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Shootout: Iview Media Pro 3 vs. Extensis Portfolio 8

Part 2: Advanced Features


by Veit Irtenkauf


Manage the Digital Workflow


Part 1 of the shootout covered Getting Started and Basic Functionality. Part 2 covers some of the advanced features that are of interest to photographers.

Shootout #5: Custom Metadata

Both products support the definition and management of custom metadata. It’s as easy as defining new metadata fields and corresponding values and then starting to assign these customer values to your images within either Portfolio or IView Media Pro. Portfolio has the more robust implementation – IView Media Pro is limited to 16 custom fields per catalog, does not allow defining specific field types (e.g., date fields) and does not support linking a custom field to a specific metadata type, esp. linking to a specific XMP address, so it could automatically be added during ingestion. Field values can only be set through the dictionary function which might force you to be disciplined when adding keywords, but does not help you with date values. Portfolio does not have any of these limitations. In addition, Portfolio allows you to include any metadata in its searches whereas if searching for a particular metadata value is not allowed in IView Media Pro, you have to define a custom search field as a workaround. However, in my practical work with both, I have hardly ever had to use custom metadata fields, so the differences are not very significant to me. However, if you rely on the strength of custom metadata implementation, Portfolio has more to offer.

Once custom metadata fields are defined and values are assigned, both products offer the option to write custom metadata back into images (via the XMP format). While Portfolio supports only writing metadata into JPEGs and TIFFs, iView Media Pro also supports Photoshop’s own PSD format, Adobe’s DNG and Nikon RAW (according to John Beardsworth, Canon’s RAW formats are also supported on the Mac, but not on Windows – thanks for the input, since we did not conduct any tests on the Mac)

Defining custom metadata fields in Portfolio…

Both also support XMP info panels that can be used in any product supporting XMP info panels (such as Adobe Photoshop or Bridge) to set or change these custom metadata fields and values. However, whenever you do so, you have to re-catalog your images in order for the newly changed values to be re-cataloged. To simplify this task, both products support automatic monitoring of folders or drives, so any change to an image will trigger an automatic re-cataloging of that image. The exact workflow for creating custom metadata fields Portfolio was outlined in our Workflow Technique #83. For IView Media Pro, the workflow is pretty similar.

Due to its much more flexible custom metadata implementation, Portfolio takes the crown in the category.

… and then using it to manage your workflow status in Photoshop

Winner: Portfolio

Shootout #6: Cascading Keyword Metadata

Another very important aspect of metadata management is the support of hierarchical, cascading keywords. For example, wouldn’t it be nice, if you could set up a master category called “USA”, with subcategories for “California” and “Southwest” and even further subcategories like “Grand Canyon” and “Zion National Park”? And then to just drag images to the respective subcategories, and when clicking on the “Southwest” category, all of the images from the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park are being displayed?

Fortunately, both products have implemented cascading metadata support. In IView Media Pro, this feature is called Catalog Sets. Once defined, just drag images to the catalog set on the left and it will keep an automatic tally of how many images are in what catalog set. By clicking on the different catalog sets, you can then check and see what images are in what catalog set. Portfolio works similarly, except that its implementation is called Categories.

In the left panel, Catalog Sets can be used for hierarchical keyword organization…

However, this is where the similarity between the two products ends. Portfolio’s implementation stops right there and has not even improved in version 8 – just organizing your images in Categories. IView Media Pro goes much further. Catalog Sets can be used as a search criterion in any query – a very powerful feature, which is sorely lacking in Portfolio.

Including Catalog Sets in Search Queries – only possible in IView Media Pro

IView Media Pro goes even one step further: It allows you to write your hierarchical metadata as XMP data into the actual image (see shoot-out #5 for which formats are supported), so you can then use it with any application that understands XMP.

XMP data for Catalog Sets – any program supporting XMP can access it!

IView Media Pro XMP Panel in Photoshop or Bridge displays Catalog Set information

Prime examples for XMP support are Adobe products, such as Photoshop or Bridge – once you write your catalog set information back into your image, you can use it in queries in Adobe Bridge or display and manipulating it in Photoshop. And with auto-update switched on, changes to the Catalog Sets in Photoshop will be picked up again by IView Media Pro. Very nifty implementation!

Using Catalog Sets (in XMP form) in queries in Adobe Bridge

Clearly, Portfolio stopped half-way in its implementation of hierarchical metadata support, whereas IView Media Pro got it right. Due to its robust implementation, IView Media Pro deserves the win in this shootout.

