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Extensis Portfolio 6 Review

Extensis Portfolio 6 test

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Extensis Portfolio 6  Review: Extensis Portfolio 6Portfolio 6 is the latest version of the popular data asset management (fancy description for cataloguing to us non jargon photographers!) software from Extensis. It comes with a bold statement "We create order. You create art" And that in a nutshell is the idea of this program - to let you get on with, in our case, photography, while the program helps you organise your pictures. Unlike many cataloguing, sorry, data asset management, programs, Extensis claim Portfolio 6 has been redesigned to make it second nature to use. Extensis identified that programs where too complex, required enormous training and turned photographers into librarians. The program promises to enhance file management, streamline daily work flow and assist locating and redirect files. Sounds great, but will it make a cup of tea while I go off and shoot several more rolls? I'm about to find out!

First let's look at what you need to run the program
Macintosh users can work on any machine up from OS 8.6 although (9.2.1 is recommended) It doesn't run on OSX so the classic environment is required here (a free OSX upgrade will be available in the Summer. Windows users can use Win 98 and higher, Windows NT Service Pack 6 or 6a and Windows 2000 Service Pack 2. In both systems you'll need 32Mb of RAM, 25Mb of free hard disk space and Quick Time 4.1.1 or higher is recommended. We installed the software on a Mac G3 running on OS 9.1 it

How much?
The full version is 175, or you can upgrade from a previous version for 88.

What's new in Portfolio 6
Owners of previous versions of Portfolio will be wondering what's new and should you upgrade. Extensis feel Portfolio 6 is a completely fresh approach, offering dozens of program refinements and a number of new features. We will look these one by one.

Extensis Portfolio 6  Review: Extensis Portfolio 6

This synchronizes your Portfolio catalogue with your files and folders on disk. Once 'syncronised' you can copy, move, delete, and rename files on your hard drive using a simple drag-and-drop approach, from within the Portfolio environment. I rushed into trying the program and first created a catalogue without FolderSync and when later going back to create a FolderSync had to reload all the files. It's a painfully slow process, but thankfully only needs doing once. If you're a OSX Mac user you can run Portfolio in the background in Classic mode while you work on something else in OSX. I did give the program a tough challenge - I had 3579 files comprising scans, digital files and an occasional PDF, Word doc or SimpleText file - the total contents of 10 CDs worth of material that I had backed up on an external Firewire drive. I started it going and once I realised the speed averages about 3 to 5 seconds per file I decided to break off and do something else. One hour later 1062 files had been collected. Hmmm, time to go to the pub! As a result, I estimated it took around three hours to collect the entire set - I'll never know. And that's the best way to approach this - it's not a speedy start but the benefits soon become clear. And one of these is the floating palette.

Portfolio Express Palette
This new feature brings your organized digital library directly into other programs that support drag & drop such as QuarkXPress so you have instant access to your files from anywhere on your system using drag & drop. A small palette appears with all your catalogued images, which can be searched. Need a picture of a cat? Key in 'cat' and it brings those to the front. Then drag & drop the required picture to the Quark page. You need a little extension called QX Drag & Drop installed in the extension folder of Quark for this to work well. Then you can drag an image into a pre-positioned picture box and use the Quark shortcut keys to resize the pic inside the box.

Custom QuickFind
Offers a great search feature that can find any images from user-defined combinations of fields

Create Web Pages
Does what it says on the tin: with a series of pre-designed templates provided so you can build web pages of your catalogued images with just a few clicks.

Collect & publish
From your catalogue you can select images and let Portfolio collect and copy them ready to burn onto a CD or Zip disc along with a free image browser. This can then be sent to a client who can view the catalogue without Portfolio installed.

Batch Renaming and Keywording
Allows you to rename your files, add keywords or other field values as items are catalogued.

Auto Move/Copy
Lets you grab images from a CD or digital camera memory card and copy them into a new location automatically as they're being catalogued.

Saved Views
You can customise fonts, colours and borders used in your gallery.

