Photodex CompuPic Pro 5.1

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Impressive visual image management from thumbnail handling right through to Web page creation.

Traditional photo-editing packages such as Photoshop and Photo-Paint were designed to deal with one or two scanned images at a time, but these days users are bombarded with multiple images from multiple sources. When you’re handling hundreds and thousands of images from digital cameras, stock photography CDs or Internet downloads you need some way to bring them under control. That’s exactly what CompuPic Pro 5.1 promises to do – and to throw in a few extra tricks of its own in the process.

Central to the program is its Explorer-like interface. Running down the left of the screen is an outline view of the drives and folders on your system. Click on a folder and CompuPic Pro immediately starts generating thumbnails of supported files to show in the main file window. The program supports 40 different formats ranging from the bitmap standards such as JPEG, GIF, PSD and TIFF through to more surprising options such as TrueType fonts and HTML pages. In each case the thumbnail generation is very quick, even when working with files on CD. Even better, because CompuPic Pro defaults to storing thumbnails in a central database, the next time that you click on a folder, its thumbnails are available instantly.

This ability to work visually with image thumbnails rather than relying on file information such as names and dates is essential when you’re dealing with large numbers of images – especially with digital camera photos where the filenames are meaningless. To help give you as much control as possible, CompuPic Pro also lets you sort your thumbnails based on factors such as extension, orientation and area. Using the floating Keywords palette you can also add textual information to images and later search for files that match your keyword criteria. This is adequate for simple tasks such as storing a photographer’s name with their images, but for advanced cataloguing you really need a dedicated asset management package like Portfolio.

CompuPic Pro makes it simple to find the images that you want, but what can you then do with them? The first option is file management. As you would expect you can delete, rename and duplicate images. You can also drag and drop files to move or copy them and this is handled in the background. Another nice touch is the provision of a preview window under the folder window which shows a much larger version of the currently selected file. Best of all is the ability to select multiple folders and see and handle all the images they contain simultaneously. Again this is ideal for digital camera work where you will often have multiple sets of photos from the same holiday. On a slightly larger scale I had no problems viewing and handling over three thousand of my photos from over sixty folders.

When it comes to showing others your images, again you’re spoilt for choice. The easiest option is to show your photos onscreen with the Slide Show command. By default each image appears onscreen for three seconds, but you can always customise timings. In any case you can always press the PageDown key to move through the slides more quickly, Pause to concentrate on an image, or PageUp to return to the previous image. Another option is Maxi-Show which displays multiple images onscreen at the same time with each updated sequentially. I haven’t seen this before and like it a lot as each image is onscreen for longer, but there’s always something new to look at.

Maxi-Show is an onscreen slideshow with a difference.

These days of course you don’t actually have to be physically present to be shown images and CompuPic Pro has embraced the Internet with a vengeance. Sending images to friends is particularly easy as, once you’ve selected your files, you only have to call up E-mail Files command, enter a subject, address and message and choose an encoding method. Alternatively you could post your images to the Web using a free service provider and then just let all your friends know where they should visit. CompuPic Pro makes this particularly easy with dedicated dialogs to handle sign up and image uploads to five free hosting providers – Fotki, Ofoto, PhotoIsland, PhotoLoft and PhotoPoint.

If you have your own Web space, CompuPic Pro takes care of generating all the HTML you need to display your images yourself. Again the first step is to select your images and this time the Web Page Generator command. This lets you choose between a range of themes for your initial thumbnail pages, such as the 35mm option which makes your thumbnails look like a roll of film, and then between another set of themes for the main image pages. You can then customise just about everything from the number of thumbnails per page to the placement and colour of navigation text. In each case the dialog’s preview page updates so that you know exactly what you can expect when you finally hit the Create command. Again CompuPic Pro works in the background so that you can get on with other work until your browser opens with the pages ready to view.

