Extensis Portfolio has long been a good way for graphics pros to organise images and other media so they can more easily manage those files for presentations or projects on CD, DVD, via the web or from their own hard drive. With version 8, Extensis has enhanced and fine-tuned Portfolio by streamlining its interface and deepening its functionality so that you can work on images more quickly.
Improved interface and operation
One criticism I had of version 7 was that several critical tasks involved too many arcane steps. Extensis designers have addressed those issues and have streamlined additional functions. For example, creating a Smart Gallery – essentially a saved find that automatically updates the contents when you open a file gallery (a subset of a media catalogue or database) – is now a simple step when you perform a find. In version 7, you had to save the find, create a new empty gallery, and then set up the gallery to use the saved find.
In addition, the program now automatically rotates digital images while importing them from your camera, so you don’t have to do it manually.
With this version, Extensis has also consolidated all metadata information into a single Properties dialog box. And because Portfolio 8 supports so many different types of metadata labels, you can also create your own custom list in the Properties dialog box to shorten the list of metadata types that appear in the user interface. A thoughtful touch.
Faster access to new images
In version 8, importing images into a catalogue takes significantly longer than it did in version 7. On my 450MHz Power Mac G4, it took 7 minutes 15 seconds to import and process a batch of 79 images (that includes reading the metadata, generating thumbnail images, auto-rotating, and logging the file creator, date and type); that’s a 26 per cent slowdown from version 7, which took just 5 minutes 48 seconds for the same operation.
However, thanks to the new Fast Cataloging feature, I could start working on images (for example, adding metadata) approximately ten seconds after starting an import – something I could not do in version 7. So the net result is faster access to at least some imported images.
In several instances, Extensis has extended existing functionality to make the program much more useful. A great example is the new Scratchpad gallery, which you can either generate yourself, or let Portfolio create one when you do a find. A Scratchpad gallery is a temporary gallery for experimentation. If you like the results, you can save it. If not, you simply close it. That’s a lot more convenient than creating new galleries for temporary work and then having to later delete the ones you don’t want.
Another enhanced function is Portfolio 8’s ability to do custom sorts by letting you simply drag files into the order you want. After all, the appropriate order for presenting images often has nothing to do with file name, image size, file type or even keyword – the kinds of attributes you would normally have to sort by. With Portfolio 8, you’re not limited to such sorting parameters.
The program also features other functional enhancements, such as support for movie-file metadata as well as the IPTC Core metadata fields used in Adobe’s Creative Suite 2 applications. Both enhance compatibility with audio, video and other media-creation and production tools.
Increased group focus
Extensis is emphasising Portfolio 8’s networking capabilities by adding group-oriented features to serve marketing and design workgroups and small companies. For example, the Workgroup edition supports SQL queries (handy for finding items in very large catalogues), and also features a shared catalogue in which each user can individually customise the way items are sorted. That’s great for big corporate departments and tech-savvy design firms. However, prices start at £3,099 for the Corporate and server-only editions.
Portfolio 8 remains quite useful for individuals, except in one area: the £162 companion program, Portfolio NetPublish 8, which lets you publish catalogues on the web for viewing by five simultaneous users. (Portfolio comes with a demo version of NetPublish, which supports only one user connection per hour.)
NetPublish continues to be limited to organisations that manage their own web servers, using either Apache or Windows IIS servers. Yet most small businesses employ a web host rather than manage their own web server, so they can’t use NetPublish to communicate with clients and other designers. NetPublish 8 is also, by and large, unchanged from its previous version. What’s new is its ability to publish a portion of a media catalogue (a feature that’s also new in Portfolio 8).
With Portfolio 8, Extensis continues to make it easier to manage your media files and work with subsets of data for projects and presentations. But version 8 is not a major feature upgrade; it merely refines what the previous version already offered, so many users who are happy with Portfolio 7 may be tempted to skip the new version. I can’t really argue against that logic, unless you use Portfolio so often that the interface enhancements and other improvements become worth the cost of upgrading.