CompuPic Pro 5.1 Hits the Web
As an avid digital photographer, I have long lamented that despite the seemingly countless image-management solutions, from shareware to full-blown asset management tools, I have yet to find one that combines all the features I need on a daily basis. Sad to say, Photodex's CompuPic Pro 5.1 doesn't fill the void. This $99.95 Windows package does add some handy features to the mix, however, and will remain among my collection of day-to-day tools.
Going to Panes
If you've ever used the popular Windows shareware product called ACDSee, you'll recognize the layout of CompuPic's interface immediately; the two are almost identical. The efficient three-paned window is similar to several other such applications as well.
In the upper-left pane of the interface is a Windows Explorer-like folder tree. The largest pane, on the right, displays the image files contained in the currently selected folder. The default view is a light-box view with rows of thumbnails. In addition to resizing the thumbnails to your liking, you can also select from several other views, including a simple list of file names and sizes. In the third window pane, below the directory tree, is a preview of the currently selected image file. This, like the other panes, can be interactively resized. As simple as it seems, this third pane is a real boon, and it's a feature lacking in my otherwise favorite image-management application, Sierra's Image Expert 2000. Sometimes thumbnails just aren't sufficient.
But even as it scores one up on Image Expert, CompuPic falls back to the former's ability to rotate thumbnail images. The first thing I want to do after downloading images from my digital camera is fix the orientation on those photos taken at a 90-degree angle. Not only does this make reviewing images more comfortable, it's essential if you're going to print out a thumbnail catalog of your photos. CompuPic provides no way to rotate thumbnails; the only way to effect such a change is to rotate the image itself, which requires opening it with the image editor.
You can assign keywords to images, but the process is more tedious than with Image Expert's keyword database. With Image Expert, for instance, you can choose from a list of keywords you've assigned for other images when setting up keywords for new images. With CompuPic Pro, in contrast, keywords are saved with each image rather than in a database; you must retype the keywords every time you want to apply them to a new batch of photos. Once keywords have been assigned, CompuPic's Find function can search by keyword or filename. Searches can be performed in a single folder or include subfolders, but can't be applied to multiple unrelated folders.
As you would expect, you can drag and drop images -- whether filenames or thumbnails -- among directory folders. When a dragged file and an existing file in the destination folder have the same name, you can instruct CompuPic to rename the duplicate file automatically. This is a real timesaver, and a feature that Image Expert lacks. Because my digital camera restarts its file naming with each new CF (Compact Flash) card I put in, I frequently end up with folders of identically named images once all cards have been downloaded. I have often put off combining the folders because of the time it takes to manually rename the images.
A Bit Tweaked
Again, however, just as CompuPic gains an edge over my avowed favorite Image Expert in one respect, Image Expert rallies back with an advantage of its own -- in this case, the Quick Fix button, which automatically corrects common image problems. CompuPic lets you make the most common image adjustments with simple slider controls and a small preview window, but with the numerous photos that digital cameras often produce, manual adjustments can take hours.
Case in point: Recently I came home with about 100 pictures from a family reunion. A week later I took a few hundred more on a weeklong vacation. Some photos will get printed and framed, some will be posted on the Web, and some will be sent by e-mail to family and friends. I need a quick way to see which images will clean up nicely and which ones I'll discard. An autocorrect feature, such as Image Expert's Quick Fix button, is ideal for this. Without one, you could easily spend a few minutes adjusting each image. Even at just 1 minute per image, 300 photos would require 5 hours of futzing.
Another problem with CompuPic's adjustment tools is that the slider controls are too small. It's hard to make subtle adjustments because even the slightest movement often pushes the slider too far. There's no Apply button, so changes aren't committed to the image until you close the Adjustment window; if further adjustment is necessary, you have to call up the Adjustment window again. Worse still is the lack of an undo (Control-Z) feature. Image Expert's is a single-level undo, but it's still preferable in most cases to CompuPic's Revert command, which removes all your changes since the last save. Fortunately, version 5.2 -- which Photodex began shipping as we prepared to post this article -- adds multiple levels of undo, according to Photodex.
Share and Share Alike
CompuPic's most unique features are found on its Internet and Utilities menus. In the Internet menu, you'll find preset links to a number of the more popular online photo-handling Web sites, including Ofoto, PhotoIsland, PhotoPoint, and PhotoLoft.
