Bento Book: Beauty and Simplicity in Digital Organization


Find everything fast...from iCal, Address Book, Apple Mail, even MobileMe and iPhone

• Use Bento’s stunning templates and themes

• Master Smart Collections and other advanced features

• Keep a nature/garden log

• Manage projects

• Create storyboards

• And more...much more

Bento is the best way to organize ...

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The Bento Book: Beauty and Simplicity in Digital Organization

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Find everything fast...from iCal, Address Book, Apple Mail, even MobileMe and iPhone

• Use Bento’s stunning templates and themes

• Master Smart Collections and other advanced features

• Keep a nature/garden log

• Manage projects

• Create storyboards

• And more...much more

Bento is the best way to organize your life.

Your contacts, events, tasks, projects, stuff, everything.

This book makes Bento even better. (And even easier.)

Learn how to use everything that’s built into Bento...and extend Bento
to do even more.

Quick. Elegant. Smart. And 100% Mac.

That’s Bento. And that’s the Bento Book.

Bento 2 adds new features.

Find out what’s new and how to use hot relations, export
and import Bento libraries, and use new view features.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789738127
  • Publisher: Que
  • Publication date: 10/22/2008
  • Pages: 244
  • Sales rank: 1,106,324
  • Product dimensions: 6.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Jesse Feiler knows Macs and databases inside out. He’s author of Special Edition Using FileMaker 9 and many other books. His day job? Helping small businesses and nonprofits use databases to work smarter, faster, better, and more happily. For book updates, go to

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Table of Contents

Introduction . . . 1

1 Bento: The Database for the Rest of Us . . . 7

2 Using the Bento Window . . . 21

3 Working with Bento Forms . . . 43

4 Building a Bento Library from Your Own Data . . . 53

5 Working with Phone, URL, IM, and Address Fields and Lists in Contacts . . . 65

6 Working with Bento Fields and Calculations . . . 75

7 Expanding the Inventory Library with Related Records and Collections . . . 93

8 Using Built-In Bento Libraries for Address Book . . . 113

9 Using Built-In Bento Libraries for iCal Tasks and iCal Events . . . 127

10 Working with Bento’s Projects Library to Use Related Records from iCal Tasks, iCal Events, and Address Book . . . 139

11 Designing a Projects Library with Related Notes . . . 151

12 Building a Garden/Nature Log . . . 165

13 Organizing a Group Project with Bento . . . 177

14 Creating a Storyboard with Bento . . . 189

15 Importing and Exporting Bento Data and Libraries . . . 199

16 Managing an Email List from Constant Contact or Vertical Response with Bento . . . 207

17 Bento Quickies . . . 225

Index . . . 233

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In this Introduction

  • The Database for the Rest of Us

  • How This Book Is Organized

  • Downloadable Files and Web Suport

The Database for the Rest of Us

Bento is a product from FileMaker, which is owned by Apple. Designed to bring FileMaker's database expertise to users of Mac OS X Leopard and later, it integrates data from iCal, Mail, and Address Book with databases that you can create from your own data as well as imported data from other sources.

Bento is lightweight in its structure but heavyweight in its capabilities. Because it builds on so many years' (actually decades') worth of experience with users and their needs both at FileMaker and at Apple, it is responsive to the frequently expressed needs and frustrations of people who need more organization than a word processing document or spreadsheet can provide but less complexity than a full-featured multiuser database might provide. Organization is the key to making information usable. Four items that are organized (ideas, recipes, addresses, bills, or shoes) can be more useful than a thousand items that are scattered around helter-skelter with no organization scheme.

Released in beta in the fall of 2007 and in a final version in early winter 2008, Bento caught on immediately. The response was positive both in reviews and in user comments. Because the Bento team is so agile and also because its design is so simple yet sophisticated, it was possible to produce a second version of the software within a year.

This book shows you how to use Bento—both the first version and Bento 2. There are significant differences to the userinterface between the two versions, but the basic functionality is the same. Figure IN.1 shows one of the sample Bento libraries in Bento 1.

Figure IN.1
Bento 1 in action.

In Figure IN.2, you see the same library in Bento 2.

