Archive for the 'Database' CategoryJuly 20, 2010
Yesterday FileMaker released its iPad and iPhone versions of FileMaker Go ($39.99 and $19.99 respectively). FileMaker Go allows you to view, search, and edit FileMaker Pro records right from your iPad or iPhone. And if you won’t have internet access where you’re going, you can also copy the database to your device and run it from there. You can copy the database back to your desktop computer when you’re done, but it looks like an all-or-nothing proposition. There doesn’t seem to be syncing. You can also access a database from your DropBox account.
The release of FileMaker Go certainly muddies the decision between a standard “desktop” database and a website-driven database. I am still undecided on the technology that will serve as the foundation for our next-generation practice management tool. FileMaker Go certainly ups the ante on the desktop side of things.
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.
My wife has used a decidedly low tech approach to tracking client work while a more robust Filemaker solution is being worked on. About a month ago, my wife decided to take an interim step and get a Bento database rolling to computerize at least some of the workflow. Three days later, I got an email that Bento 3 had been released.
It’s turned out to be quite a nice surprise. Bento version 3 finally includes what was probably the first user feature request: database sharing. I am honestly not sure why this feature is buried so far down on the list because it is huge for small businesses. The ability to share a database with a few other people in your group is a perfect budget solution for new businesses and situations where you just want a “quick and dirty” solution.
I have posted about Bento in the past (here and here). I have been meaning to give Bento a more complete review treatment because I know that many of you have been looking for information about Bento. Right now I am in the middle of a series of GTD reviews (that got off to a great start and should be reaching stage two soon). In the meantime, head on over to MacNN to see a pretty good introductory review of Bento (part one and part two).
Today FileMaker, Inc. – Apple’s database software subsidiary – released Bento, a lightweight database application. Bento is a welcome addition to the contact, scheduling, and office management space.
Previously, the software in this space fell mostly at either end of the complexity continuum. FileMaker Pro is a powerful database, but complicated to use. It’s not the kind of program the typical user can just install and start using with little or no instruction. At the other end of the continuum are programs like Daylite from Marketcircle. Daylite is also quite sophisticated, but it has limited configurability compared to the open-ended possibilities of FileMaker Pro. But, Daylite is straightforward enough that most users can quickly learn how to use it.
Bento is something in between. It combines the power of FileMaker Pro with the simplicity of iLife. Like FileMaker Pro, Bento is a database for organizing all of the information you need for your law practice. Bento integrates directly with the Mac OS X Address Book and iCal databases, so there is no need to sync your data – like you have to do in Daylite or Contactizer. Bento also works with Time Machine, allowing you to backup database and restore single records.
All of these features come with one limitation, however – Bento requires Mac OS X Leopard. However, as I discussed in another article, there are already plenty of good reasons to upgrade to Leopard. Also, Bento seems like it is more suited to a single-user environment – unlike FileMaker Pro and Daylite. Look for a more detailed review of Bento in a few weeks, after I have had a chance to put it through its paces.