Bento 4 for iPad is a significant update to what was already a useful and powerful personal database app for the Apple iPad. A completely redesigned user interface makes it easier to create and add data to your databases with 40 Retina-ready themes. Read more iPad reviews.

Best of all, you’re no longer required to have a Mac version of Bento in order to create sophisticated databases. Bento 4 is a standalone iOS app that is just as capable of creating and managing collections of information as is its desktop counterpart. 

With Bento, FileMaker has always dispensed with the language of databases and Bento 4 is no exception. Databases are called libraries, queries are called collections, and now Filemaker refers to any database you create using Bento 4 as an app. While this may prove frustrating to anyone with real database experience, it’s unlikely that anyone in Bento’s target audience will notice or care.

Bento 4 for iPad: New features

Bento ships with about 25 templates, including everything from exercise logs and recipe books to time billing and donation databases. Each of these templates can be used just as they are, or you can customize them to accomodate your needs. Read more iPad app reviews.

New is a built-in link to Filemaker’s Bento Template Exchange, an online resource from which you can download user-designed templates and templates created by Filemaker.  

Whether you’re creating libraries from scratch or using one of Bento’s template’s, Bento 4 for iPad offers excellent new tools for creating new fields and adding them to your forms. Tap the form editor (a small pencil) while viewing any form and you’ll see a new column appear on the left-hand side of the screen with three headings: View Fields, New Fields, Add Objects.

Tap View Fields and you’ll see a list of the fields available in the current library that don’t yet appear on the form. Tap New Fields and you’ll see a selection of all the field types you can add to your library. Tap Add Objects and you’ll see items that you can add to a form so that they will be the same for every record in your library. 

The brilliance of this new design is immediately evident once you start adding fields to your library. Drag a new field onto a form and Bento will ask you to give it a name and, depending on the type of field you’ve added, change the options for that field type. No longer want a field on a form? All you have to do is drag it off and it will return to the list of fields available within the library. 

While we would still prefer layouts to be a more freeform than present, we found these new form and library creation tools to be better than the previous iOS app and even the Mac app.

Bento offers three options for viewing your data: Form, Table, or Split view, all of which can be presented in full-screen mode.

Bento for iPad 4: Issues

While there’s much to love about Bento 4, there are still some changes needed to be truly great. At the top of that list is printing – there’s still no way to print directly from your iPad. 

Bento’s syncing feature still deletes anything you’ve created on your iPad the first time you sync Bento with your Mac. To make matters worse, you can only email yourself the data in your libraries, not the libraries themselves, so there’s no way to save forms you’ve created. If you have any intention of syncing data between your Mac and iOS device , make sure you sync before you start creating on the iPad. 

We’re not keen on the app’s calculation editor. It uses non-standard editing tools making it difficult to see where your cursor is while editing. There’s no loupe and no other visual feedback until you take your finger off the iPad, which, until we learned how it worked, I found frustrating.

Bento: Specs

  • Apple iPad
  • iOS 5 or later
  • Apple iPad
  • iOS 5 or later


While we do have some quibbles, none are insurmountable. Bento 4 is a great app for collecting and managing all your personal data, and a significant improvement to what was already the best personal database app for the iPad.