Figure IN.2
The library in Bento 2.

The most significant difference that you can see in comparing the two versions is that the Source list (at the left in Bento 1) and the Fields list (at the right in Bento 1) now share the same Libraries & Fields pane at the left in Bento 2. There are many other changes. One of the most important is the ability to split the main part of the window into two views, as shown in Figure IN.3. Watch for the New in This Version icon in the book for more Bento 2 features.

Figure IN.3
In Bento 2, you can split the window display in two.

There are many more changes in Bento 2. Just a few of the highlights are

  • You can include messages from Apple Mail in your Bento libraries in the same way you can include iCal and Address Book data.

  • You can enter data directly into the Table view, as shown at the top of Figure IN.3.

  • Bento now supports more import and export formats.

  • You can also save a Bento library as a template.

  • Field types can be changed.

  • Related records have more functionality, including the ability to click to go to a specific related record and, from that record, to return to the original record ("hot relations").

  • And many, many more features as you will see in the book.

If you are still using Bento 1, have no fear. Where differences exist in functionality or the interface, both are described and illustrated.

How This Book Is Organized

This book shows you how to use Bento, and it presents a number of projects that you can use (with or without modification). The projects are designed to illustrate the types of tasks that you can perform with Bento. You may choose to mix and match features and functionality from various projects to create your own solutions.

The general structure of the book is as follows:

  • In the first few chapters, you see how to use the built-in Bento libraries.

  • Next, you see how to customize them.

  • Then you see how to import data from another source, such as a spreadsheet.

  • Finally, you see how to create and share libraries for data that you enter from scratch.

Along the way, the chapters explore various combinations of these techniques. Here is a summary of the chapters in the book:

  • Chapter 1, "Bento: The Database for the Rest of Us," provides the introductory overview of Bento. It shows how you can organize your data, and it describes the basic Bento terminology, which consists of just four words. You see how to use the Bento window in both versions and how to set preferences.

  • Chapter 2, "Using the Bento Window," uses the built-in Notes library to show you how to add and delete records, enter data, and find it (both using a simple and advanced find technique).

  • Chapter 3, "Working with Bento Forms," uses the built-in Classes library to explore how you can customize libraries with themes, columns, labels, shading, text size, and text boxes.

  • Chapter 4, "Building a Bento Library from Your Own Data," provides a quick overview of how to import data from another source such as a spreadsheet. This topic is explored in more depth in Chapter 15, "Importing and Exporting Bento Data and Libraries."

  • Chapter 5, "Working with Phone, URL, IM, and Address Fields and Lists in Contacts," explores the built-in Contacts library. You see how to use multiple forms and how to work with lists of phone numbers, URLs, addresses, emails, and IMs. The integration with Mail is explored both in Bento 1 and Bento 2 (there are some differences), and you see how to add fields to a form.

  • Chapter 6, "Working with Bento Fields and Calculations," shows how you can use calculation fields to make your data entry faster and more accurate. The built-in Exercise Log serves as the example.

  • Chapter 7, "Expanding the Inventory Library with Related Records and Collections," delves into the concept of related records. You see how to take the built-in Inventory library and modify it so that it reflects additions or subtractions to or from inventory in a live, on-hand value.

  • Chapter 8, "Using Built-In Bento Libraries for Address Book," explores one of the most powerful parts of Bento: its integration with Address Book in Mac OS X. Bento accesses the Address Book data, and it is always live in the Bento display as well as in the Address Book display. (You also see how this ties into MobileMe so that the data in Bento and Address Book is automatically synchronized with data elsewhere in your computing environment.)

  • Chapter 9, "Using Built-In Bento Libraries for iCal Tasks and Events," continues to look at how Bento is automatically integrated with your data on Mac OS X. This time, the iCal data is considered.

  • Chapter 10, "Working with Bento's Projects Library to Use Related Records from iCal Tasks, iCal Events, and Address Book," shows how the built-in Bento Projects library uses the technologies described in Chapters 7 through 9. Related records from the built-in Mac OS X applications are associated with specific projects. This allows integration so that, for example, iCal can display tasks and events over a period of time and across many projects while you can view each project separately in Bento. Furthermore, the integration of iCal and Address Book with MobileMe means that your Bento tasks, events, and contacts are automatically available on all your synchronized devices from Macs to PCs to iPhones. This chapter also shows the new Bento 2 feature that lets you integrate messages from Mail with your Bento libraries.