By coincidence, I recently checked out Fotki (the fifth of the CompuPic's supported sites) and groused that it didn't have a batch-upload feature. Nevermind: CompuPic Pro solves that problem. Just select the images you want to upload and click on the name of the destination site on the Internet menu. Voilá! Your images will be uploaded in the background while you continue working. Very nice. (Entered once, your site login information is remembered for future access.)
One feature on the Internet menu that I found helpful is the AmazingMail Postcard link. AmazingMail is a Web site that puts a photograph, provided by you, on a postcard along with your message, and sends it via snail-mail for a small fee. Not only is this a great way to stay in touch with friends and family who still don't have e-mail, it's also a handy way to personalize mailers to clients. For instance, I sell photo note cards, and this service lets me send prospective clients a sample of my work with a reminder about my next show. I've used AmazingMail before, but CompuPic makes it a snap: I simply click on one of my photos and select AmazingMail Postcard to have it uploaded and ready to send. I click on an address in my address book, and it's in the mail!
Other choices on the Internet menu let you send electronic greeting cards or an e-mail -- featuring your pictures, of course -- with similar ease (although I wasn't able to get the e-mail feature to work because it didn't recognize my SMTP server).
If you need to post your photos or other image catalogs to the Web, you'll like the Web Page Generator feature. Simply select the photos you want to publish and choose this option from the Internet menu. After you choose a template (or opt for none) and your text and background colors, CompuPic Pro will generate an HTML image catalog page ready to be used on your Web site.
Another Internet feature lets you snarf down an entire Web page (optionally including all its links as well) like a giant vacuum. Or you can choose simply to suck up all the images on the page. Other than stealing content (which some people (ahem) still consider illegal), I can't see just how this feature would be terribly useful.
The Utilities menu is a mixed bag of tricks, from fun to functional. Among the more useful are a TWAIN driver that allows automatic name sequencing of images acquired from a camera or scanner, along with batch processing and file format conversion. Two functions enable you to distribute your images. A handy Picture Index feature will compile a contact sheet of image thumbnails for printing or e-mailing. You can label images with filenames or other image data, but unfortunately no descriptive captions are allowed. Or you can choose the Picture CD function, which steps you through the process of burning your images and a runtime viewer onto a CD.
There are also a few housekeeping functions on the Utilities menu. You can set password protection here or compact the thumbnail database. Decode lets you unscramble BinHex and UU-encoded files (as well as XX and Base64 formats) received via e-mail, promising to reduce the headaches that still plague cross-platform file sharing.
Two slide show functions are available -- including one called Maxi-Show that continuously tiles your images nine-up -- but it's not possible to create a distributable runtime slide show. You can also apply any image as your desktop wallpaper, or choose a batch of wallpaper images to be cycled in intervals. A Screensaver function is also included.
With the exception of the aforementioned Picture Index feature, CompuPic's printing is limited to a single image per page. The poorly implemented print dialog box makes you manually size the image "frame" on the page, making it difficult at best simply to print the image at its default size. Worse yet, there's no way to preserve the original aspect ratio of the image once you start dragging the frame handles, which virtually guarantees a distorted image.
A Team Player
As I said up front, CompuPic Pro doesn't have what it takes to be my only image-management application, but neither does any other program. I like CompuPic Pro's simple interface, but its inability to rotate thumbnails and its lack of an autocorrect feature mean that I'd have to perform these functions elsewhere before using the utility. I probably wouldn't use CompuPic Pro's clumsy image adjustment tools or its Print function, but I'd enjoy its more-advanced file distribution features, such as the various photo-site Web links and the Picture Index option. If these aren't features you'll use very often you might find the $100 price tag a bit much.
If you like the sound of CompuPic Pro features but don't want to pay $100, consider the plain, non-Pro version -- CompuPic 5.1. This $39.95 version, which unlike the Pro version is available for the Mac, lacks some advanced editing and batch-conversion capabilities of the CompuPic Pro. It also omits some of the Pro version's Web-page-generation capabilities and support for creating the Photodex Picture CDs. Both versions -- CompuPic and CompuPic Pro -- are available for download on the Photodex Web site for 15-day trial use. Photodex began selling version 5.2 of CompuPic for Windows and CompuPic Pro as we prepared to post this article. For a list of new features, click here.
Read more by Marty Beaudet.
Editor's Note: Extensis, publisher of Extensis Portfolio 5.0 digital asset management software, is owned by ImageX.com, which also owns creativepro.com.
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