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Image Database Software Helps Track, Manage and Utilize Art

As more and more visual elements become available in the form of clip art on diskette or stock photography on CD-ROM, it becomes increasingly difficult to track and manage all of these images. Image database products assist educators and media managers in this task. Image database products offer myriad functions -- from screen capture to generating thumbnail (postage-stamp size) images to compressing images. All provide impressive search and retrieval functions. Compression capabilities include JPEG and "Lossless" options that reduce the amount of memory images consume and make working with them easier. Some programs even support network environments, so numerous educators or students can access the same image database simultaneously. Peek a Boo Billed as software that simplifies the process of placing photos into documents, PhotoFlash, a Macintosh product from Apple Computer, Inc., boasts three main components: A browser for viewing and selecting images, photo preparation tools to enhance images, and scripting capabilities that place images into page-layout and presentation documents. Browser displays thumbnails of photos in standard file formats and allows users to drag and drop an item from PhotoFlash to Aldus PageMaker or QuarkXPress. Users can adjust brightness and contrast; remove scratches; straighten scans; and rotate, crop or perform other adjustments to images. PhotoFlash ships with integrated image compression from Storm Technology that lets users compress different areas of a photo at different levels. Also included are a sampler of color photos and AppleScript and QuickTime system extensions. With Multi-Ad Services' Search 2.0, another Mac product, one can catalog files, CDs or entire hard drives by dragging those icons over Search's icon. Once done, the program compiles image information such as name, volume, size, source application and dates. This new version stores 160,000+ images per catalog in file formats such as EPS (Mac/PC), PICT, TIFF, JPEG and MacPaint. Users can search across up to ten catalogs at one time, and images can be mounted locally or off-line. Other features include a merge- catalog command, zoom capabilities and Boolean searches. One can print thumbnails, keyword lists, catalogs or actual images. Multiple-user support controls the adding of images, keywords and descriptors plus allows more than one person to search the same catalog simultaneously. And Xing Technology Corp. has announced an update for its Windows-based Picture Prowler software. Version 2.0 is an image management and slide show program that employs JPEG compression to shrink images by up to 25:1 and organizes color and greyscale images as thumbnails. It provides quick visual search-and-retrieval features via keyword, filename or location on hard drives and removable media. Drag and drop features help educators create slide shows; one can include text or perform real-time markups such as adding arrows, circles and lines without affecting the original image. In addition, split-screen viewing enables side-by-side comparisons. Network support is another bonus. Gotcha! One subset of image database products incorporates screen capture along with image enhancement, format conversion and compression features. These programs are generally affordable, with several priced at under $100. The following programs fall under this category and run on Windows computers. DoDOT 4.0 from Halcyon comprises several modules that perform the above-listed functions. Of note is DoThumbnail, which creates miniature images and saves them in a database that can be searched by keyword or filename. Thumbnails can be annotated with text descriptors and associated with a host application. ImageManager Version 3.5 from Electronic Imagery, Inc. builds a universal electronic file folder that includes images, documents and associated text files in an SQL database. It offers simultaneous scan/capture and combines related database information together. Lossless and JPEG compression are available, as is the ability to view an entire image database via thumbnails. Text annotation, zoom and pan, filters for special effects, collage creation and brightness/ contrast control are other features. Network support and video capture are highlights. Providing viewing, converting, capturing and printing capabilities, HiJaak for Windows from Inset Systems is another useful product. One can view images in over 60 file formats; adjust image contrast, brightness, gamma and size; and display several raster and vector images side by side. Conversion support covers 16 vector and 24 raster formats. Users can capture entire Windows screens; any area of a window; or objects like cursors, icons and buttons. Another feature is color and greyscale remapping. Printing is as easy as dragging the image file name over the Print Manager icon. For Windows and DOS platforms, Collage Complete from Inner Media, Inc., includes drag & drop functions, TWAIN scanner support and more. Black-and-white to 24-bit color images are rendered. Borders of any color, text, and rectangles and other objects can be added to an image. Images or portions of images can be moved from Collage Complete to any other compatible program. Support for Photo CDs and WAV sound files is built in. The DOS version of this product includes an image viewing program that creates video slide shows. ImagePals 2 from U-Lead Systems provides cataloging and searching for multimedia elements like video, animation, image and audio files plus seamless integration with other applications. Searching is conducted from a convenient functions ribbon. In this version, users can now enter longer descriptions, use the subject field to add more information, and assign keywords to thumbnails. Also new are special effects filters, the ability to preview an effect before applying it, a clone tool and a global viewer. Plus, ImagePals 2 offers a multimedia slide show feature in which users arrange image, graphic, video and sound files, then add transitions and soundtracks. Lastly, LEADVIEW 3.0 for Windows from LEAD Technologies provides nine image-related functions. LEAD CMP or JPEG compression exceeds 200:1; Lossless compression ratios average 7:1. Photo Album, which builds a thumbnail directory of all images, offers search and sort options, provides drag-and-drop application execution from a thumbnail and sports a slide