CompuPic Pro isn’t just interested in Web uploads. Another option under the Internet menu is Web Site Scanner. Using this you can enter a source URL and a target directory on your hard disk and CompuPic Pro will automatically download all graphics and HTML from the site. You can opt to limit the download to linked files on the main server, set how many levels deep the scanner should go, and minimum and maximum file sizes. You can also choose to maintain directory structure to create a mirror copy of the site and provide usernames and passwords where authentication is necessary. Apart from leaving you to get on with other things, the main advantage of automated scanning over manual browsing is that multiple connections can be opened simultaneously so the whole process is much quicker.

The Web Site Scanner can automatically download images or entire sites.

CompuPic Pro is right to concentrate on its Internet functionality, but it hasn’t completely forgotten that other, more traditional media – paper. Select your images and the Print command and the Print Images dialog appears complete with page preview. You can interactively resize the image and add a header and footer, but you can’t print multiple images on the same page. To begin with it looks like the dedicated Picture Index command fills this gap. However, while you can set the number of images across and down, you don’t have any precise sizing control and can’t print multiple copies of the same file. The command isn’t much good for producing multiple 4x3 prints then, but it’s certainly way ahead of the print control offered by most photo editors and useful for producing thumbnail references.

The main strength of CompuPic Pro undoubtedly comes from its ability to work with multiple files at once, but the program also claims to offer individual image editing. Select the View/Edit command or double-click on an image and it opens in its own full-screen window against a black background. Without any toolbar or menu, however, it’s not obvious what you’re expected to do and clicking on the image immediately takes you back to the main Explorer view! In fact if you move your mouse up to the top of the screen a menu bar does appear complete with various editing commands and even a few editing tools such as a red-eye remover and tools for adding speech and thought bubbles.

These might be useful for the occasional jokey card but I was still ready to move on. A little more exploring however revealed a lot more power. The Adjust command in particular offers slider-based control over all the main colour correction capabilities from brightness and contrast through to gamma control and sharpening. Even better is the ability to apply the most common commands such as sharpening, saturation and image rotation through keyboard shortcuts. Best of all is the ability to move through images with the PageUp and PageDown keys. Suddenly CompuPic Pro’s editing is seen in a new light. Without any real pixel-level control it can’t compete with dedicated editors but if all you are looking to do is to quickly bring out the best in a batch of digital camera images this might well be all you need.

Editing of individual images is more sophisticated than it looks at first.

The control over individual images is surprisingly impressive, but CompuPic Pro is still happier handling multiple images as it shows with its two Batch Conversion commands. The first is very simple and only lets you specify a destination folder, colour depth and file format. The second is more advanced offering these same main options along with customisable control over image adjustments, size, crop, border, rotation, flipping and even image and text overlay. This ideal for everything from simple batch rotation of digital photographs through to advanced preparation of images for the Web - though the lack of GIF palette management is disappointing. Best of all is the ability to save settings for future use.

By now it’s becoming difficult to see what more CompuPic Pro can do especially when you throw in the simple screensaver, wallpaper changer, batch scanner and screen capture available from the Utilities menu. However the program has one more major trick up its sleeve. Using the Picture CD command it will burn all currently selected images to CD. Not only that it also adds a copy of the basic CompuPic software for viewing and handling the images and an Autorun file so that this loads whenever the CD is put into the drive.

The Picture CD feature looks great, but isn’t guaranteed to work.

There’s only one problem with this – it doesn’t work. At least not with the systems that I tried it on and under Windows 2000 just calling up the dialog lead to the program freezing. Sadly this is an indicator of a general problem - CompuPic Pro 5.1 just isn’t rock-solid. There are a number of rough edges ranging from some incorrect link handling in the Web page output through to the occasional crash and disappearance. The good news is that the program is continually being developed and improved so that by the time you read this there will hopefully be a more reliable 5.2 version ready for download.

I certainly hope so as I now find it difficult to imagine life without CompuPic Pro.

Ease of Use
Value for Money

ratings out of 6

Tom Arah

August 2000


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