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Bento and iPad: The Start of Something New

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If you’re looking for a great database to run on iPad, Filemaker’s Bento is a good choice. Expert Jesse Feiler, author of The Bento Book: The Beauty and Simplicity in Digital Organization, tells you why.
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Bento is a great companion for iPad; both of them demonstrate the beginning of a new chapter in software development. I know we've periodically had new chapters in software development (game changers, killer apps, and The Next Big Thing—all thousands of them), but this time it's real.

Don't take my word for it; take a look at the software. Bento on the Mac (it doesn't run on Windows) is a terrific personal database. This article tells you why.

Interface

The folks at FileMaker put their decades of database expertise into a new product that defines a specific space and fills it with features. You can see it in action in Figure 1.

This interface is a great example of contemporary interface design: It's compact and powerful. The screenshot doesn't show the menu bar, but that's OK—it’s really not that important. And besides, menu bars are so 20th-century (more than a decade old by now). Instead of having to drag that mouse pointer all the way around your screen to find the command you want to execute, the commands are right on the screen and right where you want to use them.

Take a look at the bottom of the main part of the screen: The form tools duplicate menu commands that are getting a little long in the tooth. Instead of the effort of going up to the Insert menu to choose the Text Box command, you can instead click Text Box in the form tools at the bottom of the screen to add a new text box in your form.

Not interested? No big deal. Just click the Show/Hide Form tools button in the lower right of the window frame (it's the second from the right).

Commands usually act on what you have selected in the window. That's the routine – select, then choose a command. It's been that way since the first graphical user interface (generally dated to the Xerox 8010 Star Information System) in 1981. If you have not selected something that a command needs to do its work, that command is grayed out in the menu bar.

Today, that gear wheel you see in the lower left of the main part of the window is all over the place. Instead of graying out unusable commands in the menu bar, the gear wheel pops up a menu of commands that are usable. If only two commands make sense at a given time, you've got two commands in the list. It's part of the move to streamline and focus interfaces. We've come a long way since 1981!

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