Quick Look: Bento 3


The whirlwind development of FileMaker’s consumer database software continues with the release of Bento 3. Bento 3 adds several new features, including shared libraries, iPhoto integration, security options, and best of all, an upgrade price.

First released in November 2007, Bento was supposed to be the database for the rest of us, touting ease of use over the flexibility of complex relational database applications like FileMaker. Bento 1 was priced at $49, as was Bento 2, released just over a year later. That price caused some consternation among Bento 1 users opining Bento 2 was the “real” first release. Apparently FileMaker has listened, and is now offering current users of Bento a $20 discount. While the price for new users remains $49, Bento 3 has enough “new” that those using or needing a simple database application should at least consider the free trial.


As to what’s new in Bento 3, the first thing you see is a redesigned Template Screen. Bento 3 adds 10 new templates, bringing the total to 35, as well as a direct link to the Bento Template Exchange. The online exchange has nearly 300 database templates created by users and developers at FileMaker.


The biggest change to the interface of Bento 3 is Grid View. While database users will be familiar with the spreadsheet-like Table View, and Form View for individual database objects, Grid View is reminiscent of iPhoto Events. If there is a single image in a record, you see a thumbnail, with multiple images being cycled through via mouseover. This is actually pretty useful, be it with home inventory or recipes. If there are no images, you can look at a thumbnail of the Form View, which is not so useful. Something else that is useful is iPhoto integration.


As a serious iCal user, the seamless integration Bento affords is invaluable. As an example, Bento allows me to create Smart Collections of events, like auto maintenance or trips to the vet. Not only can I add fields in Bento, like cost, but I can edit fields that iCal uses. Now, Bento has added iPhoto to the list of integrated OS X apps: Address Book, iCal, and Mail. Unfortunately, what happens in Bento, stays in Bento with iPhoto integration. While I can associate new record fields with photos in Bento, I can’t edit iPhoto fields. Anyone who struggles with iPhoto’s awkward keyword editing understands how big a letdown this is. To balance that letdown for me, we finally have sharing in Bento 3.


To those who bemoan the lack of shared, editable calendars with iCal and MobileMe, Bento 3 appears to offer a workaround. Bento 3 sharing is a lot like iTunes sharing over a local network. It’s as easy to set up as the preference pane above, but even more useful. Up to five people, each needing their own copy of Bento, can edit shared databases. While I have not tested this yet, I’m assuming that editing iCal and Address Book data will be reflected for respective users.

The last big addition to Bento 3 is the option of database security, but there are numerous other small enhancements that can be experienced in free trial. Bento 3 requires OS X 10.5.7 or 10.6.1, costs $49 (or $29 for qualifying Bento 1 and Bento 2 users). There will also shortly be a new release of Bento for iPhone, free to current users and $5 for new users.

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