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Extensis Portfolio and CD-ROMs

Keeping Your Digital Images Organized

© By Dennis R. Dimick

Washington Apple Pi Journal, March/April 2000, pp. 27-29, reprint information

Perhaps you have a new digital camera, and you've been shooting nearly anything that moves. You've accumulated hundreds of digital picture files on your hard drive. Friends and relatives enjoy receiving your e-mailed picture files, and perhaps some digital images grace your web site.

Alas, you're having a hard time remembering where you put the files for those great digital pictures of last summer's camping trip, and your computer hard drive that used to seem so big is nearly jammed full with picture files.

If this description fits you, it might be time to consider your own "digital asset management" strategy: an image-cataloging program and a drive that lets you create your own CD-ROMs.

One cataloging program I've found useful and easy to use is Portfolio 4.1 from Extensis Software of Portland, Oregon. A graphics database program, Portfolio can help you organize, manage, and access your burgeoning graphics file collection.

A CD-R or CD-RW drive combined with disk writing software such as Adaptec's Toast will let you create your own CD-ROMs to archive and backup picture files and other files. (CD-Recordable is an older format that writes once to a blank CD. CD-RW lets you rewrite data to CD-ROM format compatible optical disks.)

If you combine Portfolio's graphics cataloging and database prowess with the archiving role of a CD-R or CD-RW drive, you've taken a big step towards taking control of an ever-expanding image and graphics file collection.

From Fetch to Portfolio

Portfolio originally appeared in 1991 as Aldus Fetch from the Seattle firm that created PageMaker. About four years ago Extensis Software bought Fetch from Adobe Systems after Adobe bought Aldus. Extensis began an aggressive program of upgrading and strengthening this single-user image cataloger. Portfolio has now become a versatile cross-platform client-server suite of tools for managing graphics files.

Despite its strength as an enterprise tool, Portfolio also retains simplicity as a stand-alone program for single users. The current version 4.1 has become quite popular for organizing photographs, clip art, QuarkXpress documents, QuickTime movies, sounds and other digital graphics files.

A new slide show feature in 4.1 allows you to sequence and rearrange the order of photos in a catalog on the fly for presentation as an on-screen slide show. Further, once you create a master catalog of images, you can immediately build custom "galleries" of selected images or illustrations from the master catalog to present as slide shows for specific clients or projects.

Extensis also offers a free Portfolio Browser program that lets you share cataloged images with others. You can, for example, create a cataloged collection of images or graphics files with Portfolio, and place the files and catalog on a CD-ROM for viewing along with Portfolio Browser.

Creating Your Image Catalogs

To create a catalog, drag a folder of graphics files into an open Portfolio catalog window. Portfolio will automatically create a database of all images, cataloging them by filename, file type, file size, and modification date. Portfolio will create thumbnail images for most files depending on their type.

A Graphics Database: Portfolio provides extensive database and search tools for your graphics catalogs. You can create database field types to your liking, and you can also search for images based on a specific quality to automatically create custom galleries.

You can view catalogs via a window of thumbnail images, as a list of database information, or as a single record with thumbnail and relevant database information. You can customize database fields and keywords at will, and it's possible to set up your own set of keywords that most closely reflect your personal work or preferences.

Portfolio's Galleries: Extensis Portfolio, a graphics cataloging and database program, allows you to create subsets of master catalogs. The smaller window at right contains an edited selection of images. This "gallery" as it is called, can then be shown as a slide show using your Mac's screen or a digital projector.

This only begins to describe what Portfolio can do. If you have QuarkXPress documents with images in them you can use AppleScript to have Portfolio automatically catalog all image files in the Xpress documents. Portfolio will create catalogs that you can make available for viewing from web servers via any Web browser.

Apple's drag-and-drop technology plays a central role in Portfolio's utility. Besides catalog creation, you can drag images from Portfolio catalogs for placement into QuarkXpress and PageMaker documents. You can drag images from Portfolio catalogs to create custom folders of images for later processing. You can drag images from Portfolio catalogs onto an alias for an imaging program like Photoshop, and all selected source images will open for editing.

