Cumulus isn’t Mac OS X-native, but runs as well in OS X’s Classic mode as it does in OS 9. Each file in the catalogue is represented by a thumbnail – useful for previewing images and illustrations – and by various fields that store file information, such as keywords, and a file’s location. Cumulus gives you all the information at a glance. Cumulus’ Palette View mode acts as a floating palette inside other applications, and lets you drag-&-drop assets into Cumulus – although it must be running for it to work, and it doesn’t float above other applications. You can build catalogues in Cumulus either by letting the software scan selected files, folders, or volumes for assets, or by drag-&-dropping files from the Finder to the catalogue window. But, while it’s tempting to dive in and hope that the application will do the work for you, Cumulus needs some setting-up to behave optimally; the manual, which, refreshingly comes in printed form, is a must-read. After this, you’ll need to figure out which kinds of files the application needs to capture. It must also be told which meta-data – or file data – needs indexing for speedy searching later. Capturing more data slows the cataloguing process and makes the catalogue larger, but offers more ways to find the exact file once they’re all catalogued. Metadata standards, such as the EXIF (Exchangeable Image File) standard and the older IPTC (International Press and Telecommunications Council) standard, let users store information ranging from captions, bylines, copyright holders, and transmission instructions, to camera model, compression options, shutter speed, and image orientation – right in the image file. Flexible storage
These pieces of information can be used in many ways – you may want to find all images shot with a particular camera model, for instance. What makes metadata so nifty is that it’s already contained in the file, meaning that the digital-asset manager can capture it easily. Cataloguing is a lengthy, but automatic, process. The time it takes to build a catalogue depends on the speed of your Mac, the size of your hard drive, the types of assets being catalogued, and the amount of information you want to extract from each one. If cataloguing, say, 10,000 files that take up 20GB, think in terms of hours rather than minutes. And that’s why you’re better off planning ahead: if you decide later that you want to capture a previously unspecified data-type, the catalogue can be updated – but that, too, is time-consuming. Cumulus adopts the Finder’s folder and subfolder structure as part of its catalogue by presenting a window showing the thumbnails, with a category-viewer at the left. By default, Cumulus creates categories based on path names – the volume and its subfolders – so if you’ve already organized files into folders and subfolders, that organization is preserved. Click on a volume, folder, or subfolder icon to find all the files it contains – instant customization. It’s important to note that Cumulus’ categories – though based on paths at the time of cataloguing – don’t have any live connection to the location of your files and folders. If you move or delete files in the Finder, you must update the catalogue to make the categories reflect the changes. Using Cumulus’ Categories feature is a speedy way to classify files. While the default categories are based on the volume structure, you can define categories and subcategories that appear as folders and subfolders. Dragging a group of assets from the catalogue onto a category icon associates that category with the assets. Cumulus also lets users select a category and create a subcategory within it.
Cumulus 5.5 is a fine program, so if you’re looking for a timesaving way to find and use various digital assets, it will serve you well. It rivals Extensis’ Portfolio, is a great alternative for those who are new to digital-asset management, and delivers an industrial-strength solution that is remarkably easy to use.