updated 09:35 pm EST, Tue November 13, 2007
Bento database for Leopard
As announced on Tuesday morning, FileMaker Pro is known for its versatile, multi-platform database creation capabilities, allowing users to design and put into practice custom front-ends for business and personal use alike. For most users that don't have experience with coding or scripting, however, FileMaker proves to be quite unapproachable, as a database without coding is little more than a set of static fields and text. Today, FileMaker has introduced Bento - a new addition to their product family that aims to change the perception of versatile database deployment.
Bento is designed for pretty much everyone, whether for personal or professional use. The application has a very nice iLife/iWork feel to it, and it comes packed with a lot of different themes and templates, allowing users to truly make it their own. Saying what it is that Bento does really depends on the person using it. Using database files - which Bento calls libraries - it can provide project and account management, time billing, exercise logging, inventory, class minutes, issue tracking, and many more pre-made functions.
While the pre-made functions really open up Bento's powerful capabilities to basic users, its true power lies in the customizability that it borrows from FileMaker. Users can take an Expenses library, for example, and add a field that relates to scanned receipts, or that links to an external Excel spreadsheet containing financial data.
When starting Bento, it presents a dialogue that offers a comprehensive video tutorial, and several "Getting Started" points, allowing users to import CSV data, or information from iCal and Address Book, or just get right into the guts of the program.
Once in the program, you can see how flexible Bento can be. Clicking the "Add a Library" button shows off a large number of functions that Bento comes bundled with. A blank form is also included so users can decide exactly how a particular library is assembled. All there is to do is choose an option and proceed.
Records can also be assembled into Collections and Smart Collections - which function like regular and smart playlists in iTunes - allowing users to further define how information is organized. For example, any couriers that are located in the Address Book can have a value assigned to them in Bento that identify them as such, and users can create a list that sifts through any Address Book entry for that criteria.
A library with Smart Collections
Once a Library has been created, there are a few default form views that Bento provides, with the capability of creating additional views. These allow for finer customization of how forms are displayed, such as hiding information that isn't relevant or creating a customer-viewable layout that hides product costs and such.
As previously mentioned, customization is one of Bento's strongest features. By clicking on a crossed hammer and wrench, Bento is put into form editing mode. Here is where you can change the theme that is applied to the library and customize form elements. New fields are created by clicking the "Add a field" button, which brings up a prompt asking what kind of item you'd like to add.
Once the element is created, it is placed into the Fields list on the right hand side - which can be shown and hidden depending on user preference. From that point, all that is required is for the user to drag the element into position on the form, and all other fields will adjust to fit. If one column of fields doesn't suffice, Bento can use up to five columns to organize data.
FileMaker is offering a preview of Bento softwarew from website; it requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard and is expected to ship in January 2008 for $50 ($100 for family license).