show feature. Also, a communication utility supports X, Y and Z modem transmission of compressed images and has a free viewer; a conversion function is based on over 100 file formats; image editing tools include 12 special effects; and a paint program helps enhance images. OLE 2.0, DDE and TWAIN support includes scanners and other peripherals. Multimedia DBs on the Mac The above image database products and their ilk are ideal for educators who are basically dealing with images and photos. However, in this day and age, authors deal with more than multitudes of images -- they have sound files, animation, and QuickTime or Video for Windows movies to manage. Compounding the problem is location. Some elements may be on a hard drive, others on floppy disks, more on Photo CDs and the rest located on a fileserver down the hall. Solutions range from full-blown, mature applications to modules within utilities packages. An example of the latter is Now Scrapbook, a feature within Now Utilities from Now Software. This Macintosh-based tool organizes and stores up to 32-bit color graphics, text, sound and QuickTime movies in catalogs. It also creates thumbnail views and provides sort, zoom, scale, resize and crop functions. One can copy between several open catalog windows, annotate or name any item, and play QuickTime movies using an optional extension. In Clipboard Editor, one can reduce and enlarge images from 12.5% to 800% and specify measurement by picas, inches, centimeters or points. One of the more well-known products in this genre is Aldus Fetch. Now in Version 1.2, the software has evolved into a multi-user, mixed-media database. Catalogs can now contain up to 100,000 clip art items, photo images, presentations, QuickTime movies, sounds and more. Search times have been improved by 300% compared to the previous version and up to 50 users can access a password- protected catalog simultaneously over a network. Also, Storm Technology's enhanced JPEG compression module has been incorporated to save hard drive space. Users can work from thumbnails or lists of files and can attach annotations and keywords. Catalogs include file format, creation date, location, modification date and other pertinent information. Plus, one can view items at 12.5% to 3,200% of their original size. Also included is Image Integrator, which places images from Fetch into QuarkXPress. Educators who work primarily with Photo CDs will find Sh'ebox Image Manager Version 1.0 for the Mac from Eastman Kodak Co. helpful. It indexes, catalogs and searches through thumbnails of Photo CD images. Each catalog houses 30,000 files and contains 100 or more user-assigned data fields plus keywords and captions. Users can access Photo CD Master and Catalog disc images in up to five resolutions; PICT, TIFF and EPS files; QuickTime movies; and AIFF audio files. Pop-up lists simplify searching. Catalogs can be shared within a workgroup, and the originating application or user-selected programs can be launched from within Sh'ebox. Plus, the program provides a multimedia slideshow tool. Designed as a client/server image and multimedia database program, Cumulus from Canto Software, Inc. is offered in a dual Mac/PowerPC version. Cumulus keeps cataloged files by reference, not by copying them into the database. This keeps the size of the database minimal; actual images are untouched. The program uses System 7 Aliases to reference image files, cataloging and tracking them from both online and off-line sources. Extensive information about each file is automatically generated, including a thumbnail, path and file names, color mode, resolution, dimensions and more. Currently 18 sound, application, QuickTime and image formats are supported; Canto Software provides a developer kit so users can write filters for additional formats. Another highlight is the ability to launch the originating application from within Cumulus for editing purposes. All network clients have transparent access to each online server application. MM DBs for Windows and OS/2 Ultimedia Workplace/2 is an OS/2 multimedia database program on CD-ROM from IBM Corp.'s Ultimedia Tools Series. One sees and works with miniature pictures, defining text and conducting searches based on those annotations. Media browsers display or play files when thumbnails are double-clicked. In addition, the program accesses, displays and joins information from dBase IV, Oracle, OS/2 Database Manager and DB2/2 with the user-defined text information. Online and off-line media are cataloged. An interactive multimedia tutorial offers step-by-step directions. As far as Windows-based products go, many are available. Able to catalog, browse and batch-convert graphics and sound files, including those in formats required for CD-ROM XA and CD-i, MediaStockroom 1.1 from OptImage Interactive Services Co. boasts a four-second search time through 100,000 records. Information stored in each record includes the requisite thumbnail image, user-defined keywords and comments, conversion history and technical information. One time-saving feature is the ability to queue items for later conversion -- overnight, for example -- from anywhere on a network. Both online and off-line items can be cataloged, and entire hard drive cataloging is provided via one mouse click. Offering extra flexibility by way of keyword synonym searches from a user-defined thesaurus, MpcOrganizer 3.0 by Lenel Systems lets users build a sophisticated query statement for specific data. The program organizes digital audio, animation, video, graphic and text information, plus non-electronic elements like slides, artifacts and hardcopy references. More than 40 file formats, including AVI, DVI, Autodesk, JPEG and various text formats, are supported. Optional Lenel MCI Multimedia Driver Kits control video capture boards and tape/videodisc players, so files stored on these media can also be cataloged. One program highlight is Lenel Gallery, a preview window, navigator, clipboard and cataloging tool. One can drag a group of files from File Manager onto the Gallery window to view them. For educators who mainly work with audio CDs, the Audio CD Browser scans music CDs, plays tracks on demand and adds tracks to a database. MpcOrganizer for Workgroups provides multiple users with access and the ability to update shared, project-specific databases; security features are built in.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.

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