We’ve been using Extensis Portfolio Server and clients for five years between two departments, Public Affairs and Design & Printing Services, to attempt to organize our digital image library of nearly 50,000 images. We’re also starting to store videos on this same server. We have a mixed environment of PC and Mac platforms. The PCs automatically map a network drive to the dedicated server through a Novell login script when we login to our computers everyday. The Macs mount the server via Finder > Go > Connect to Server.
When we initially purchased Extensis, we figured it would take a year or so to get up to speed, get everything cataloged, add metadata, etc. before we would start to see a return on our investment in terms of the time it would save us in finding images for print and electronic projects. This couldn’t be further from the case. This product has been extremely hard to use, slow, and is not overly intuitive for basic users. As a die-hard iPhoto user for over four years for personal use, I’ve been in search of a comparable product for our multi-platform, multi-user networked environment.
I’ve tweeted a number of times in recent months about my displeasure with Extensis and search for a new solution. Extensis was even listening on Twitter and another vendor’s forum in which I posted, and offered to have a senior sales engineer call me to discuss our concerns. We had that phone call, and it didn’t help. Their software just doesn’t meet our needs. Michael Santoroski responded to one of my tweets earlier this week and put me in touch with his colleague Whitney Anderson, who sent me a very detailed e-mail about their switch from Portfolio to Picasa. She blogged about it over at High on Web with the detailed pros and cons list she sent me. We’re just starting to implement this solution, so we have not yet tested it in all of our use cases, in particular multi-user update. Here’s what we’ve found so far.
Picasa is the best solution I have found for us. Not only is it user-friendly and extremely fast, it’s free – big differences from Extensis Portfolio.
But wait, what about my meta data?
One of our primary concerns in deciding whether to make the switch was whether we would get all of our meta data we’ve put into our Extensis catalogs over the years back out and into Picasa. It was a bit of a challenge, but we did figure it out.
Using your Extensis Portfolio client, open your catalog(s) and select all of the images within. Control (Mac) / right (PC) click on one of the images. Choose “embed properties” from the sub-menu, then “view metadata settings…” The two main fields in the catalog we were most concerned with were “keywords” and “IPTC-creator” (photographer credit). Select each of those on the left side, and on the right side (‘where to embed the field data’), map them to “IPTC-keywords.” This embeds the meta data you had entered in Extensis into the image file itself, which now makes the terms searchable within Picasa.
Test thoroughly before complete abandonment
My Senior Web Producer and I are still testing this switchover and have not deployed it to the rest of our department or other areas yet. As soon as we’re done testing in the coming week, we plan to write a guide for Mac and PC with installation and setup instructions. While it will be quite specific to our environment, if seeing this guide would be a helpful starting point for you, please leave me a comment below or contact me directly, and I’ll be happy to share.
What’s your story?
What digital asset management tool do you use? Do you have a custom-built tool, or do you use a commercial product? Are you happy with it?
I left this position about a year after this post and did not make any further progress with this project during that time. A draft of an internal guide was written, but was not available for public circulation. I no longer use these tools in my new position.