A few months ago, never mind when exactly, I began to get into something that I later found out was called DAM (Document Asset Management).
Like all things in my so-called career, it began by accident. I discovered that you could store document data with the image file in a format called XMP (Adobe's Answer to The World Crisis).
Great idea. And, to make it better, you could then use the descriptions, titles etc. to generate web pages with that info. Great.
But I began to have some misgivings about some of the implementations and went on a search for other DAM type programs and ended up fooling around with two other ones: IMatch and Portfolio 6.
I didn't think my requirements were that outrageious:
1) Store the document data with the image file, but be able to import it to a separate file as well that could later be imported again. Reason for this, a lot of times you might decide you have a better version of the image, and want to replace the old one and then sync up the XMP data again.
You can do this in Photoshop CS -- but you have to press an awful lot of buttons, and I searched in vain for a script to do this but without any luck.
2) Since you are writing document info, how about a built-in spell check? None of the programs had this.
3) Since the results of the data are going to generate web pages, how about the ability to either pass html code through or to at least format the document info -- simple things: bold, font-size etc.
IMatch does allow this, but has other problems. Portfolio 6 and PS both strip out anything like this.
4) And this seems pretty basic, but if you are storing your original image as a tif file, then you'd think the web creator would be smart enough to transform it into a jpg for the web. Photoshop does this, IMatch does this, but believe it or not, Portfolio doesn't, or if it does I haven't figured out how.
On the same subject, you should have complete control over how the tif image is rendered as a jpg in terms of quality, possible sharpening, and mode. I found that Photoshop comes closest but for some reason it takes 8-bit grayscale and renders it as 8-bit RGB files. I couldn't figure out anyway around that, but it must have something to do with ImageReady which doesn't seem to know what a grayscale file is.
5) Lots of tokens that can be passed into the generated html pages. In other words, anything that is in the IPTC metadata in the TIF should be able to be represented in the generated web gallery.
Portfolio does allow this, although you need to go through some mapping things first, but still, they are on the right track. Unfortunately, their web templates are completely lame and they want to load a tif file rather than generate the jpg as noted above.
IMatch also allows this, but there are other problems with their gallery templates, all of which could be fixed if you want to learn their API -- but I don't want to.
6) They all seem to think that you always want to generate thumbnails. I don't. Again, this can be fixed by modifying the templates in IMatch and in Photoshop. But why not have a check box to say use or don't use thumbs.
7) When the JPGs are generated in Photoshop, you can tell it to either: a) not resize the image, b) constrain the height, width or both. However, if you use this second option and your original file is too narrow, it will stretch it. You should be able to say -- fine -- make it this size if it is too big, but if it is too small, don't blow the thing up.
8) IMatch and Portfolio are both good at creating galleries, or catalogues, although Portfolio has a more intuitive interface, at least to a westerner.
9) A few of them want to recreate a page or a file, even when nothing has changed. Not a big deal, though when it comes time to uploading changed files to the site, if you are dealing with a lot of files this is a hassle.
10) If you are going to create thumbnails, or links in a navigator frame set, PLEASE, allow the user to say how many should be on each page. In Photoshop, for example, if you create a frameset -- navigation on the left -- and you have 400 files to display, it will put them all on one navigation page. Ugh. You can go and cut it up later into smaller files and link them together, but that misses the point. The idea is to be able to really automate the process. Less work, not more work.
With all that said -- what I've settled on is using IMatch to edit the IPTC data (fine for that) and to keep things in some sort of order -- but I'm still using Photoshop Gallery (with customized templates) to generate the pages.
Portfolio 7 will be out at some point and they have said that it will be greatly enhanced in terms of web generation templates and functionality. I hope so.
- - -