capsule review

Portfolio 6.1

At a Glance
  • Extensis Portfolio 6.1

    Macworld Rating

Digital-asset managers have been around for as long as digital publishing, letting publishing professionals instantly survey, evaluate, and select files.

Extensis Portfolio 6.1 is a stand-alone, industrial-strength digital-asset manager that's not only easy to use but also powerful and fast. Version 6.1 is OS X native and builds on the familiar features and interface of version 6 for OS 9 (   ; July 2002), with a few key additions aimed at minimizing workflow interruptions.

If It Ain't Broke, Make It Better

Like previous versions, Portfolio 6.1 lets you build catalogs by either dragging and dropping files into an application window, as in Adobe Photoshop, or scanning specific folders. Version 6 introduced FolderSync, a catalog-updating feature that watches any specified folder, file, or volume, and with one click resynchronizes the catalog accordingly.

Contextual menus, introduced in Portfolio 6, speed catalog creation as well. Control-click on any file, folder, or volume, and you'll have the option of creating a new catalog or adding the item to an existing catalog. Portfolio then launches on its own, saving you a few steps. However, we do wish the Portfolio 6.1 application didn't have to launch completely to perform this function. Whenever a new application has to launch, it interrupts your workflow.

While past versions let you rename files and folders from within Portfolio, this upgrade has added a batch-rename command, bringing the program up to parity with its Windows sibling. Batch renaming speeds up your workflow, letting you rename whole folders at a time. Professional photographers in particular will find this feature a welcome addition, as it helps in the creation of orderly contact-sheet collections, among other things.

Taking advantage of OS X's Quartz layer, Portfolio 6.1 not only catalogs PDFs but also lets you browse through multipage PDFs in thumbnail view and search for specific phrases in embedded text throughout a PDF's content. You no longer have to launch Adobe Acrobat to see what you have in your PDFs.

Portfolio 6 added the application-independent Portfolio Express palette, which floats above your running applications and gives you access to all of your catalogs. Version 6.1 improves on this feature by leveraging OS X's Dock to give you catalog access right from the Dock icon.

Finally, Portfolio 6.1 now outputs slide shows, Web pages, and read-only catalogs, using a Collect feature that lets you choose how you'll distribute your files and whether to include the Portfolio Browser in the package. The program also has e-mail distribution, so you can send your files as attachments.

Metadata and Searching

Like Photoshop's File Browser, Portfolio 6.1 reads EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) image data -- hidden details beyond date, size, and color-space information, such as the make and model of the camera that shot the image, or whether the flash fired. But Portfolio does Photoshop one better by allowing you to set some of that data yourself -- copyright information, captions, distribution rights, and so forth. Then you can sort and search your images by any particular EXIF data field, including those you've customized yourself. The more specifically and extensively you fill in data fields, the better and more efficient your cataloging will be. Portfolio 6.1 acknowledges this, and it performs admirably well on this score.

Macworld's Buying Advice

This upgrade speeds digital-asset management and integrates it into your existing workflow by taking advantage of OS X's unique interface and structure. By adding the ability to catalog and search PDFs, Dock access, and batch renaming to the existing FolderSync, Portfolio Express, and contextual-menu features, Portfolio 6.1 gives users the power to decide quickly whether a file is a digital asset or digital detritus.

Solo users may consider this upgrade pricey (although that's less of an issue for workgroup-oriented users), but if you're working in OS X as a single user or a small-office creative pro, you'll want this upgrade. Portfolio 6.1's robust efficiency earns the program's keep.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Portfolio Express provides easy access to catalogs from within the current application
    • Excellent output options
    • FolderSync cuts down on file-management tasks

    Cons

    • Contextual menus can slow down catalog compilation, due to lengthy application launch
    • Pricey for single users
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