FileMaker Retires Bento, the Everyman’s (and Woman’s) Database

Bento icon

FileMaker recently announced that the company is retiring Bento, its personal database program. FileMaker said that this is because its “customers’ use of FileMaker on iOS is growing rapidly.”

The problem is that FileMaker is a behemoth of a product, designed for businesses, which costs $300, compared to Bento, which cost $50. Also, Bento was very easy to set up and use, whereas FileMaker has a very steep learning curve.

FileMaker certainly found that they weren’t selling enough copies of Bento, or they simply decided that they didn’t want low-priced competition for FileMaker.

One advantage of Bento was the wide availability of templates so individuals could set up databases without even worrying about layout. The Bento website had dozens of templates, which covered things like home inventories, collections, lesson plans and more.

I’ve been using Bento for a couple of years, mainly for a research project, where I’ve been collecting excerpts from books for my Reading Ralph Waldo Emerson website. I looked at a number of options, and Bento was the easiest to use, allowing me to set up custom fields, and enter dates, texts, references and more. Bento won’t stop working, of course, and FileMaker pledges support through July 30, 2014. But I very much liked the way Bento let me record texts, sort them, and search for them. If any readers have suggestions for something simple that can meet my needs, feel free to mention your favorite database app in the comments.

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Learn about LaunchBar’s Five Superpowers in My Latest Book: Take Control of LaunchBar

TC-LB-2I’ve been using LaunchBar for nearly as long as it has been around on the Mac. It’s the first utility that I install on every new Mac; with LaunchBar installed, I can get on with everything else I need to do.

LaunchBar has superpowers. It won’t give you the power to cloud men’s minds or climb the sides of buildings, but it will turn you into a Mac superhero. Anyone can master LaunchBar’s basic uses: launching applications, opening files, searching the Web, and more. But this book will teach you the five LaunchBar superpowers so you can work far more efficiently on your Mac.

Learn how to use LaunchBar to carry out nearly any Mac task more efficiently. To help you develop a mental map of all that LaunchBar can do, I explain LaunchBar in the context of its five superpowers — key LaunchBar techniques that no Mac user should be without.

  1. Abbreviation search. The primary way you select things in LaunchBar is by typing a few letters associated with the item you want to find. LaunchBar is smart (so the abbreviation doesn’t have to be obvious) and learns from what you type (in case it guessed wrong the first time).
  2. Browsing. Sometimes you don’t know exactly what you want to work with until you see it. Abbreviation search won’t help there, but you can browse folders, recent documents for an app, clipboard history, snippets, and more.
  3. Sub-search. Too many results in a list to browse? Try a sub-search, which is an abbreviation search limited to a list of search results.
  4. Send To. Want to open a PDF in PDFpen rather than Preview? Or attach a document to a new email message? You can send anything on LaunchBar’s bar to another application, folder, action, or service.
  5. Instant Send. For those who want to save the most time, Instant Send is the fastest way to put a selected file or bit of text on the bar, ready to open in another app, move to a folder, send to a Google search, look up in Dictionary, and more.

But LaunchBar does much more. You can do more than 1,000 things with this simple utility. Let LaunchBar’s superpowers save you from a lifetime of Mac drudgery: get Take Control of LaunchBar. Check out this comic for a concrete illustration of LaunchBar’s five superpowers.

Read how much publisher Adam Engst learned from editing my book.

Don’t have LaunchBar? Buy it from Objective Development and get my ebook for free!


Shawn Blanc:

If you use LaunchBar, you’re going to want this book. I’ve been reading through it over the past few days and have learned several new things that I’m putting to good use already.

MacVoices Podcast

Hear (and see) me discuss the book with Chuck Joiner on the MacVoices podcast.


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Thoughts on Using Speech Recognition Software On a Mac

Way back in the late 1990s, I remember first trying speech recognition software. The first program I used was ViaVoice, by IBM. If my memory is correct, this was the first Mac program that allowed you to speak in phrases and sentences, as opposed to dictating each word one at a time. I used this software with Mac OS 9, probably on an LC 475, and the results were terrible. Given the speed of a computer like that, and the quality of speech recognition algorithms at the time, this was not surprising. While I did own a PC, which I needed for some of the work I did, I didn’t bother to buy Windows speech recognition software, the most popular of which at the time was called Dragon Dictate.

At that time, and in the following years, I did a lot of dictation. Working mostly as a freelance translator, I would dictate into a handheld dictaphone, and my wife would type and correct my translations at the same time. I would have loved to have been able to dictate directly into my Mac back then.

Over the years, I kept following the various speech recognition solutions offered for Mac. In the past few years, I have reviewed several of these programs for Macworld: my latest review of Dragon Dictate for Mac was in November of this year; my review of Dragon express, a “light” version of Dragon Dictate, appeared online today. And I recently wrote an overview of the different types of microphones available for speech recognition software.

