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Bento for iPad: Organizing the Details

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“Are you looking for a personal assistant that can organize the details of your busy life?” asks Bento, a new iPad application by FileMaker. Why, of course! Isn’t everyone looking for that assistant for some assistance? Bento for iPad promises it will do just that – organize the details. Perhaps even systemize the personal chaos? How’s that for a pitch? Feel free to borrow.

Here, then, is the situation into which Bento for iPad arrives for my review. First of all, I’m not a tech person, just a lowly freelance writer with an inordinate fondness for my Macbook Pro. I will allow myself some surreptitious sideways glances to my iPhone, when duty calls, but my heart belongs to that laptop. The iPad has left me cold.

Being a writer doing constant research, I am frustrated by dead-end sites warning “Flash not supported” and, since I'm capable of typing up to fifty words a minute (being part of a generation where typing was a prerequisite to a publishing job), the iPad's keyboard just doesn't do it for me. My iPad, considered necessary in this self-appointed Apple fiefdom I call home, collects dust.

I exaggerate, of course, like any self-delusionally designated good writer. The iPad here is not all that unused. It is a wonderful tool for watching Netflix movies, his and hers, each partner watching his/her own genre. Lately, mine has been Battlestar Galactica. The kids borrow it all the time to catch up on past episodes of Bones. Incredible viewing screen, granted, but what else is the iPad good for?


Back to that copy of Bento for review; I decided to give my iPad another chance. I am aware that this is a lot to ask of a software program – not only to justify its own existence but also to vindicate the existence of its hardware platform.

Essentially a data organizer, Bento comes with 25 basic, pre-designed database templates called libraries. It’s elemental in its setup. Even (especially) a non-tech person would find it easy to use. As someone who always skips the tutorial and learns applications with a mixture of hubris and befuddlement, I for once ventured through the guided tour and found it simple, straightforward, and above all, not time consuming, in essence, not worth skipping.

Based upon the application for the iPhone, Bento has new enhancements for the iPad. Full screen forms for landscape, and more importantly, split views of libraries on the left and a specific item on the right. The libraries, adaptable for self-design, mostly depend upon content and creation from another source whether PC or Mac. And this is the crux of the discussion: Some libraries are effortless. Linked to my Mac, Bento automatically synched my contact list. Others are not.

Depending on how much data each library would be designed to hold would indicate how useful Bento would be, at least Bento as a stand alone application. If you have to manually input a great deal of information, say for instance, a student taking notes in a class as the tutorial suggests, as organized as Bento is, it wouldn't justify using an iPad rather than a laptop with a conventional keyboard. This brings up the deadly topic of that iPad keyboard again. Even the tutorial has someone hunting and pecking with one finger.

One library I found particularly useful is the recipes section. Recipes don't demand a great deal of keying, and the situation, cooking or, in my case, bartending, would benefit from the less delicate, ultra portable nature of the iPad.

Working on an upcoming article on summertime punches, I keyed in a recipe for the Elder Berry Smash and easily inserted an accompanying photo.

It looks great, and isn't that ultimately the advantage of the iPad?

Training myself to input recipes and not rely on scraps of paper will help me use Bento to be most helpful, but Bento can't clean out the bottom of my messenger bag for me.

When I'm done with that, I'm going to tackle my LP collection. You know, LPs (long-playing records)? Those black plastic disks that you see one dollar a piece at the neighborhood tag sale? I'd begin with London Calling. Using an Inventory template, I can put in the title: London Calling; serial number: EPIC E2 36238 (no, not the reissue); location: family room (hopefully): description: (very good condition), picture (above), and quantity: 16. Yes, 16. I have a plan for that many London Callings. I'll put that plan into action as soon as I get organized.

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About Kate Shea Kennon

  • Richard Prince

    I guess that would be expected from you.

  • How about if I complain about overly adamant commenters?

  • Richard Prince

    I don’t get the harangue about a QWERTY keyboard. What’s up with that? It’s not like the iPad doesn’t have keyboards. It has a variety of keyboards, more options that your extremely limited laptop. First, the entire interface is designed to simplify and make the interface more direct and LESS commend/text driven. Pinch, point, scroll with a flick, move around the screen directly rather than having to type a command or manipulate with a pointing device like a mouse. BUT, at the same time you can, if you are so wedded to 19th century outdated mechanical technologies as a QWERTY keyboard, use a bluetooth, a docking iPad keyboard specifically designed to hold it up right for typing OR you can use just about any wireless keyboard. So why all the complaining and mashing of teeth? You are given more options not less. You act as if you have been violated by the iPad because it doesn’t have a “conventional keyboard” – well if you stopped to think for one second iPad does have virtual on screen keyboard, docking keyboard, wireless keyboard and a bluetooth keyboard. Quit complaining about NOTHING.