Review: Bento for iPad – compartments for everything

Most productivity apps attempt to organise one part of your life–work, your personal life, your finances. Bento for iPad is a database that doesn’t make that distinction, but rather encourages you to do a little bit of everything. 

But first you have to compartmentalise–hence the bento box reference. There are several different libraries, or templates, within your Bento database, from to-do lists to expenses, from diet and exercise logs to contact and customer lists. 

In appearance, Bento looks nothing like a bento box. On one side, you have a list that you can add productivity templates to. Each of the templates does different things. A to-do list will have a space for a name, a due date and priority setting, while a contact list will have spaces for names, addresses, emails and so on. 

However using Bento is not as easy as it should be. It’s not as intuitive as many iPad apps, probably because it tries to do so many different things. If you’re good with spreadsheets, you’ll get a handle on Bento fairly rapidly. If not, you might have to play around a while to get a handle on it.

It also took some time to figure out that I had to double-tap with extreme precision when I needed to edit a field in the database. I couldn’t just tap on a field once, as I would in almost any another iPad app.

What is useful about Bento is that once you have it figured out you can add virtually anything to it. If you can’t find a template that does something you need the app to do, you can create a blank template and edit details, or find another one online by tapping ‘More templates’ within the app. That said, not all templates are compatible with newer versions of Bento, so some I tried to download didn’t work.

There are various colour themes, if you feel like the default ones look a bit ugly, and each template can be given a different theme. If colour-coding helps you think and organise, that feature could be useful. There’s also a passcode function, so if you feel information about your comings, goings and doings is fairly sensitive, you can lock Bento without locking your whole iPad.

If you like the idea of having one app to organise every aspect of your life, then Bento might be it for you. Just be prepared for a little bit of a learning curve if you’re unfamiliar with spreadsheets, or you’re not super tech savvy. You better get in fast, though, as FileMaker will only be offering the app until the end of September. 

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