First Look: FileMaker's Bento personal database for Leopard

Posted:
in Mac Software edited January 2014
Apple software subsidiary FileMaker, Inc. unveiled a preview today of a new database product named Bento. If you've been waiting for Apple to offer an easy to use database as part of iWork, this is it. The product is aimed at consumers and requires Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. Here's an in-depth first look at the app.



Named after the traditional Japanese lunchbox tray that organizes food into sections, Bento is designed to similarly act as a multipurpose application for organizing information, from contacts and calendars to projects and events. The company is presenting Bento as a way to organize activities "related to work, home, school and community."



Bento's interface (below) is closer to that of the iLife applications. A Source list on the left provides a listing of Library databases and their subordinate Collections of Records. In the middle of the window is a Records table and Forms display. In a column on the right is a Fields list. Along the bottom are controls to add and remove items from each section, along with a view selection popup for customizing the display layout (below bottom).











This highly simplified interface makes database development approachable for even non-technical consumers. Bento's integration with Leopard also allows it to draw upon the shared pools of information behind Mac OS X's Address Book and iCal. When you open Bento, it uses this integration to display all your existing contact and calendar information. You don't have to reenter data, and information you add or change in Bento is reflected in other applications, including Mail, Address Book and iCal, as well as other Mac-specific applications that extend upon them, such as Marware's Project X.



Using your Existing Data



Bento can display your Address Book contacts, iCal Events, and iCal To Do Tasks as Libraries. Within a Library are Collections. For example, Bento displays any Address Book groups you've already defined as Collections within the Address Book Library. Individual items of a Libary, such as contacts, are presented as Records. This neatly maps the internal database behind Leopard apps in a format familiar to users of FileMaker's desktop database.



Bento presents your iCal Events and Tasks in a useful list view Apple didn't add to iCal itself. By selecting the iCal Events Collection, you can browse your calendar as a list of events, similar to the list view presented by the iPhone. Bento also

allows you to present your iCal events and to do reminders in a database Form view and similarly relate these events together with records in other Libraries.



Each set of Records can be displayed as a Table column, with all entries presented in a spreadsheet-like listing (below), as well as a Form view (above), which displays Records in a customizable page display. Additional Forms can be added and customized, similar to other database products such as FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Access. The difference with Address Book and iCal Libraries in Bento is that you're not creating a new database file, but rather expanding upon the internal databases used by Leopard.







Bento makes this simple by presenting a series of Fields for your Form; in the case of an Address Book Library, that includes the existing contact name, address fields, phone numbers, notes, and other properties. You can then add new Fields just as you would using any desktop database: select a field type (such as text, number, media, time, data), and assign it a unique Field name (below). Depending on the type of Field you select, you are also given other options. You can also get fancy with relational Fields from other databases, calculated Fields, popup menu selection choices, and file listings that can be used to launch documents and open media files.







Once a Field is created, you can drag it into your Form to extend the records being stored in that Library's database. This works for both Address Book and iCal. Entries you add in Bento show up in those apps, and vice versa. This makes Bento a flexible way to build upon the foundation of Address Book to store more information than Apple intended. You can also relate new data to your existing records, and relate other information you track to your existing contacts and iCal events.



Bento's integration with Address Book and iCal also means your contact and event data can be kept in sync with .Mac and the iPhone, although Bento doesn't yet include any additional .Mac sync options for syncing new Libraries of data.



Adding New Libraries



You can also add new Libraries of data using a template-based design that looks very similar to Apple's iWork applications. A new Libary is essentially a new database table, along with a predesigned Form. You can either start with a blank slate, or choose from a variety of predefined starting point templates for managing files and digital media assets, inventory and equipment, time billing, tracking expenses, managing vehicle maintence records, organizing student and class listings, group memberships, customer lists, issue tracking records, and other common tasks.







When you add a new Library, it appears in your Source list. It can then be extended with new Fields, and its Form can be edited as desired, or expanded upon using a series of special purpose Forms. Bento can import data from Excel, Numbers, or from any CSV file. Once imported, sorting and searching data is very similar to iTunes. Perform a search, and you can define the results to be a Collection, similar to a Smart Group playlist, album, or folder.



The Table View allows for easy sorting and quick stats in a Summary Row (below). Depending on the data type of a Field, you can count, sum, average, or pull out maximums or minimums from your Table list.







The Forms editor (below) offeres smart tools for laying out grouped columns and adusting label positions, text sizes, shading, and alignment. Fields can be simply dropped into place in the Forms editor. User selectable themes can impose an overall style that handles layout and color details.







Built For Leopard



In addition to integration with the new Calendar Store, Bento also builds upon other new features of Leopard, including use of the standard Picture Taker panel for adding, cropping and panning photos, and integration with Time Machine to backup and selectively restore individual items from Libraries.



