I wrote a column about Bento back in May after I had used it for awhile. I felt that it was an absolutely wonderful application for the average person who wants to create and maintain a database, but who doesnit want to have to build one from scratch. As I noted then, I have worked with FileMaker Pro databases on numerous occasions, and each time I have been enormously grateful that all I had to do was fill in the blanks, as opposed to creating the databases. They are like the inside of my Mac: I really donit want to know how they work.
A quick read of that earlier column will give you a basic understanding of what Bento has to offer and how it can meet the needs of the average person who wants user friendly data base capabilities. That most certainly includes the seasoned beginner.
What I really want to focus on today are the new features that have been introduced in Bento 2. If you already have the original Bento you need to think of this like you would think of upgrading any other Apple product, like moving from iWorks 7 to iWorks 8 for instance. It is all the stuff you are used to, but a whole lot more. And yes, you do have to buy it again, just like you have to buy new versions of iWorks.
The thing I like best is the addition of the spreadsheet capabilities. I love Address Book. I mean I really love it. I may never use it again.
Bento 2 offers me all the benefits of Address Book plus the ability to instantly update and organize my records without ever having to flip through a single card because all the Address Book entries are available in a spreadsheet format.
I knew my Address Book records needed some work, but I kept putting it off because it was going to be a chore. In Bento 2 I fixed the whole set of records in about half an hour.
I donit know how they got to be quite so, well, unorganized. I had duplicate records on some people. I had business listings that were not properly marked. I had missing information. I am so ashamed of myself.
In the spreadsheet I had instant access to everything. Was I missing phone numbers? Did I have a card for a husband and another for his wife? Did I want new categories? Handled, handled, and handled.
From there I could adjust the Form to reflect how the information would be displayed for any particular set of data. For instance the form setup that I use for the collection that I named iPhone is totally different from the following example that I created as a sample for this column.
Bento 2 Split Screen
Another super feature of the spreadsheet format is the ability to create new collections and smart collections using your Address Book data. Simply choose New Collection or New Smart Collection from the File Menu. Then you can drag and drop names into and out of your various groups right from the spreadsheet.
The split screen option is a new feature in Bento 2. Among other attributes, with the split screen option chosen, you can click on a name in the spreadsheet to select a new card to view. No more flipping through cards. And, since Bento 2 now offers the option of making phone numbers appear very large on your screen (one of my all time personal favorite Mac attributes) you may want to easily access those individual records frequently.
Bentois big display phone number feature
The final new feature that I want to mention is the change in how you can import data into Bento 2. If your data is in Microsoft Exel or Apple Numbers format you simply have to drag and drop it.
You should set up your template first so that the information you import goes into the fields you want, but you donit have to do anything extra any longer to move your data. That is a very nice improvement, particularly for beginners.
If you are going to use Bento 2, give yourself some time to learn to use it so you can take advantage of all the wonderful features. You can sit down and learn the basics in 15 or 20 minutes, but there is more to it than that. If you want to get the most out of it, take the time to explore. It is a very stable, well crafted, application that is built just for the Mac.
Product: Bento 2
List Price: U.S. $49 (single license) $99 (family license)
Minimum Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard), 512 MB Ram (1 GB recommended)
If little things seem to constantly throw up roadblocks that you canit solve you might be able to find the answers in my manual Tips, Hints, and Solutions For Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5.
The entire Table of Contents and a sample page are available for free review for anyone who wishes to see them.