PhotoExplorer image management and thumbnail page filing
system is a very clean and effective design, and it is
easy to learn utilizing the Microsoft Windows program
standards quite effectively. PhotoExplorer is a high quality
application created with photographers in mind and shows
it in its many useful features and powerful
Photos © 1999, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved
These days a raft of new
image management software keeps appearing and usually just gets a passing
glance from me. At one end of the spectrum there are all kinds of little
utilities often bundled with hardware or another larger application
to keep track of some images using small thumbnails for easy identification.
Most are adequate for the casual user to file some digitized snapshots,
but lack a comprehensive and effective underlying database. At the other
end are the applications which will handle a complex of large numbers
of all kinds of graphic files, intended as much for design studios and
other larger commercial enterprises, which makes the use of these applications
too complex and involving too much work for the individual user to find
them efficient. Then, not long ago a colleague, a photographer I respect
highly as a shooter and business professional, recommended a new software
application from a small company founded by a programmer, who is also
an experienced photographer. The name of the company is PhotoSoft and
the product is PhotoExplorer.
I got in touch with the owner and founder of PhotoSoft, and was immediately
rewarded by the receipt of the latest version of PhotoExplorer. The
timing was propitious as I'd been archiving my library of photographs
and burning them onto CDRs now for about three years, and the filing
utility I had been using was not up to the task without a lot of keyboard
work on my part. Time to try something new and hopefully better.
PhotoExplorer Features. PhotoExplorer's main
screen is a familiar configuration partly because it mimics the analog
slide page in a large window taking up most of the screen on the right
side. Because Photo-Explorer's overall organization and tool access
is closely patterned after Microsoft Windows 95/98's Explorer
file management utility, all but beginning computer users will find
it easy to learn and use. The "slide page" of thumbnails
seems pretty standard, but it also has a level of resolution and color
quality in the thumbnails of the filed images that is unusually high.
Of equally standard practice is the filename emblazoned under each thumbnail.
Like MS Windows Explorer, the left vertical bar of the screen displays
folders, which in PhotoExplorer is the primary subject/type category
organization applied by an individual photographer-user. In other words,
you can have a folder for each subject category you want to designate.
For that matter you can also have subcategories, folders within folders,
all visually apparent and identified on-screen in the left column.
Getting image files recorded and thumbnails filed is very effectively
supported by PhotoExplorer. A user can actually scan from Photo-Explorer
directly as well as acquire image file information and create a thumbnail
from every possible source including CDs, Kodak Photo CDs, external
drives of all kinds, digital camera memory storage, and even from the
Internet. This acquire facility can be done manually, file by file,
or in a batch processing mode acquiring all of the images in a folder
on all types of media, or by auto-scanning all of the drives in and
attached to your system.
Most significant, organizing your thumbnails and using the database
functions of PhotoExplorer is extremely flexible, and the primary data
identifying the file and its source is automatically placed in the database
when the image is acquired by single or batch processed acquires of
individual folder content. Creating folders to define the categories
of the organization of your image's thumbnails mimics the process
of MS Windows Explorer. When image files are acquired and a thumbnail
is created and associated with the originating file and its location,
it is stored first in the "Temp" folder at the top of the
left side column. Then getting the thumbnail and its associated information
into the category in which you want to file it is simply a drag and
drop of the thumbnail from the right window onto a chosen, named category
folder in the left column window. Visual access to all of the thumbnails
in your entire collection is accomplished by clicking on the "All"
folder at the top of the left column. Looking at the thumbnails in any
category pops them up in the right window by clicking on any category
folder in the left column.
PhotoExplorer goes well beyond this basic capability shared with many
other utilities. Most immediately significant to me, the identification
of the source, in my case the CDR label name, is automatically filed
in the database with each image file acquired and associated with its
thumbnail. With now over 200 CDRs and thousands of images, this feature
alone has saved me an enormous amount of time and effort, and assures
I can easily find the image file and the disc it is in by clicking on
the thumbnail to get a readout of the source CDR label name. Adding
more data to the information filed with each thumbnail is also very
easy and direct. It is in addition, a flexible process easily structured
to meet specific individual needs. The underlying database is powerful
and standard, so its information can be shared with other database applications
and functions, like inventory control. In other words, you can take
PhotoExplorer as far in its usability as your management needs
require and with a minimum of effort and complexity.
So what else can you do with PhotoExplorer? Well, you can access your
images directly from Photo-Explorer, just by double clicking on the
thumbnail. If the image is stored locally, it will immediately load.
If it is on a stored CD for instance, you can then identify the CDs
label name to locate the CD and insert it in your CD-ROM drive. You
can also use the thumbnails themselves. For example, one of my ongoing
tasks is to print jewel box inserts (like what you get back with Kodak
Photo CDs) with miniature thumbnails of each of the images contained
on the CDR and kept in that jewel box. You can also print full 8.5x11"
color pages with thumbnails, with the option of selecting different
numbers of thumbnails of appropriate size per page, and then annotate
each page with text. If you want to use the thumbnails in other applications
whether it is simply to reproduce it in a letter, Photo-Explorer is
fully OLE 2 compliant and you can just drag and drop the thumbnail or
a selection of thumbnails to MS Word. The same process can also be used
if you're building a web page in which you want to include thumbnails
of your images. Just copy the thumbnail(s) in PhotoExplorer and paste
them into your web page creation application.
Many photographers also need the use of a database to categorize and
file data relative to their slides so they can then print Avery labels
to attach to the slide mount. PhotoExplorer will do that too, supporting
the creation of the database information as well as doing the label
printing directly from the application. There is more. In fact, I suggested
including the ability to build entire web thumbnail pages directly in
PhotoExplorer to PhotoSoft and I would not be surprised to see that
feature added to the application by the time you read this.
PhotoExplorer Evaluation And Recommendation. As I indicated
earlier, I have been using Photo-Explorer for a while now and have put
all of my image files I've recorded on about 200 CDRs into it.
First of all, I found that the processing has required relatively little
of my time as I've used the method of accessing the contents of
each folder (usually just one) on each CDR, batch processing the files
to create thumbnails, and file them in the temp folder. I can and usually
do perform other tasks while PhotoExplorer is processing all of the
files in a CDR. Then, very little more effort has been needed to select
and move the thumbnails from the temp folder to their respective category
folders. This I find a most valuable asset as I am neither compulsive
nor have an excess of leisure time to invest a lot in filing chores--I'd
rather be taking pictures or working with the images on my computers.
The quality of the thumbnails I have found to be definitely superior,
making identification by sight unequivocal as well as supporting very
good print quality. I've also used a few of the thumbnails in
a web page creation project I am working with and the image qualities
in that use is also very good. However, the main reason for using the
product is to be able to identify and locate digital image files of
photographs and that is super efficient. You can arrange the order of
appearance of the images by all standard database criteria within each
folder to group the images in any logical association. Then finding
an image visually is easy, as is getting the information which identifies
the filename, which is right under the thumbnail, and where the image
is stored by just clicking on the thumbnail. If PhotoExplorer didn't
do any more than this as well as printing thumbnail pages and jewel
box covers, it would be worth more than its $149 price to me. But, you
can find that out for yourself by downloading a free trial version from
PhotoSoft's web site. For more information you can contact PhotoSoft
at PO Box 209, Marlboro, NJ 07746, (732) 617-1904, fax: (732) 617-9294,
or visit their web site at: www.photosoft.com.