Winner: IView Media Pro

Shootout #7: Support for RAW Converter setting files

When shooting RAW, one additional workflow step that you have to go through is to use a RAW converter to convert images from proprietary RAW formats to commonly supported image formats such as TIFF or JPEG. In the process of doing so and as adjustments are being made in the RAW converter, information about these adjustments are being stored in so called “settings” files. Some of them are stored as XMP sidecar files, but in most cases, the file format of the settings file is proprietary and written into separate, non-standardized files with separate extensions. While not physically linked by the OS, such settings files are logically tied to a particular RAW image. If the settings file gets lost and you want to reprocess the image in the RAW converter, you have to start with the initial image and all previous adjustments are lost. Thus, it is highly desirable that such settings files get cataloged together with the RAW files. Hence, it is strongly desirable that the settings file not only be archived, but that the archival program allows for linking a RAW image to a specific settings file, so when an image gets moved to a different folder, the settings file gets moved as well and will not be abandoned (or even worse, deleted).

It is not uncommon that a RAW image gets processed multiple times in the same RAW converter or even in different RAW converters to try to obtain the best results possible. In the process of doing so, multiple of these settings files might be produced for a particular image. Ideally, cataloging software should allow linking multiple settings files to a particular RAW image.

Unfortunately, neither of the two programs has solid support for settings files. Out of the box, neither recognizes and thus simply ignores proprietary RAW settings files such as .rws files (from RAW Shooter). Portfolio at least supports XMP sidecar files (which are generated when using Adobe’s Camera RAW) out of the box, while I had to custom define the XMP sidecar file type in IView Media Pro. Both required custom file type definitions to recognize RawShooter’s RAW settings files or any other proprietary settings file types.

Adding custom file types in Portfolio is pretty straight forward

A Windows interface would have been much better for adding custom file types to IMP

Due to their very rudimentary support, both cannot link a RAW settings file to the actual RAW image, so if you move the RAW image to a different folder, the RAW settings file needs to be moved manually or it gets abandoned. Similarly, if you make a change to a RAW image, both products have the ability to automatically re-catalog the RAW image, but you must always manually change the RAW settings file, unless you had the foresight to also add to the catalog watchlist the folder where these RAW settings files are stored (many RAW converters do not store the RAW settings files in the same folder than the actual RAW images).

Given the importance of managing RAW setting files, we hope that both Extensis and IView Multimedia will add support for RAW settings files in the near future.

With the just released version 3.1 of IViewMediaPro, they added a new functionality called Notebook, so one can assign notes to individual catalogs. While this feature was designed to allow tracking feedbacks from clients (one notepad per catalog, hence the lack of notes for individual files), this new features could be used as a very crude workaround for the missing RAW settings file management. The XMP code of XMP sidecar files could be loaded into the notepad. But since notepads are assigned to catalogs and not to individual images, this solution would quickly fall apart, once many images were added to a catalog. Of course, it would only work for ASCII files, such as XMP sidecar files, and not for files with proprietary file formats which are produced by most RAW converters.

Very rudimentary workaround for cataloging RAW settings files in Iview Media Pro

Given the lack of a solid implementation for RAW setting files management, supporting XMP sidecars out of the box is not enough for Portfolio to clinch a win in this shootout, so it ended in a tie.

Winner: Tie

Shootout #8: Version Control

Another advanced feature would be support of multiple versions, including a history of the images that were catalogued. Whenever a changed image gets re-cataloged, the software should automatically create a backup copy in a specific folder, so I can revert back to older versions of my image whenever I want.

IView Media Pro has a very simple version control implementation, but it falls short on delivering the functionality we desired. You can specify a folder where older versions of images should be archived and it will copy a backup copy of the original copy to this version folder whenever you edit the image in IView Media Pro or open the image in Photoshop from within IView Media Pro. While pretty simple, what we would have really liked to see is that backups get stored in the version folders whenever images are re-cataloged through the automatic re-cataloging feature. This way, we could still use our normal workflow, e.g., call Photoshop from within Adobe Bridge, while knowing that older version would get saved as new versions of the images get produced.

Setting up version control is simple in IMP, but its implementation falls short

Unfortunately, Portfolio does not have version control implemented at all. Due to that, IView Media takes the crown in this shoot-out, even although it does not fully support the functionality we would wish it had implemented.

Winner: IView Media Pro


Part 3 to follow


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