that you use to store any kind of information related to a task or subject – such as emails, spreadsheet data, contacts, calendars, notes, photos, music files, you name it – in one easy-to-navigate window.

Changes made in most of the fields are reflected in the original application, and vice-versa. So if you’re working in Bento and change the time of an appointment, the new time will be changed in iCal. Spreadsheet data from Excel or Numbers isn’t linked back, but is copied across.

“Bento 3 has fantastic new features … the list is significant. This is not a minor update,” FileMaker Asia Pacific regional manager Steve McManus told Australian Macworld at a Sydney briefing.

Sharing is probably the most important upgrade, as you can now share your Bento libraries with up to five other Bento users on a local area network. The entire database can be shared, or just selected libraries.

This collaborative approach is just one of the main areas where a relational database has the edge over a spreadsheet.
Also significant are the new security features which allow users to password-protect a library (a database) and also individual fields. So, using SSL encryption, you can bar access from an entire database or, say in the case of sharing a database in a small company, give everyone access to the database but prevent them seeing clients’ credit card details.

Having iPhoto integration in the new version means you can display your iPhoto images, track more details about those images than you get in iPhoto itself, and drag-and-drop images and even whole collections from Bento 3’s side pane.

And the grid view gives a fourth way to see data for a more visual approach. The view can be customised to display additional information under each photo or form thumbnail, and you can skim your mouse across the top item to see the others underneath, just like the Events view in iPhoto.

Bento 3 costs $79, but users upgrading from Bento 1 or 2 will be able to get a $25 rebate. A five-user family pack is $129.

Bento 3 comes with templates to get you started on tasks such as organising sports clubs, planning a wedding, cataloguing a wine cellar, managing workflows and keeping track of customer details and purchases.

“People say, ‘So it’s a database … what do you do with a database?’ McManus says. “Well, here are 35 templates to get you going – 10 of which are new. And that builds on the Template Exchange which users can access via the link built into Bento 3. “Say you have a great database for managing a soccer team – you can share it with the world. It’s wonderful … there have been 60,000 downloads from Template Exchange to date.”

Along with the new Mac version of Bento, the iPhone app has also been updated. “Bento for iPod gave Bento a huge boost,” McManus says. “It’s a standalone app on the iPhone … you don’t have to have Bento on your Mac, but if you do it’s a bit nicer for doing data entry.”

FileMaker says that after launching the iPhone app there was a secondary wave of new users buying the full Bento program. The new features – particularly sharing and security – make Bento 3 far more attractive to small businesses, but does this mean they might not make the move to the full-featured FileMaker 10 database?

“The introduction of sharing has certainly brought the two closer together,” FIleMaker Americas and Asia-Pacific sales vice-president Keith Robinson admitted to AMW. “But there really is a significant difference between FileMaker and Bento.
“By putting Bento out there we’re broadening the database marketplace, which benefits FileMaker. Many people discover databases through Bento then move up to FileMaker, but we’re also finding that many FileMaker users are also using Bento for it’s Mac-friendliness and ease of use.”

McManus adds: “If you really want an automated process you go to FileMaker. It has scripting, so you can automate tasks and assign them to a button. It’s incredibly powerful, and you can have up to 999 concurrent users. “But it’s $499, while Bento is $79.”

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us