Filemaker’s Bento personal database is Apple iWork’s missing piece

Personal database that organizes your busy life“Bento is made by FileMaker, but it’s not FileMaker Pro—it’s not in the same ballpark, it’s not in the same league, and it’s just barely the same sport. That isn’t bad, but if you’re familiar with the venerable FileMaker Pro, Bento may not be what you’re expecting. For the uninitiated, FileMaker, a subsidiary of Apple, makes FileMaker Pro, a line of cross-platform database products catering mostly to workgroups of 5 to 150 users,” Stuart Gripman reports for MacLife.

“Bento is FileMaker’s first foray into the personal information management space, and unlike its corporate cousins, Bento is only for Macs (and only Macs running Leopard). Aimed at individuals with relatively simple data management needs, Bento is simple to use and looks pretty good. In its default configuration, Bento hooks into your Address Book and iCal data,” Gripman reports.

“Bento organizes information in three tiers. A Library is the top tier, something akin to a table in a traditional database. Collections are the second level; they’re subsets of a Library’s records. The makers of Bento suggests thinking of Collections like iTunes playlists. As with playlists, you can have static and Smart Collections. Records are the third tier, and to drag out this iTunes metaphor just a bit further, your records are analogous to songs,” Gripman reports.

“Bento is a product for individuals with basic data management needs. If simplicity eclipses flexibility among your needs, it may be just what you’re looking for. While we see some excellent potential in Bento, we hope FileMaker will loosen the reins a little in the next version,” Gripman reports.

Much more in the full article here.


  1. Two things:
    1. It should import AppleWorks databases (as should FilemakerPro), giving people an upgrade path to ditch the discontinued AppleWorks should be mandatory.
    2. It should be bundled with the next update to iWork.

  2. Can you use it as a simple billing program? Could you make a simple invoice and keep per client and per yearly, quarterly or monthly totals?

    In other words, could you use it the way we used the original Filemaker?

  3. Being able to import Appleworks database files is a must for this application.
    Shouldn’t be too difficult, Appleworks is made by the same company!
    As already mentioned, that would give those holding onto Appleworks just for their database files, an clear migration path.

  4. I give credit to Apple for release Bento but it reminds me of the first version of AppleTV–more of a “hobby” at this stage than a truly useful product. That’s a little harsh since there are some basic things you can do with it, but relative to what is needed, it’s not there yet. And, yes, I’m fully aware that Bento is not intended to be Filemaker Pro; it still has a way to go to become what it should be.

  5. Like Jake said, Bento is now like Apple TV version 1 was. It is a complete project with great potential that is not nearly tapped yet. I expect Bento version 2 will be outstanding. Ideally, if it were better married to Filemaker Pro, it could be a great front end for users to input data and use data that might reside in complex Filemaker Pro databases.

    Alternatively, I’m hoping Filemaker Pro’s next revision implements the look and feel of Bento. Now that would be a hot product for the database geeks out there.

  6. Bento has much more power than it would appear on the surface. It will not replace FMPro nor be all things to all people. A second look has convinced me of the value of this program enough to buy it. Without reading a manual, I easily figured out how to create a new database to hold data that I used to hold in ACT. After importing a CSV file, Bento created the new fields and names automatically. I just had to tweak the format types of certain cells. While not a full-fledged CRM, it is surprisingly effective at many things.

    Check out their forums to see how people are using it now. Very responsive tech support, too. The program will only get better. Just my $.02.

  7. Yes, it does sound like a version 1 that is being tested for inclusion in iWork.

    But consider the fact that in the Windows world, the most common use for an Excel spreadsheet is to make lists! 90% of the people I know don’t ever do a formula and I am not even sure most know how. They think that is what Excel is for.

    For them, an easy to use Bento will seem like the Starship Enterprise compared to using a spreadsheet like Excel as a database.

    The thing that blows their mind when they see me use iWork is how functions integrate together through the 3 apps. Make Bento number 4 and complete the package, Apple.

  8. @Tergenev

    FileMaker Pro can import or export pretty much any data format with relative ease.

    @Appleworks people
    Get over it. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” /> The amount of people using Appleworks for the last few years is between zero and none. Out of those people, the amount that used the database capabilities of the product is a tiny fraction of that.

    Bento would be useful if it could only open data sources other than the calendar and the address book on a Mac. If one could take a simple data source like a CSV file or a spreadsheet and turn it into a Bento library it might be worth using.

    FileMaker Pro is an excellent high end product but one that has become so “windows-like” that it is a pain to use and far too difficult for the average user. Something in between Bento and FileMaker that is similar to the original capabilities of FileMaker would be a great success.

  9. My “test” version has expired, and it was for the Beta, so I can’t be certain, but I believe it CAN do “simple billing”. There are quite a few templates for quite a number of standard “applications”, and I seem to recall that was one of them. Which in no way means it was included in the final product, nor does it mean this isn’t the “Mad Cow” speaking. Big All, go to the Apple Store near you and ask for a demonstration.
    Jeremy, you are mistaken about AppleWorks. My wife was using it until iWork’08 was forced down her throat. I was using the DB portion for quite a few things until fairly recently. It did the job.

  10. How dare Apple ram these new fangled programs down people’s wives’ throats. Gosh darn it, I LIKED System 7. It got the job done.

    So did my Austin Healy and my record player and my subscription to Mac Addict, with that cute little cartoon guy they had.

    This ‘progress’ thing is overrated.

  11. Bento is a nice start and I believe that there will be enhancements over the next year or two.

    Sending files to the iPod shouldn’t be that hard and when the SDK comes out I also see the iPhone/touch added.

    What I do not see, however, is Bento being folded into iWork – nor do I see iWork having a database developed specifically for it.

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