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Filemaker's Bento Personal Database

Database application for Humans. And filmmakers By Mike Jones

Databases are one of those things most often shrouded in arcane technical mystery. For those who've yet to utilize a database in a personal or meaningful way, it s easy to dismiss them as belonging to IT nerds and the heavy demands of major corporations needing to keep track of vast amounts of data.

Stalwarts of database software developers, Filemaker Pro, have made a new effort at humanizing database software with Bento, a software app designed specifically for personal users and developed exclusively for Mac OSX Leopard. Bento aims at presenting an open framework that can be assembled to meet specific users needs while retaining template based drag-and-drop functionality. To a very large degree Bento achieves this balance, keeping flexibility and accessibility in equal measure.

In broad terms, the key purpose of a database is to act not so much as a place to store information but rather, more importantly, a means by which information can be retrieved and found, sorted and arrayed. A database is more about data management then data storage. But of course, as the old saying from movie editors the world over goes, ?Garbage in Garbage out. Any database is only as useful as the reliability of the information you put in.

To enter that data Bento provides a comprehensive collection of preset fields that can be added at will to a database entry. Text, numbers and values, multiple choice, tick box, virtually any kind of malleable information you may wish to enter will find a match with a preset field from the Bento library. The fields can be customized to meet specific needs but still function with drag and drop flexibility.

Bento overview

The first step is to create a Library that represents the collection of data as a group. An example might simply be address book contacts. Bento in fact will automatically import your contacts from your built-in Mac Address Book. Having your contacts as part of Bento database allows for a far greater level of functionality than that afforded by the ordinary Address Book, keeping notes, projects, meeting minutes and pretty much anything else you can think matched and embedded in a database entry. And once you have your address book as a database it becomes fully searchable allowing you to quickly find the items you need. 

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