Bento 4 for iPad Review: Neatly Packaged Suite Of Database Tools for Keeping Track of Everything in Life
Need a convenient, ready-made, customizable database for your iPad to track everything from movies to recipes to car maintenance? Bento 4 wants to be you go-to app. And in large part, it succeeds. Bento 4 is a great app for personal and home use, though it has some limitations
I confess that I have never tried Bento’s 1 through 3, so I cannot compare versions. But I found Bento 4 to be nicely put together. The app offers more than 40 pre-built database options — everything from diet logging to expense tracking to book collecting can be managed in-app. There’s also a blank template for those who are looking for more control and customization. Each of the pre-made apps has a different graphical presentation, allowing you to know which database you’re in at a glance … though with so many different looks, some are more appealing than others.
Within each database, there’s a predetermined set of entry fields, but these are customizable, allowing you to add, drop, and rearrange to suit your needs. Each column can be sorted and ordered, and individual entries can also be moved or deleted. There’s also a Forms option for more appealing viewing of individual entries, including the ability to insert photos. These forms are also highly customizable, allowing you to tailor the view to your needs. Each database is nicely functional and flexible, and the touch controls are generally intuitive and responsive.
In general, Bento 4 is going to be a great tool for keeping comprehensive, but casual, collections of information. There’s an incredible ability to track vast amounts of data, and the ability to sync data between the iPad, the iPhone, and a Mac helps assure that you’ll always be up-to-date when you’re in the used record store and trying to remember whether or not you own a particular album.
While Bento 4 is great, it’s got some limitations that “power users” may find frustrating. For example, there’s no option to quickly filter a database for entries in a single column (or in multiple columns). There’s a way to collect a subset of records into a “collection,” but that needs to be managed manually and cannot, for example, be set up to automatically include every recipe categorized as a dessert or every book by a certain author. In other words, Bento 4 is great for storing information but not so good at parsing it.
One part of Bento 4 that I could not test is its sync ability with a Mac, because I don’t own a Mac. But other reviews of Bento have noted that it functions work reasonably well, but suffer from the limitation of having to be on the same WiFi network. This means that Bento 4 will not be useful to users collaborating on a database remotely — say, one user in a store on an iPad, making entries, and another in the office, on a Mac, waiting for them.
I was always surprised that iWork didn’t have a database app the way that MS Office does. Luckily for everyday users with database needs, there’s Bento 4. It features a polished, easy-on-the eyes interface that’s got some character. It will definitely be suitable for home record-keeping. Users looking for an office-centered productivity app might find it limiting, however.
Our Score: 4 out of 5