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Filemaker's Bento goes 2.0


When Filemaker introduced Bento, the 'relational database for the rest of us,' at Macworld Expo this year, the response from the marketplace was pretty solid; as of August, the $49 multipurpose data organizer had been downloaded over 400,000 times. Still, the product was a clear 1.0 with a lot of room for new features and improvements; that's what Filemaker is looking to deliver with Bento 2, announced today and on sale immediately.

The big shift in B2 is the enhanced interaction with the data sources that contribute to your Bento collections. Need to include messages in a layout along with contact info? Drag-and-drop them in, easy as can be. Want an RSS feed or your iCal data too? No problem. You can also sort and search your data in an iTunes-esque "Smart Collections" mode that should be familiar to novice users.

One of the top requests from Bento 1 users was for better spreadsheet integration, and Filemaker has added copy/paste support and improved import/export for Excel and Numbers; spreadsheets can be sorted and tweaked with ease, especially in the new split table/layout view. Surprisingly (to me anyway), AppleWorks import capability was also near the top of the feature request list; it's been added as well.

Bento's look has been revved up with 10 new themes; new in v2 is the ability to directly edit the layout of a database without switching into a layout-specific mode (just drag the field titles around). Address views now support AIM/iChat directly, and Google Maps integration is built-in. If you have rich media content that needs to travel with your database, you can embed it by option-dragging it onto the layout (a conventional drag creates a relative link to the media on your hard drive). Printing has been enhanced with new report modes, and the option to save a 'clone' template (no data records, just the schema and layouts) has been added.

Filemaker's customer research has been demonstrating a wide and diverse audience for Bento, from pilots and fashion boutiques to eBay mavens and goat herders. It's a pretty good bet that if your needs include a light, single-user and simple database app, Bento will be a match for you.

Bento 2 is $49 for one license and $99 for a family pack; through 10/27, it's available exclusively at the Apple Store or via Bento 2 is a Universal Binary and requires Mac OS X 10.5.4 or higher.

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