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Software Review: Bento for the iPhone

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Are you sick and tired of storing all of your information in hundreds of different places? Want to sync your Google Maps, Safari, and contact information between your iPhone and your computer? Just want to keep your class notes, schedule, and exam prep all in one application on your iPod Touch? If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then I have the perfect application for you.

A long, long time ago, at the start of June, I chose the top 10 applications from the entire month of May. Sitting pretty at the top of the list was an application called Bento. At the time of that article, I was in love with the application. It could do anything I wanted to, store everything I needed to, and integrate everything in one simple app; I thought that Bento was a godsend. I still feel that way.

Bento is an application with a very simple purpose – organize your life. Everything that you do in life, from meetings, to your friends, to your recipes, are all storable within the Bento application. Coming with 25 built-in database templates, as well as a make-your-own option, Bento is perfect for storing information, keeping track of changes, and, well, doing anything.

Personally, I use Bento every single day. I store my class notes on it, a list of the exams, and all of the details that I need to (hopefully) get good grades. I also store my Blogcritics review list, keeping me up to date and meeting all of my deadlines. To help me try to lose weight, I have a recipe book that organizes everything by calories. The book works hand-in-hand with my exercise log, making sure that I burn those calories off right away. I use Bento all the time, and it has made my life far easier.

One of the reasons that I love this application is the fact that soon as you start it up, it is ready to go. Almost everything that you would need to use is built in for you. For businesses, it starts you with Contacts, Addresses, Inventory, Billing, and the like. For private users, Bento has a Home Inventory, Expense Log, Vehicle Maintenance, and Diet Log. Then, if it doesn’t have what you need, you can create (or download) a template to do what you need. The fact that Bento is so versatile is a major plus.

Another thing that is nice about Bento, but something I could not test out (I hate Macs), is the fact that you can sync it to your Mac computer. Filemaker also makes versions of the software for Macs, and so you can use it there. This allows you to create databases with a mouse and a keyboard, which is far easier. It also allows you to use your pre-existing information on your iPhone. To make all syncing easy, any time you make a change on either device, it alters the information on the other. Though this feature is not useful for all iPhone or iPod Touch users, it is great for any that also have a Mac.

The layout and UI of Bento is yet another thing that amazes me. The application feels like it was built by Apple themselves, and it is perfect for the user. Everything is easy to find, nothing is hidden, and editing is a breeze. The touch controls worked flawlessly every time I used the phone, and everything responded well. To move about, you scroll through images similarly to how Coverflow works in iTunes. This is really cool, and works perfectly.

I know, I know, you are hating the fact that I am talking wonders about Bento. What about the problems, you ask. Well, there is one problem – I can not sync it to my Windows computer. While this is not a problem with the application itself (which is why it doesn’t effect the score), I have an issue with this fact. Windows users make up 80+% of the computer population, so ignoring them is not that smart. I really want to be able to create databases in Vista, then move them over. This is something that I hope Filemaker works on, and something that I expect to see in the future.

Overall, I believe that Bento for the iPhone is one of the best apps out there. I use it everyday, and the application is really great at keeping my life in order. The UI and feel is perfect, and everything is flawless. Even the price is great; $4.99 to keep your life running smoothly is well worth it. I truly believe that if you purchased Bento your life would be far easier, and far better. What are you waiting for, grab it today!

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About Robert M. Barga