There are three apps for managing databases I focussed on in this and my previous articles.
Tap Forms HD (Tap Zapp Software Inc, Canada)
Bento (FileMaker Inc, USA)
Microsoft Access Mobile Database Client (Impathic LLc, USA).
This article is about the features of Bento and contains a final assessment of all three products.
The developers of Tap Forms and Bento use different terms for the same objects.
Here is a translation of the standard terms used by Microsoft:
The features …
I took these screenshots to emphasize the highlights of Bento Mobile Database.
The library ‘WordPress’ contains informations about my blog. I manage these informations with my favorite app Tap Forms. In Tap Forms I exported the data as a CSV file and imported the records in Bento. Here are some basic informations about Bento.
All options for viewing the data also allow the editing of records.
Additionally to the table view records can be viewed in forms.
Forms can be designed by the user by arranging the fields to the needs.
Bento offers no traditional queries (SQL like expressions for selecting data) but a full text search.
This might be a disadvantage if you want to select records e.g. with numerical values less than 500.
On the other hand Bento allows concatenating text fields which is not supported by Tap Forms.
So the capabilities of calculated fields leave nothing to be desired.
Full feature description of Bento …
The mind map created with the app iThoughts for iOS contains all features of the app Bento Mobile Database for iPad. It can be downloaded here:
On my iPhone Bento did THOMAS appear in the apps menu of the ‘Open in’ command. So I contacted Bento’s support and described the problem. Here is the very poor answer:
Response Via Email (…) Apr 04, 2013 02:54 AM PDT
Thank you for contacting FileMaker Customer Support.
Regarding your question about Bento, when you open the email with the CSV file attached, does a window open showing Bento as an app when you touch the CSV attachment with your finger for a couple of seconds
If you have any questions, please contact Customer Support on: 0845 603 9100 (United Kingdom) or 01 4073432 (Ireland), Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (excluding holidays)., and reference case number: 130403-000002.
Nothing more to say.
The main problem is that FileMaker provides no other way to fill the database except with a CSV file by using the ‘Open in’ command. This is a definitely poor strategy of a big company!
Three competitors …
Tap Forms HD, Bento, Access Mobile Database Client
Two winners …
Tap Forms HD, Bento
It’s not easy to give a final assessment and it’s obviously subjective because different users have different requirements. However, my preferred app is Tap Forms HD by Tap Zapp Software Inc, Canada.
Decisive for me are the following features …
- Syncing via iCloud across all devices
- Backup as ZIP file and Restore on other devices
- Building SQL-like queries
- Direct Import/Export to Dropbox
- Perfect, fast, and understandable support
The main disadvantage of Bento is that it solely offers CSV files for transferring data.
This file type, as implemented by FileMaker, is not appropriate for exchanging data between devices. UnlikeTap Forms Bento does not include the field type in it’s CSV file. So relevant information drops away. After importing URLs Bento interprets the contents of this field as simple text and so it’s no longer associated with the functionality of opening a browser when tapping on it.
In contrast to Bento Tap Forms HD includes field-type tags in the header row to tell an importing app which fields are numbers and which are text, dates, URLs, or other field types.
While backing up Tap Forms creates a ZIP file which consists of a normal CSV file as well as all other ‘not-text’ data like images or audio recordings. Restoring this kind of a CSV file with additional information about filed types enables the importing app to reassign field-type specific functionality.
So there is no chance to transfer libraries of Bento from one iOS device to another and to further sync the data. Even File Sharing via iTunes is not offered.
Nevertheless Bento is a serious competitor and offers some impressive features which I miss in Tap Forms HD. These are:
- Creating of Forms for editing and displaying data
- Displaying data in spreadsheet-like lists
- App controlled managing of ‘Date Modified/Created’ fields
- Calculations can also be done with text fields by concatenating text
- Useful Help System with short but understandable descriptions
It’s hard to comprehend that features are missing which users perceive within a minute when they start an application the first time. Many longstanding features known of comparable apps for computers are not carried over to iPad. It seems to me that companies developing software for mobile devices are not yet ready to accept the needs of the market. It’s not explicable that, for example, Dropbox in it’s mobile client still doesn’t offer a setting for the sort order of files.
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