• Price: 130

  • Company: Extensis

  • Pros: Improved interface and ease of use make this the most accessible version of Portfolio in its long history.

  • Cons: NetPublisher option is powerful, but poorly explained and limited without buying extra licences.

  • Our Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

According to Extensis, a lot of designers and photographers are in denial about the fact that they actually need a product like Portfolio. They’re probably right about that – most of us get by with the File Browser built into Photoshop.

Besides, the File Browser is effectively a freebie, whereas buying an additional file-management program such as Portfolio may seem like an unnecessary expense.

One of the biggest turn-offs for many potential users was Portfolio’s interface. Although Portfolio is packed with powerful and efficient tools for managing large collections of media files, its interface has always seemed functional rather than elegant, and it has never been the most welcoming of programs for new users.

Portfolio 7 isn’t radically different, but its interface is now more streamlined and intuitive, so that new users can get started more quickly. Mac users in particular will appreciate the changes, as the interface is now much more in the style of OS X. There’s even an option to customize Portfolio’s main toolbar that works in exactly the same way as the Customize Toolbar option found in the OS X finder.

Another important change is the Gallery pane that sits on the left-hand side of the screen. You can still create multiple catalogues that contain different sets of files, but now you can create multiple galleries within each catalogue. Galleries allow you to view specific sets of files without affecting the actual contents of the main catalogue. For example, you could create a catalogue for each issue of a magazine, and then create galleries within each catalogue that group together the files from different sections within the magazine. This is a handy way of keeping things manageable as your catalogues keep growing.

Under the thumb

You can still view the contents of your catalogue in Thumbnail, List, or Item views, but you can now customize these views to make it easier to see the information you need. You can specify which information fields are displayed (such as creation date, file size, and so on), or alter the size and arrangement of thumbnails. You can even specify the font formatting for individual fields, perhaps putting the date or the client’s name in bold so that you can spot it straight away.

There are numerous other new features, such as the built-in support for burning catalogues onto CD or DVD. The program’s batch-handling tools have been improved as well, now allowing you to automatically rename files, and change their size, format, and colour mode all at once. However, the feature that Extensis is really pushing is the NetPublisher tool, which allows you to create Web sites that contain ‘dynamic’ online image catalogues.

NetPublisher is an additional piece of software that needs to be installed separately. It then acts as a kind of Web server, handling the communication between your Portfolio catalogues and your Web site. Setting up NetPublisher can be a bit confusing if you’re not familiar with Web server software, but it’s well worth the effort if you need to put your image catalogues online.

Selecting the NetPublish command activates an assistant that offers you a number of HTML layout templates. You can fine tune your layout by altering the size and arrangement of image thumbnails, and you can even add a search function to your Web site, allowing people to sort through your online catalogue in various ways.

Most important, though, is the fact that these online catalogues are dynamic – any changes you make to the original catalogue are automatically reflected on the Web site. This will be a real timesaver for many Web developers, and makes it easier for designers who don’t have Web-programming experience to create their own Web sites and portfolios.

The only drawback is that the basic version of Porfolio only allows you to use NetPublisher on your own computer, and to allow one other person at a time to view the Web sites you create. To allow additional people to view your Web site you will need to pay for additional licences, starting with a five-user licence for £130, or £600 for an unlimited licence. To be fair, that’s not bad when compared to some other Web-development tools, and there’s also a simpler set of templates for creating ordinary static Web pages. These static templates can be quickly laid out and uploaded just like any ordinary Web pages, and will be adequate for many small Web sites.

There are a few annoying rough edges, such as the unhelpful manuals, but this is certainly the best upgrade Portfolio has had in a long time. It might even be the upgrade that finally convinces Photoshop users to ditch the File Browser and pay for a real asset-management system.