I type relatively quickly, and using speech recognition software doesn’t so much save me time as make me more relaxed. As I write this article, I’m leaning back in my chair, my hands comfortably crossed on my stomach, and I’m dictating into a SpeechWare TableMike. This is a desktop microphone with an extendable boom which is, for me, the most comfortable microphone that I’ve used for speech recognition. First of all, I don’t need to wear anything on my head, and I don’t need any wires to connect me to my computer. The microphone sits on my desktop, I tilt the boom down in the direction of my mouth, and I can comfortably dictate with the microphone more than a foot away from me. This means I can easily choose to dictate anything at any time, without worrying about connecting a mic, positioning it correctly, or, if it’s wireless, turning it on and worrying about its battery.

Speech recognition software is not perfect. You will not get 100% recognition; there will be some mistakes, but the more you use this software the more it learns from the way you talk and the way you correct recognition errors. While speech recognition software isn’t for everyone—I wouldn’t want to talk all day, as it can be tiring—I find it very practical to be able to dictate some of the articles I write instead of typing. Unfortunately, speech recognition software is somewhat expensive (though the new Dragon Express, available from the Mac App Store, is only $50), and, while you can get good results with an average microphone, the best results require an investment. But if you write a lot, and you’d like to be more comfortable when you work, or if, simply, you don’t type very quickly, it’s worth looking into this software. Dragon Dictate for Mac is an excellent program that has made a lot of progress in the past couple of years, and one that can make a difference in the way you work.

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Choosing a Microphone for Speech Recognition

I’ve been using speech recognition tools a lot recently: Dragon Dictate, and the new Dragon Express (my review of which should be up on Macworld in a few days). As part of this, I looked at the different types of microphones you can use with speech recognition software in my latest Macworld article. If you use speech recognition software – on a Mac or with Windows – you should have a read, and see what is available. I found some very good microphones when doing my research.

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Welcome to My New Sponsor: Moom

I’d like to welcome my new sponsor, Moom. Or, more correctly, Many Tricks Software, whose useful window-organizing utility for Mac OS X, Moom, is a hugely popular Mac utility. With Moom, you can resize, organize and manage windows using the mouse or keyboard, setting up windows to fill your screen, or choosing specific sizes and forms for the windows of different applications.

Moom is hard to explain in words, but once you try it out, you quickly understand what it does and why you need it. For just $5, Moom gives you powerful features to manage your windows. Try or buy Moom on the Many Tricks website.

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Apple Now Providing Demo Version of Final Cut Pro X, Mac App Store Only App

Apple has updated Final Cut Pro X, the much-derided recent version of its video editing software, and is now offering a downloadable demo version. For an application sold only through the Mac App Store, this is certainly a Big Thing.

Many people – from users to developers – have complained about demo versions of apps not being available from the Mac App Store. Some developers offer demos on their sites, usually those who sell both directly and through the Mac App Store. But ideally, you should be able to download a demo from the Mac App Store, then choose a menu item to convert that demo into a full version of the software. I’m sure that many people hesitate about buying apps for this reason. While this isn’t an issue for apps that cost a dollar or two, there are many apps on the Mac App Store that cost a fair amount of cash. Demos would help users know if the apps do what they want, and would most likely increase sales.

The demo of Final Cut Pro X is available here.

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Why Use VueScan?

I just got a new scanner – a Canon CanoScan LIDE210. I’ve used Canon scanners for many years, and have always been satisfied, but my current (now previous) scanner, an LIDE70, was about six years old, and relatively slow. I want to scan some books, and I wanted something that is faster.

The LIDE210 claims to scan letter-sized documents in 10 seconds; this was born out in my tests using the scanner’s own software. But I wanted to try out VueScan, which is said, by some, to be far superior to general scanning software. When scanning the same type of document, just to save as an image – with roughly the same settings as the Canon software – it took about a minute to scan. The program may have advanced features for scanning photos, but I don’t plan to do that. At most, I’ll be scanning CD liner notes to use as album art.

So, are any of my readers VueScan users? If so, what do you see in the program? Any idea why it is so slow? Am I perhaps missing something?

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My Latest Book: Take Control of Scrivener 2

Have you ever used Scrivener, the word processor for creative writers? If you have, you’ll want to check out my latest book, Take Control of Scrivener 2.

In this ebook, you’ll take a creative voyage with Scrivener 2, a unique and popular content-generation tool. Scrivener supports wordsmiths of all types, and it’s designed especially for long-form writing projects—scripts, novels, academic works, and more.

Using Melville’s Moby-Dick as his exemplar, author Kirk McElhearn walks you through using Scrivener to create and manage a writing project. You’ll learn how to use Scrivener’s Binder, Outliner, and Corkboard to develop characters and settings, collect and organize research materials, and arrange your scenes. Kirk even explains how to keep yourself on track by composing in Scrivener’s Full Screen mode and by setting daily progress targets, all on the way to helping you produce a polished, submission-ready manuscript.

Learn more about the book on the Take Control Books website. Download the book in any of a number of ebook formats – PDF, ePub, Mobi, etc. – and order printed copies if you want. The ebook is available for only $10. You can also buy this in Kindle format from

Hear me discuss Scrivener on the MacVoices podcast.
Read a review on the MacTips website.

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