Bento is popular with many Mac users who need a simple and affordable database program for storing information. There’s already an iPhone version of Bento, but we found it a bit too cramped on the iPhone’s tiny screen. As you might expect, the new Bento For iPad benefits from the iPad’s much larger screen and is a lot more comfortable to use.
Not surprisingly, the iPad version of Bento works very much like the original Mac version, allowing you to create database ‘libraries’ where you can store pretty much any type of information you want. The program includes 25 templates for tasks such as creating membership lists for clubs, collecting recipes, or keeping track of expenses, so you can get started very quickly.
Adding new records to a library is a simple matter of tapping the ‘+’ icon at the top of the screen and entering the information straight into the existing template. You can modify the design of a template by tapping the Edit button and using your finger to move fields around the screen.
To browse through records you can hold the iPad on its side in landscape mode. It will then display a scrollable list of records on the left-hand side of the screen, along with a small view of the currently selected record on the rest of the screen. If you want to concentrate on entering data, or on the design of a library then you can switch to portrait mode to work on a full-screen view of the current record.
Bento makes good use of the iPad’s touchscreen interface and is very easy to use. Our only complaint is that its ability to communicate with the outside world is limited. You can’t share database information with other programs, such as Access on a PC, and it will only communicate with the Mac version of Bento via a WiFi connection – which is annoying if, like us, you use an Ethernet connection on your office Mac.
At just £2.99, Bento for iPad is an attractive and affordable companion to its big brother on the Mac. The large iPad screen makes it easy to view, enter and edit information as you carry the iPad around with you. However, its restricted import and export options mean that it will be of limited use unless you also own the Mac version.