  • Chapter 11, "Designing a Projects Library with Related Notes," shows how you can customize the built-in Projects library with structured notes. This capability allows you to enter and browse comment and note data by date or other categories. Notes differ from tasks and events not only in that they are stored totally in Bento, not in iCal, but also because notes are a record of what has happened and been discussed in a project—the past, as well as the future events and tasks. For many people, this library may be all the project tracking they need.

  • Chapter 12, "Building a Garden/Nature Log," builds a customized project from scratch. This project is good for a kid, class, or family. It integrates observations, measurements, and photos of a garden or natural world with Bento. It also shows how you can perform complex or tricky calculations with Bento's summary row and Smart Collections (as in calculating the last frost date—a date that is characterized by the fact that you do not know the date of the last frost until all possible subsequent frosts have not happened).

  • Chapter 13, "Organizing a Group Project with Bento," shows how to use Bento as the core of a multiuser project. Bento is designed for a single user, but this is a great way for a person (teacher? project leader? committee chair?) to pull a group project together.

  • Chapter 14, "Creating a Storyboard with Bento," focuses on organizing a visual project and shows how you can keep track of all the related storyboard project aspects, such as locations, costumes, actors, and props. You can also integrate notes and visuals into the storyboard itself. Storyboard can help you organize everything from a political commercial to a family history.

  • Chapter 15, "Importing and Exporting Bento Data and Libraries," explores Bento data import and export. You also see how to use the Bento 2 features that allow you to create and use your own Bento library templates.

  • Chapter 16, "Managing an Email List from Constant Contact or Vertical Response with Bento," takes a common real-word problem and explores how you can use Bento to help you. Managing an email list is more than just tracking names and addresses. In this chapter you see the basics of importing and exporting addresses to and from the major bulk-mailing programs.

  • Chapter 17, "Bento Quickies," provides tips and suggestions for a number of projects. Because you have already seen how to use Bento, these quickies can point you in interesting directions in just a paragraph or two.

Special Features

This book includes the following special features:

  • Chapter roadmaps: At the beginning of each chapter is a list of the top-level topics addressed in that chapter. This list enables you to quickly see the information the chapter contains.

  • Notes: Notes provide additional commentary or explanation that doesn't fit neatly into the surrounding text. Notes give detailed explanations of how something works, alternative ways of performing a task, and other tidbits to get you on your way.

  • Tips: This element gives you shortcuts, workarounds, and ways to avoid pitfalls.

  • Cautions: Every once in a while there is something that can have serious repercussions if done incorrectly (or, rarely, if done at all). Cautions give you a heads-up.

  • New in This Version icon: This icon identifies new features in Bento 2.

  • Cross-references: Many topics are connected to other topics in various ways. Cross-references help you link related information together, no matter where that information appears in the book. When another section is related to one you are reading, a cross-reference directs you to a specific page in the book on which you can find the related information.

Downloadable Files and Web Support

For updates to the book, see the author's website, and the book's website, There is also a Facebook Page for the book at

Downloadable files for this book are available on the Web:



FileMaker is the developer of Bento. There are a number of resources on the FileMaker site:

  • gets you to the basic Bento page.

  • There is a discussion forum for Bento at

© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 16, 2009

    Bento Book isn't user-friendly

    The diagrams in this book are very small and almost unreadable. Since the book covers Bento 1 & 2, there is an inherent confusion at times that isn't alleviated with clear delineations for the diagrams. Sometimes the diagrams tell you which version they are referencing and sometimes not. The text sometimes points out which version the diagrams are referencing, but not always.
    This may be a great book, but the hurdles with the diagrams and continuous back and forth between the two Bento versions makes it a chore to use. It's the only book I found on the Bento 2 at B&N so it's better than nothing.
    I don't like rating an book so low, but I wouldn't buy it again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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