Bento 3 First Impressions

November 2, 2009  (Jeffrey Kabbe)

Now that I have had a few days to try building something useful in the new Bento version 3, I feel like I have seen enough to share my impressions. In some ways, this is like a review of Bento versions 1 and 2 because I never had the opportunity to give them much of my attention.

When I first downloaded the Bento demo, I was a little disappointed. It seemed like Bento would be good for tracking a few appointments, contacts, or projects, but not for anything heavy duty. I have been surprised, though, with the breadth of what I was able to build with Bento. It’s like having a setting of simple tools that, when used in combination, can make something which didn’t seem possible.

Case in point: smart collections. I was disappointed when I saw the list of options for smart collections. It’s nice to be able to view a list of projects that are due within the next three days. But what about overdue projects? How do I distinguish between tasks due yesterday and those due last month? For projects due yesterday, I can select those for which the due date is “in the last 1 days.” But there was apparently no option for selecting tasks that were due at least 14 days in the past.

So I put on my thinking cap and browsed the manual. I came across the section on Calculation fields and inspiration hit. A Calculation field   while nowhere near as powerful as those available in Filemaker Pro   could get me to where I wanted to go. I created a Days Overdue field by subtracting the due date from today. Creating a smart collection where the Days Overdue field is at least 14 (or “2w”) shows the tasks that are at least 2 weeks overdue.

The proper workflow to use is still something of a mystery to me. I created several smart collections, only to discover that later changes to the library’s forms don’t get replicated in the smart collection. So I need to make sure that I finalize the data fields and forms before I start filling out the smart collections.

Having worked with sophisticated databases and interfaces for many years, I still struggle a bit to get things done in Bento. But it sounds like Bento is a good springboard into Filemaker Pro, so it should serve the firm well for at least the next 6-12 months when a more advanced solution is ready.

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