Media-Management Tools

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Even the most organized pack rats can't possibly keep track of all their multimedia files. So when your work demands quick access to graphics, movies, and sound files, it's time to invest in an asset-management tool. Four such programs cover the low and high ends of the market–IMC Media Cataloger 2.0, Photodex CompuPic 1.80, Canto Cumulus Network 4.0, and Extensis Portfolio 4.0–and you get what you pay for.

The fundamental purpose of these programs is to create catalogs of images, movies, and sounds. In addition, each organizer accommodates thumbnail images and preview functions. Except for CompuPic, these applications allow you to assign and search by keywords. Beyond these fundamentals, the more advanced–and expensive–programs offer network access to catalogs, the ability to drag and drop assets into catalogs, scripting, and support for a wide variety of file types.

Media Cataloger and CompuPic are inexpensive products that provide only basics. Media Cataloger offers thumbnails, previews, and keyword assignment and searching. If you're an occasional catalog creator on a restricted budget, Media Cataloger may be all you need. The program can only catalog text, PICT, TIFF, EPS, MacPaint, QuickTime, and SND files.

However, Media Cataloger is a better choice than CompuPic. The latter's lack of a Find feature severely hampers it, since you cannot easily sort cataloged graphics. But you can view images in slide-show format or tiled as a desktop pattern, and it also offers batch conversion to a limited number of file formats.

Those who manage large amounts of media should turn to Portfolio and Cumulus. These programs can capably organize and catalog multitudes of media files, as well as application-specific files. In addition to cataloging a greater variety of files than the entry-level programs, these two boast networking capabilities and cross-platform support.

As its name implies, Cumulus Network 4.0 is a client-server asset-management system that includes Canto Cumulus Server and five clients. The $2,495 price seems daunting, but the program is intended for large publishing, printing, and graphic-design houses with extensive networks. This becomes apparent when you discover that, unlike many client-server applications, it lets you log on and administer the server from any client and any location on a TCP/IP network–useful for businesses that span multiple locations. And because the server supports Cumulus's Windows 95 and NT and Unix clients, you can administer from any computer connected to your office.

In addition to the client-server programs, Cumulus Network includes freely distributable browsers for the Mac and Windows 95 and NT. The program is also highly scriptable.

Although Cumulus Network 4.0 is a terrific choice for asset management in a large, mixed-platform environment, it may not be the best solution for smaller companies. The $200 Portfolio is scalable, meaning that users with individual copies of the program can operate on a peer-to-peer basis across a network, rather than opt for Cumulus Network's pricey client-server solution. In addition, Portfolio is faster than Cumulus in certain operations. When dragging 50 24-bit TIFF images to both programs running on a 266MHz Power Macintosh G3, we found that Cumulus spent 1 minute, 33 seconds creating the catalog, compared with the 15 seconds Portfolio took.

Although Portfolio may lack Cumulus's free browsers, Unix support, and level of AppleScript support, it offers comprehensive asset management. In many cases it's also easier to use than Cumulus. For example, publishing a catalog as a Web page is very easy in Portfolio, while Cumulus's advanced Internet publishing tools can be daunting for the uninitiated.

Photodex CompuPic 1.80
2.5 mice.
512/406-3020 $40. Slide-show feature; can batch-convert; inexpensive. No search function.
Canto Software Cumulus Network 4.0Z
3.5 mice.
415/905-0300 $2,495. Multiplatform; free browsers; highly scriptable. Expensive; slow catalog creation.
Interactive Media Corporation Media Cataloger 2.0
2.5 mice.
650/948-0745 $25. Easy to use; inexpensive. Limited file support.
Extensis Portfolio 4.0
4.0 mice.
503/274-2020 $200 Fast catalog creation; easy to use; scalable networking. No included browsers or Unix support.

February 1999 page: 39

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