Bento: Close enough to taste it…

Continuing to research my wish-list software from my previous post, I gave Filemaker’s Bento a try.

Listing my fields and putting together my form was a snap. Adding data is easy. Printed output is attractive. The Neutrals theme pack is mandatory. But I’ve still got a couple of problems:

  • Text fields appear to be limited to plaintext. Maybe I’m missing something here, but I’d really,r eally like rich text fields: bold, underline, italics, numbered lists, bullet points… I feel like this almost <em>must</em> exist, but the more I look, the less I believe it does.
  • I can’t seem to enable the Mac OS X built-in spellcheck on the text boxes, either. This means I’ll need to review the content in another software package…
  • …but the export options kind of stink. It’s limited to CSV and CSV-like options (e.g., tab-delimited output), with no structured markup choice. This limits my ability to massage the output using third-party tools. I really want XML output, at least as an export option.

I could output to Excel via CSV, if I had some way to pretty-print Excel tables using some sort of form software. But if I had that, I probably wouldn’t need Bento in the first place.

Does anyone know if Filemaker Pro addresses any of these issues, or if there’s something even closer to what I want?

Software that Probably Exists, if only I could find it

Just about all XML editors I’ve seen presume that you’re working in something that looks like a Word document. But what I really want is a bunch of structured fields containing text.

Think of writing 50 manpages: you don’t really want to have each manpage be a new, unstructured document. You want to ensure that all fields are in the correct order and that none are left out, though the content of each field is arbitrary. You probably want some styling for text, to indicate command names and the like.

Shouldn’t there be an XML editor somewhere that presumes you’ve got structured content, and basically lets you build a form and fill it out, a la FileMaker Pro or Microsoft Access?

In the past, I’ve used a spreadsheet for this sort of work, but spreadsheets are awful for inputting large blobs of text—worse than database text fields by far.

(Many) extra points if it runs on Linux, Mac, or in a browser.

Standard format for human / clothing dimensions

The clothing industry should come up with a pair of data formats to describe the measurements of people and of clothing. Once a consumer chose to be measured and recorded in significant detail, the measurements could be provided in the standard format. This would enable several neat applications:

  • Web sites selling clothing could interpret the measurements and model the clothes selected on a virtual dummy based exactly on the consumer. This could help customers understand whether a piece of clothing looks good for their specific body.
  • Seamstresses and other makers of custom clothing could have real, physical models of their customers produced by a process similar to 3-D printing, to fit clothing more exactly, either before final fitting with the customer, or when the customer is far away.
  • Automated machines could produce semi-custom clothing, using the measurements of the customer and adapting the clothing dimensions per instructions in the XML indicating which panels could be expanded or shrunk, and by how much.

I would have assumed that the infrastructure to implement this already existed — Levi Strauss bought a company that did some of this fifteen years ago — but the Levi Strauss operation didn’t seem to rely on any industry standards, which would drive costs down.

I couldn’t tease out the correct Google keywords if this does exist, nor did I find a relevant schema on Wikipedia’s list of XML schemas. (Because isn’t every format an XML schema these days?)