(Updated to Bento 3 now)
Bento is the easiest way to create completely custom databases either from scratch or from templates in a user friendly, easy to navigate way that's ideal for home and small business users.
--- Features ---
What can you use it for? -
Bento has been created to help both home and business users create databases to store all manner of information from DVD collections to stock inventory or even a customer database.
The program has been designed to be as unique as you allowing you to choose from many options to create new fields for your database, i.e. a simple customer database may contain the following;
Title - can be either a text entered value or you can create a set of drop down words to choose from when entered, i.e. Mr, Miss, Mrs.
Name - simple text field
Phone Number - phone number which can be pre-set to have dashes in, as it may appear on a website
Address - links to Google maps make finding the person (to deliver to for example) as easy as a few mouse clicks
E-Mail Address - enter and simply click the button by it to automatically start your default mail client with the recipient already filled in.
Image of Customer - enter from your computer or direct from iSight webcam (built into Macs)
Website - direct link opens up in default browser.
There is also many other fields that can be added for custom data types as well as new fields (new version) like simple lists which resemble embedded excel spreadsheets.
It's basically a case of making a database to suit your individual needs. You can set up multiple libraries of data for different areas of your life/business, such as a Customer library, a Music collection library and more all within this software.
As for viewing entered data, you can either flick through the entries in a nice graphical display or look at them in a table view which again resmbles data entry in excel (or in Bento 3 a grid view which shows thumbnails of the data).
To jazz up the graphical interface you can customise fonts and colours using the Theme Chooser which has many colour combinations in-built (once again this is expanded to include more in Bento 3). The only thing missing from this side is the way that you can't customise the colours and fonts, you can only choose from the pre-made themes which is something simple yet a little nagging at me.
Templates - As well as totally customising and building a database from scratch, you can use pre-made templates either ones built in or ones downloaded from the file exchange online, these let you get straight into entering data by providing a pre-designed database with the most common fields already added.
--- Ease Of Use ---
Databases sound tricky to build from scratch and, in some cases, this is true. Whilst there is software out there to build complicated databases which will do as you need, you may need to learn some code and a whole other computer language to build it. This is where Bento differs by offering simple, easy to use, graphically driven database software that is easy to pick up and start working with immediately.
A good community has been building up on the back of the more advanced database software FileMaker (made by the same company) and so if you have any problems, chances are there's an answer on their forum or you can simply pose the question and responses tend to be fairly quick.
A good in-built help system is also great and shows this software really has been built to try and be idiot proof!
--- Price ---
$49 or around £30 for the single use
$99 or around £62.50 a family pack that allows use on up to 5 computers.
An absolute bargain in my opinion.
--- New Version ---
Bento 3 has just been released with new features including sharing between computers (to keep everything in synch) as well as better integration with iCal and iPhoto for Mac.
--- Summary ---
All other database software i've seen has either been restricted in terms of how much you can do with it to customise it or just not been very intuitive.
Bento is therefore a god send for a small business owner such as myself. I use it to track customers, in-shop orders, stock inventory and more. The built in export system is also great as it means I can back up the system as often as I want and also export to CSV format which is easy to read for accounting or stock checking.
Overall I find it hard to fault this software though adding a lot of images to the databases does seem to slow loading times which is understandable but may make me cautious of over using the image field.
Try it FREE now at http://www.filemaker.com/bento
Meet Bento 2, the version of the wildly popular personal database from FileMaker that's as easy to use as your Mac.