Product: Bento 4 for Macintosh

Product: Bento 4 for Macintosh ¦ Retail price: single copy, $49; family pack, $99

By Carol S. Holzberg

If your database needs are simple and you’re a Macintoshbased school, Bento 4 is a user-friendly, economically priced entry-level database program.

Quality and Effectiveness: Designed for use as a personal database, Bento 4 helps manage several types of information, including contacts, media, and geographic locations. The program also links to calendar events and tasks available to your iCal application and photos in your iPhoto library.

This newest version of Bento can print data to 250 Avery and Dymo labels, which comes in handy for mass mailings, ID badges, and marking file folders. Event location fields are useful, for example, in an outdoor science class in which students want to document the locations of plants or animals. The program’s ability to connect libraries of information is useful also. You can add custom fields to any Bento 4 database template or form, examine data from many views, and change forms’ layout, design, and text size as needed. Templates, with or without database data, can be exported and shared with other users.

Ease of Use: Bento 4 comes with 35 ready-to-use templates to get you started. Additional templates are available free for download from the Bento Template Exchange. If you already have a spreadsheet table, the program lets you create a new database library simply by copying rows and columns from that table and pasting the data into a blank Bento table.

Creative Use of Technology: Bento 4 lets you share an entire Bento database (or just selected libraries in the database) simultaneously with as many as five other Bento users connected over a local network. Like earlier versions, Bento 4 supports Smart Collections of data that update automatically when records meeting defined criteria are entered in a library collection. Version 4, however, lets you create Smart Collections for time-sensitive information, such as a particular date or time.

Suitability for Use in a School Environment: Bento 4 prevents users from entering the same data more than once and saves changes automatically as users enter information. Users can link related data sets.

Top Features

¦ Affordable, and prints labels and tracks locations.
¦ Databases can be shared with as many as five users simultaneously, and teachers and students can “publish” Bento 4 templates to the Bento Template Exchange.
¦ Bento 4 works well with Bento for iPad and Bento for iPhone, enabling users to sync data with Bento for Mac and vice versa.

Overall Rating

This versatile application scores high marks for getting administrators, teachers, and students in Mac-based schools working with databases. More than a glorified contact manager, it offers a variety of ways to keep data organized.