Apps to Organize Your Digital Photos
While you were frolicking in the sun and sand this summer--and stacking up the digital photos--three software companies were working hard for you. Greenstreet, OnTheGoSoft, and Preclick have introduced new programs to organize photos, back them up, and turn them into albums.
All three companies are offering free, full-featured demos that allow you to check them out before you buying anything. But let me save you the trouble: I took a look at Greenstreet's $30 Digital Photo Album Deluxe, OnTheGoSoft's $20 Photo Backup, and Preclick's Preclick Photo Organizer, which is available in separate free and $20 editions.
Preclick Photo Organizer--even in its limited (and gratis) Silver edition--is one terrific program. Photo Backup is useful if you don't back up your photos even though you know you should, or if you want to manage a huge collection of photo CDs. But Digital Photo Album Deluxe isn't worth its comparatively high price.
Preclick: Little Program, Big Job
The free, downloadable Preclick Silver Photo Organizer installation program is so small it could fit on a floppy disk. It's an amazingly easy tool for organizing and even editing your photos. I looked at Preclick Silver and at Preclick Gold 2.5.
At bottom, the program is not so much an editor as an auto-corrector. Aside from handling basic rotating and cropping, it lets you fix red-eye and bad exposure problems with one or two clicks. You don't get the kind of control you would with a full-featured image editor like Jasc's Paint Shop Pro, but you don't always need it. I obtained better red-eye results with two clicks in Preclick than I did with a minute's fiddling in Paint Shop Pro (though a more talented artist than I would probably do a better job with the fiddling). And since the program saves the original image, you can always undo the changes.
Preclick offers various ways to organize your photos. You can set pictures aside for later printing and sharing (the pictures show up both for regular use and in the areas in which you've set them aside). You can group collections of photos into albums, and can put a picture in more than one album. You can assign a picture a rating of from zero to four stars. You can add an XMP-compatible caption and fill in other text fields such as People, Event, and Place.
All of that information, if you bother to enter it, is a big help when you later want to find particular photos. Type in a word--say, your child's name--and you'll get all the photos with that word in the file name, the folder name, or any of those text fields.
You can sort the pictures you've chosen to look at by name, date, rating, or other option. Photo Backup, however, offers a superior date-filtering tool.
The $20 upgrade to Preclick Gold adds surprisingly little. The best extra is photo acquisition. When you use Preclick Gold to copy pictures from your camera or memory card reader, you can enter information about the files in batches, and this saves you the trouble of entering the text later for each individual shot. Gold also offers CD burning and easier print layout.
New versions of both Gold and Silver are scheduled for release in September, according to Preclick. These will allow you to sort albums manually, load a picture into a real photo editor (assuming you have one installed) with ease, and create an online album on Preclick's photo site. The upgrade will be free for anyone who has purchased the current Gold within the preceding 12 months.
Photo Backup: Providing Protection
As its name implies, Photo Backup's primary job is to back up digital photos onto CDs or DVDs--an important chore. I looked at version 2.1.2.
If you regularly back up everything, you don't need a separate program to handle photo backup. But OnTheGoSoft's Photo Backup has some good features that reflect how photo collections grow. For instance, as you can with most backup programs, you can schedule it to back up automatically every day or week; but you can also set it to back up as soon as a certain number of photos have been added.
Need help organizing a huge collection of photos onto multiple CDs? Photo Backup's indexing feature lets you track what pictures on are on what disc. And the Print CD feature copies only select photos to CD.
The program offers some nice ways to filter the pictures, too, so you can see only a select few. The date filtering is especially cool: You can view files created during a specific year, month, or day.
And you can filter by album. Photo Backup doesn't allow you to create fancy albums, but does let your organize photos into groups, much like Preclick.
Photo Backup's editing capabilities are very limited: You can rotate, crop, and add a caption to a photo (the original remains unchanged). The program offers no sorting choices. Whether you're looking at an album, at photos taken in 1999, or at every .jpg on your hard drive, the images appear in reverse alphabetical order.
Digital Photo Album Deluxe: Jack of One Trade
It's hard to imagine why anyone would spend $30 on a one-trick photo album program, which pretty much sums up Digital Photo Album Deluxe. It can't crop photos, fix exposure, or help you find a particular picture. I looked at version 1.11.
The program includes some nice formatting tools for printed albums. Here, an album is not just a collection of photos; it gives you control over the page background, includes plenty of picture frames, and lets you format individual captions. You can even tint a picture a different color.
But Digital Photo Album Deluxe lacks one obvious tool for creating photo albums: You can't easily rearrange the pictures. For example, you can't drag a photo from near the beginning of the album to a spot in the middle and have everything else realign appropriately. To be fair, I should mention that the other two programs I looked can't do this, either. But this program's primary function is to help you present your pictures, so this is a serious omission.
What do you do with an album once you've created it? Print it, of course. In addition, you can export it to a Web page, a slide show, or a screen saver. But if you do so, you'll find you're trapped in Greenstreet's printed page metaphor. If you started out with a page layout consisting of four pictures per page--sensible for a printed album--your slide show will have four pictures per screen, along with frames, backgrounds, and so on. Once you've picked a page layout (the first thing you do in creating an album), the only way to change it is to create a new album.