Both Jasc Software and Extensis have updated their image-management applications, adding features that go beyond simple cataloguing and editing to help their products stand out in a crowded field.

The popularity of digital cameras and the growing capacities of flash memory cards, which encourage camera owners to snap photos with abandon, have drawn a dozen or more such applications into the fray. Image-management software eases the task of keeping track of those photos once they're dumped on a hard drive.

However, neither Jasc nor Extensis is a newcomer. Jasc showed its Paint Shop Album 5 and Extensis unveiled Portfolio 7 at the recent Photo Marketing Association conference here.

Archiving Encouraged

In Paint Shop Album 5, Jasc adds a "Photosafe Archiving System" intended to safeguard image files from computer crashes and image-preying viruses like Love Letter. The feature tracks which photos need to be archived and reminds you to archive photos periodically; the application then can burn those files to CD.

Album 5 also adds a QuickCD feature, so you can easily burn images to CDs to share them with friends and family or take to a photo lab for printing. Jasc says creating CDs of images takes two clicks. If you want to share photos on hard copy, new Album features let you create calendars, greeting cards, and even hard-cover books.

Jasc Album 5 is scheduled to ship in the second quarter and will cost $49 (around £28).

Pro Tools

In contrast, Portfolio 7 from Extensis is aimed at professionals. It is scheduled to ship in April priced at $200 (around £110).

Portfolio 7's most interesting new feature, NetPublisher, provides tools to help you create a Web site of images without any knowledge of HTML (but you can tweak code if you like). In a large dialog box, you check off either a few or a slew of options to customize the site, after which the applications churns out the Web site. Several other image-management applications, including Adobe Photoshop Album 2, have similar features, but Portfolio 7 can also update the site dynamically and automatically as you add images to your catalog. With Photoshop Album 2, if you want to add new images to your site, you must either recreate the entire site or modify the site's HTML code.

Portfolio 7 also imports RAW files from high-end digital cameras. Files saved in RAW format can contain higher colour-bit depth than the JPEG images that most digital cameras use, so it's commonly used by professional photographers. Extensis says Portfolio 7 can import RAW files from more than two dozen different cameras.

Other new Portfolio features include built-in CD-burning capability, batch image conversion, and the capability to embed IPTC metadata, such as captions and copyright information, in image files. Many applications can read metadata, but ones that can embed it into photos are less common. Extensis also says it will release a server-based version of Portfolio 7 in the second quarter of 2004.
7 in the second quarter of 2004.