Getting a Handle on Photos is Key Ingredient of Asset Management

Asset Management is a hot term in our business. Ten years ago, most newspaper designers had never heard the term. Now, one of the most frequently asked questions when I visit a newspaper is “What are our options for asset management?”

Basically, asset management means keeping up with all the photos, ads, text and other files which are created in mass when assembling a newspaper. I can remember a time when many newspapers had a physical library, a room or building which held all the archives of photos and pages from days gone by. This library would be maintained by one or more librarians. Much, if not all, of this information is now kept on a single server or workstation at most newspapers.

Managing photos is of utmost importance. Who knows which of the hundreds of photos held on a single memory card will be needed months, years or decades in the future? This is where Portfolio 7, by Extensis, comes in. While Portfolio will work with other types of data, it is primarily a tool designed to end the chaos of naming, tracking and accessing photos. The latest version of the application adds several important features which make Portfolio a good fit for many newspapers.

Basically, Portfolio works as follows: After going through a simple installation process, click on a button to create one or more catalogs. A catalog is simply a collection of photos. Photos may be catalogued by subject, date or any number of categories. For testing purposes, I created a catalog titled “sports,” which I filled with illustrations and photos of ball players, bowlers, golfers and other sports-related subjects. Items can be added to a catalog, individually or in large groups, by selecting a folder and instructing Portfolio to include a single photo or all the items in the folder (including subfolders, if desired). Catalogs can contain thousands, even millions, of files. Keywords can be added to photos, allowing users to search by filenames, keywords, custom field content and more. With the latest version of the program, this “metadata” travels with the files independently, meaning the keywords become available to other applications for searches. After creating catalogs and adding keywords, users can search Portfolio for photos from single or multiple catalogs.

Suppose I wanted to search for a photo of a baseball player who played for a local school in 1986. I could click on the search button in Portfolio, then enter keywords such as “baseball,” “tigers,” and “1986,” among others. Portfolio could display photos with any or all of these keywords, depending on the settings.

Version 7 includes several new features that make it valuable for more than archiving photos. The ability to convert cataloged images (individually or as a group) to JPEG or TIFF format, along with specific resolution and size, is pretty handy. Photographers will appreciate the ready to use EXIF support for digital photos. The ability to publish your work on the web, directly from Portfolio, as well as one-click CD/DVD publishing and archiving make the upgrade to version 7 even more attractive. My favorite new feature, hands down, is the Portfolio Express Palette. This floating palette makes the contents of your Portfolio catalogs instantly available within any application at any time. It allows you to find, copy, open and use any file you’ve cataloged, without even launching and using Portfolio.

In most applications, you can even drag a file from the Express Palette directly onto the page without having to leave the layout program. I tested this feature in several applications. It worked like a charm in InDesign, Creator 7, PageMaker and Illustrator. After reading the user’s guide for a solution to using the Express Palette in QuarkXpress, I placed an extension into Quark’s Xtensions folders and was able to use this feature perfectly in versions 4, 5 and 6.

There are several variations of Portfolio 7. The two most important to newspapers are Portfolio 7 Server, which allows the use of catalogs throughout a network, and Portfolio (for single users). Available on both Windows and Mac platforms,

Portfolio 7 lists for $200 US/$260 CAN/$280 AUS. Upgrades from previous versions are available for half that amount. Portfolio Server lists for $3200 US/$4100 CAN/$4800 AUS. Download a free full-function demo at http://www.extensis.com.
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Members Opinions:
September 29, 2004 at 12:00am
I am suprised that there has not been more advancement in the publishing industry to replace local storage, search, and retrieval of images surplanting the need for asset management. The total cost of ownership of these packages has to include the time it takes to centralize all images, organize them, keyword them, and maintain the databases - I would imagine that only the largest of newspapers would take the time to make this investment. I would like to see more: Improvement in online indexing, archival, and retreival; Auto compression and Image type conversion from within layout software to compact file sizes once placed in a document; and storage of the compressed file within the layout document.
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