Cataloging Applications, Professional-Strength

SAN FRANCISCO (08/29/2000) - Not long ago, only designers and multimedia professionals needed tools to keep track of their image, sound, and video files. But with an increasing number of people using their Macs to make movies, retouch digital photos, design media-rich Web sites, and convert their CD collection into MP3 files, single-user media-management tools such as Canto's Cumulus 5.0 and Extensis Corp.'s Portfolio 5.0 -- applications that help you collate and catalog the files on your hard drive -- may soon be as common on personal Macs as on those found in design studios and publishing houses.

Upper Management

Cumulus 5 and Portfolio 5 have similarities beyond their version numbers. Both allow you to create extensive catalogs of your media assets, complete with thumbnails and information such as a file's size, location, creation and modification dates, and format. These catalogs can include graphics, audio, video, multimedia, and text files, as well as files created by QuarkXPress; Macromedia Inc. Freehand; Microsoft Corp. PowerPoint; Adobe Systems Inc. Acrobat, Illustrator, PageMaker, and Photoshop; and other applications. In truth, you can catalog any type of file in either program. And if the program doesn't support that file type natively, you can add new types.

Both programs also allow you to preview files (or assets) and copy or move them to another location. Additionally, the two applications offer alternative ways to view your assets -- as thumbnails and as lists -- and let you tag individual files with keywords. The programs include an abundance of identifying fields, and both allow you to create custom fields. And both Cumulus and Portfolio make it easy to turn catalogs into HTML files. You can also export your catalogs as stand-alone QuickTime movie slide shows, complete with transitions, in either program.

Although we examined the single-user editions of the two programs, both Cumulus and Portfolio are available in workgroup editions that manage assets across local and remote networks. The single-user editions support Mac OS and Windows 95, 98, 2000, and NT; the server editions support just Mac OS and Windows NT.

Price and Performance

With so much in common, how do you choose between the two? Users on a budget are likely to give the nod to Cumulus simply because it costs US$100 less than Portfolio. But price isn't Cumulus's only attractive feature; the program allows you to easily attach catalogs to e-mail messages via a Mail To command. Cumulus's thumbnails are larger than Portfolio's and are easily scaled with a single menu command; to get the same effect in Portfolio, you have to rummage around in a dialog box.

But Portfolio is no slouch. For example, it displays a file's information within the application; when you wish to view the intimate details of your Cumulus assets, that program launches a separate Information application. In addition, Portfolio allows you to embed watermarks in your graphic assets and is significantly faster when cataloging volumes. Seeking JPEG, TIFF, GIF, AIFF, PICT, and QuickTime movie files on a 450MHz Power Macintosh G3 with a 2GB hard drive containing 3,091 files, Portfolio cataloged 707 items in 4 minutes and 17 seconds -- and that includes the time it took to display four apparently unnecessary error messages. Cumulus took 20 minutes and 57 seconds to perform the same operation.

Although Cumulus's relatively slow performance might be explained by its larger thumbnails, the slowdown appeared to be related to the amount of time Cumulus took to determine whether or not it fell within the bounds of the search criteria. Portfolio quickly sped past any files that didn't match our search filter.

PROS:Capable cataloger; great value; large thumbnails.

CONS:Catalogs slowly.

List Price: US$100

COMPANY:415/703-9800, Canto Software

PROS:Capable cataloger; can embed watermarks; fast.

CONS:More expensive than the competition.

List Price:$200

COMPANY:800/796-9798, Extensis

Advice: Cumulus and Portfolio are both capable programs that offer a variety of ways to catalog and search for just about any media file on your hard drive. Although you'd be happy with either one, Cumulus has a slight edge over Portfolio; its lower price and larger thumbnails make up for its slower performance.

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