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FileMaker unpacks a Bento database for iPhone

You won't need a Mac to use FileMaker's database application for iPhone and iPod Touch, but if you do, there are extra syncing tools included.

Bento for iPhone and iPod Touch
FileMaker, Inc.

You don't have to own a Mac to use FileMaker's new Bento for iPhone and iPod Touch--released Tuesday in the iTunes App Store--but if you do, wireless sync adds extra incentive to take your personal databases to go.

Bento ($4.99) offers non-Mac users a portable personal database for storing everything from birthdays and home expenses to recipes and an exercise log, with 25 templates to start. Integration with the address book, dialer, Safari browser, e-mail in-box, and Google Maps make Bento a useful iPhone app offering that could become a master storehouse for your separate lists; and one that quickly facilitates calls, mapping, and Web searches from within the app.

We got a demo of the handsome, dark Bento app a few weeks ago. After playing with it for a while, it appears to balance a mine of data fields with the iPhone's customarily accessible interface. Bento's home screen displays all your data libraries, which you can swipe through to view. Other screens let you add a new library, search for entries, or sync to Bento on the Mac. Each new library is prepopulated with one dummy entry to get you started. While there is a dedicated search screen, a similar search field within each library facilitates more advanced investigations of your data.

While straightforward at the top level, Bento for iPhone has a few more tricks tucked away--like the option to rate your contacts (your child's babysitters, for instance), and add additional data fields. Bento will also let you create subcollections within any record with the push of a button that looks like three overlapping squares. Those familiar with Bento 2 for Mac will note that while calculations and related records from the desktop version can be transferred to and used on the iPhone version, you won't be able to create either on the device.

We won't know for sure until we build up some databases of our own, but after looking at Bento for iPhone in its prelaunch state, it seems promising for the uberorganized.