A New Portfolio's Coming

As I was writing in early February, Extensis announced a version 5.0 of Portfolio for release this spring. Portfolio 5 will allow cataloging and viewing of all pages in multiple-page PowerPoint, QuarkXpress and Adobe Acrobat documents. You'll be able to search for images across multiple Portfolio catalogs, even those catalogs located on web sites. Portfolio 5 also will allow you to take image catalogs and save them to QuickTime movie format. You can then, for example, add a sound track with voice-over narration or music to your slide shows.

Stay on the Path

Despite Portfolio's benefits, keep in mind it requires persistent logical pathnames for catalogs. If you build a catalog on a hard drive volume named "My Pictures", and then create a CD-ROM with that same Portfolio catalog and the source images on it, be sure to name the CD-ROM "My Pictures." If you don't, each time you try to access the images represented in the catalog, Portfolio will ask you to insert the "My Pictures" source disk.

There are benefits to this. You can also save your images to a variety of CD-ROMs or other disks and create a Portfolio catalog file of those disks where only the catalog file resides on your hard drive. If there's an image you seek later, Portfolio will prompt you to insert the source disk by name to retrieve the source image.

About CD-R and CD-RW

These optical disks are becoming quite popular as an archival medium. If you are a photographer, graphic designer, or anyone who create a lot of graphics files, these CD-R and CD-RW drives that create CD-ROMs are nearly mandatory as a way to manage and store your image files. Beyond this, these drives are an ideal backup medium for any type of data.

Disks hold anywhere from 650 to 700 MB of data each, and CD-R and CD-RW drives are now offered by many vendors. Just a year or so ago I got blank stares from a Comp USA store clerk when I sought to buy blank CD-R disks, but they are available at most all computer and office supply stores today. Recently I saw an office supply store selling CD-R blanks for 69 cents each when bought in batches of 100.

If you seek to buy a drive, check the various Mac mail order catalogs or the web site (www.apstech.com) of long-time Mac vendor APS Technologies of Kansas City. It's always possible to get a decent quality CD-R or CD-RW drive in the $300 to $350 range, and all come bundled with disk writing software. My favorite is an outstanding disk writing program called Toast, now published by Adaptec.

Like Portfolio, Toast lets you "drag and drop" data files into the program window and the software does the rest when creating your archival CD-ROMs. Vendors now sell CD-R and CD-RW drives in SCSI, USB and even FireWire models.

Toasting Data: If you combine Extensis Portfolio with a CD-R or CD-RW drive and Adaptec's Toast, you can keep your expanding image collections under control. Toast is an easy to use disk writing software for creating your own CD-ROMs.

The Key is Keeping Track

Whether you have a digital camera, a film scanner, or you're a graphic designer who creates projects from image editing or page layout programs, you're an obvious candidate for a program like Extensis Portfolio. You don't have to buy to try, as a fully functional 30-day demo version of Portfolio is available from Extensis' website at www.extensis.com.

Combine this powerful cataloging program with Adaptec's Toast and a CD-R or CD-RW drive and you'll have in place the basic tools to organize and archive your own library of graphics files.

Pi member Dennis Dimick has an idea how to organize his digital picture files, but he's still trying to find the time and energy to organize thousands of boxes of Kodachrome slides stored in his basement. He can be reached via email: ddimick@aol.com.

Extensis Portfolio 4.1
Mac OS 7.5.3 - 9.0
Power PC Required
6MB Application RAM Needed
Street Price About $190

Extensis Corporation
1800 SW First Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97201
Phone 503-274-2020
Web: www.extensis.com

Adaptec Toast
Usually Bundled with CD-R and CD-RW Drives
Available Separately for $99 from www.adaptec.com

691 South Milpitas Blvd.
Milpitas, CA 95035
Phone 408-945-8600

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Revised March 18, 2000 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/