Extensis Portfolio 6  Review: Extensis Portfolio 6

Edit Field Values tool
A new window for adding, appending, replacing or deleting values from fields with ease.

Send via E-mail
Clicking on a picture, then Portfolio's e-mail button automatically opens up and attaches the image to your e-mail program ready to key in an address and send.

Rotate Original
You can now change the orientation of the original JPEGs from Portfolio.

EXIF Support
Metadata embedded in images taken with a digital camera can be imported into the fields and used as search criteria.

So who's going to need Portfolio 6?
Extensis Portfolio 6  Review: Extensis Portfolio 6I'm amazed by what this relatively inexpensive cataloguing program has to offer. It's perfect for people like me who have a large collection of digital pictures scattered over a range of media. From a personal point of view I've scanned loads of my old slides and negatives, I have Photo CDs recorded by pro labs and I have thousands of pictures taken on a variety of digital cameras which are now backed up on CDs. Keeping track of these requires good organisational skills and once you've grasped the concept of Portfolio it's easy to become totally organised. On a work front I need to keep track of press release pics, pull contributors pictures into html pages and QuarkXPress and organise test pictures from cameras, scanners with screen grabs etc. It makes that easier too.

Portfolio is not just for photographers and designers, businesses are using this all around the world to run slide libraries, operate retail ventures, along with catalogue and portfolio sites. With four levels of access and password protection you can allow 'viewers' to browse without being able to make any changes, while at 'administrator' level you can control everything and assign passwords for other users.

Extensis Portfolio 6  Review: Extensis Portfolio 6

In use
It took me a while to become familiar with how to make the most of the features, but having spent a few hours experimenting I soon found how to bring everything together. It's easy to search out items using keywords that are automatically created from existing names of all the folders and files when first catalogued by Portfolio. You can then assign new keywords, that are more relevant, by selecting the appropriate images and, at the same time, delete keywords that are no longer necessary.

To give you an example, I have a folder called Fuji S1 pics, which contains images shot on that camera, all with file names starting DSCF. The folder also contains several images that I had edited and renamed. All the images are automatically assigned the keyword Fuji S1 pics and each has the individual file name as a keyword. Using Portfolio's Quick Search you can use the words Fuji S1 to find all the images then individually rename them using more appropriate titles and add keywords in batches. I had several flower photos that I added colours and names as secondary keywords by selecting them all and applying the keywords in one go. Now when I look up white I find white flowers, white chocolate and so on. It's amazing how many pictures you may have without useful titles, especially if you use a digital camera.

Extensis Portfolio 6  Review: Extensis Portfolio 6Other features I found superb include the print option that allows you to select how many pictures are printed on a page; setting 8x8 for example produces a useful collection of 64 thumbnails with titles on an A4 sheet. I will at some stage use the export text option and select keywords that can then be adapted into a format suitable for printing out captions on Avery labels so I can caption slide mounts. Another feature I found cool was again based around my lack of organisation. Of all the digital pictures I've taken I rarely get around to rotating and saving them all. You can select pictures that are the wrong way in the gallery and apply rotation to all of them in one go.

One thing that was disappointing was an idea I had to catalogue clip art from loads of CDs that you get free on magazines. I also have a Corel collection of 11 CDs and it would have been good to pull this all together so when I need some clip art I can search a range of CDs from Portfolio. I started on the first Corel CD, containing 24,000 images, and found it takes as long to catalogue small items as it does bigger ones so I would have been waiting about 20 hours for the one CD to catalogue.

This is an awesome tool that really helps not only track down digital pictures with ease, but also prompts you to make your life easier by captioning them and adding keywords. The downside is it isn't, despite Extensis' belief, as intuitive to use as it could be. If you've used a cataloguing program before you'll soon get to grips. If not, be prepared for a few headaches while you learn the system. The good thing is you can always take a few aspirins, knowing your organisation skills will never be bad again.

Test by Peter Bargh

Click here to download a trial version of this software.

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