FileMaker is offering a free time-limited preview of Bento at FileMaker.com.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 38
    feynmanfeynman Posts: 1,087member
    It's about time there is a database app for the rest of us!



    Can anyone confirm who has downloaded this, if it can export an entire database (Images included) to the web?
  • Reply 2 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Feynman View Post


    It's about time there is a database app for the rest of us!



    Can anyone confirm who has downloaded this, if it can export an entire database (Images included) to the web?



    The only option to export is to a .csv file.
  • Reply 3 of 38
    jabohnjabohn Posts: 533member
    I've registered to get the preview twice now and still no email with the download link...
  • Reply 4 of 38
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jabohn View Post


    I've registered to get the preview twice now and still no email with the download link...



    Check your spam folder...



    K
  • Reply 5 of 38
    jabohnjabohn Posts: 533member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kasper View Post


    Check your spam folder...



    K



    I have... and I did a spotlight search for Bento and nothing.
  • Reply 6 of 38
    That's what they have been doing. I was wondering why FMP 9.5 was such a minor upgrade. Hope they don't neglect FMP.
  • Reply 7 of 38
    FileMaker is not a consumer brand, and I think Bento should be part of iWork. FileMaker's separate identity from Apple makes sense for selling a cross-platform product but a Mac-only consumer app seems much more Apple, particularly when it's picking up a missing piece of AppleWorks. Granted AppleWorks was ClarisWorks which became FileMaker, but it all goes back to Apple originally.
  • Reply 8 of 38
    kasperkasper Posts: 941member, administrator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jabohn View Post


    I have... and I did a spotlight search for Bento and nothing.



    here



    K
  • Reply 9 of 38
    jabohnjabohn Posts: 533member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Kasper View Post


    here



    K



    Thanks!
  • Reply 10 of 38
    msnlymsnly Posts: 378member
    Bento?



    Sounds like a Gas-X or whatever



    Another reason for my to upgrade to leopard!
  • Reply 11 of 38
    Apple should add it to iWork '08 and change the price to a still very reasonable $99. They can allow current users to upgrade for $20.
  • Reply 12 of 38
    Someone elsewhere suggested doing a Google search for OpenDoc Bento. I added Gluon as well. Guess what is out there? An article titled "Gluons and the

    Cooperation between Software Components" that mentions OpenDoc's Bento format, and mentions that "A Bento object contains a collection of properties and properties contain values which are the placeholders where data is actually stored." Sound familiar?



    http://www.iam.unibe.ch/~scg/Archive...t95bGluons.pdf
  • Reply 13 of 38
    I can't figure out how to select multiple records in Table View and apply a global change to them. It's probably because I'm a DB neophyte.
  • Reply 14 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Galley View Post


    Apple should add it to iWork '08 and change the price to a still very reasonable $99. They can allow current users to upgrade for $20.



    Sounds good...



    Any idea what this is going to cost when it's available? Even a good guess based on precedents?
  • Reply 15 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by jeffhrsn View Post


    Sounds good...



    Any idea what this is going to cost when it's available? Even a good guess based on precedents?



    $49.

    A family pack of five licenses costs $99.
  • Reply 16 of 38
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    What are people going to use this for?
  • Reply 17 of 38
    What I want to know is whether this will work with iCal Server and the Leopard Server common Directory. If so this is Wonderful. If it only works with a local database then it's still Good, but not quite Wonderful.
  • Reply 18 of 38
    mr omr o Posts: 1,046member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BRussell View Post


    What are people going to use this for?



    Exactly my thoughts! This Bento thing could be obsolete asa Apple starts putting more thought into the seperate apps (iCal, Address book, To Do, Numbers).
  • Reply 19 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BRussell View Post


    What are people going to use this for?



    Inventory mostly, databases are best for that. Anything that needs to be kept track of.
  • Reply 20 of 38
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BRussell View Post


    What are people going to use this for?



    Hmmm, quick editing of their contacts and calendar? I played around with it a little bit and found it a bit underwhelming. When accessing ical data for example, you can only acces and modify a subset of the data. You cannot change the repeats for events for example.



    Also, although the functionality sure is nice, in this prerelease both the forms and the table view look and behave very unpolished, especially when compared to the iWork apps. UI-elements look and behave annoyingly different from iWork and much more primitive. Double-click a cell in a table and you get a two-line editing box. Why?? No drag-and-drop of single cells. Why??

    Page layout is more primitive than in Numbers and the templates are all a bit dull and un-inspiring.



    I have a feeling that this app would feel and behave way nicer if it had been executed by the iWork team at the Apple mothership.



    As a matter of fact I think this stuff would be way more usefull as added, and highly integrated, functionality on top of numbers than as a stand-alone app. It is just to different and separate from iWork as-is, but could in principle add some great stuff to iWork '09.....



    In its current stand-alone form not worth ?49,- IMHO.
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