Photo Supreme Test Drive

Photo Supreme Evaluation

A few months ago I lamented that Idimager had been discontinued and that I was going to have to figure something out. Photo Supreme is the software that has replaced it and I am inclined to keep going with this stable of products simply to be sure I keep some of the functionality I’ve spent years learning and depending on.

To recap, there are several key features that I require for my photo management software:

  • Easy and intuitive tagging and retrieval of images. This is the most important one for me as I spend 90% of my time with the images assigning tags (labels, keywords) to them so that I can find them later. For example, for the past few months I’ve been assigning the tag “baby” to images that particularly deal with Jenn’s pregnancy or items surrounding the child to be. Later on I’ll be able to select them all and reassign the tag as “[baby name here]”. I can also search and find all of the images that (say) have “baby” and “boa constrictor” in the tags, rather than looking through all the individual “baby”-labeled shots for the one with the snake. This is the power of a good tagging program and the key feature.
  • Basic Photo Manipulation. I don’t want to load Photoshop just to crop, adjust white balance, pump up the contrast, or whatever. I want to do this natively in the photo database software.
  • Export Functionality. One of the things that Idimager trained me to use is a series of batch operations for sending photos to various places for various reasons. Not to belabor this list, but I export to Flickr, to a local folder for my iPhone syncing, to another local folder for blogging, to Dropbox for sharing, and to various other places. Each of these batch operations has slightly different parameters (size, sharpening, whatever) and it’s nice to be able to select some images, push a button, and done. A few years ago, this wouldn’t be a required feature, but now I want it, dammit.
  • Internal File Management. According to Idimager, I have 54,001 files attached to its database. These files are subdivided into hundreds of different folders. A required feature of a photo management database is the ability to move these files and folders around and have the database updated simultaneously. Having to move folders using other file management utilities and then individually find and relocate each folder or file is a total bust and would be a no-go for selecting a software product.
  • Control of my files. I don’t object to using cloud backups or the like, but I want control of my own data. I don’t trust the cloud for primary files, nor will I always be internet-connected.

As I have a job and other things to do, the list of products that I evaluated in the past was relatively short: Idimager and Adobe Lightroom.1 Now that I’m evaluating a change to Photo Supreme, I’m back in the same boat. Photo Supreme vs. Lightroom. I know what Lightroom can do, and it meets the requirements I have above. What it didn’t do as well as Idimager did, was the tagging and export batch functions. That was the place where Idimager’s faults became its features: it was personally customizable through the batch functions you built yourself. Lightroom didn’t allow that.

But today, we’re looking at Photo Supreme, not Idimager and/or Lightroom from two years ago. Let’s go for a test drive.

I downloaded and installed Photo Supreme version 1.8.1.131 and imported a folder of images that I had lying around. My first impression was that the layout was much cleaner and more user-friendly-looking than Idimager2

PhotoSupremeSS1

Tagging

The first real task I tried was tagging some images. Remember that tagging is synonymous with assigning keywords in other programs. Idimager, and now Photo Supreme, approaches tagging a bit differently than other programs in that, while all tags are keywords, they are also hierarchical in nature. Or at least, they can  be. You could assign all tags as plain keywords, but that would defeat a lot of the utility of the hierarchical tag assignments. For example, I can assign a tag to myself (“Bill Ruhsam” )which is within the hierarchy of “Family” and “People”. The “People” and “Family” tags are assigned automatically as soon as an image is tagged with “Bill Ruhsam”. I don’t have to do any other work. This allows for more powerful searching functions.3

The tagging seems to be just as intuitive and easy as it used to be in Idimager. I can assign keyboard shortcuts to tags that are frequently used and the various ways of favoriting or labeling images are still there (i.e. using 1-5 for the number of stars on a picture and 6-9 for color assignments. I use the stars assignments for doing initial passes through images for pictures to keep—3 stars, then modify—4 stars, then export—5 stars).

Initial evaluation: Tagging works as needed. Not that I had expected that to change. If Photo Supreme had lost that functionality then the company might as well have closed shop.

Complaint #1: Function key 1 (F1) doesn’t open the help dialogue. Come one, guys. F1 has been the default key for help for decades.

Basic Photo Manipulation

Through some screwing around I found the same features in Photo Supreme that exist in Idimager: size, crop, white balance, contrast, etc. It seems like they cleaned up some of the annoyances that plagued Idimager, but they’ve added a few new ones4. I’m sure I could get over those.

PhotoSupremeSS2

Export Functionality

I took the image shown above and tried several ways of exporting it. Here’s where I ran into my first big usability problem: For some reason, when I exported it to a folder (copy to folder) it wouldn’t apply the recipe. I flailed around and cursed and tested and read the documentation (unhelpful) and tried this and that. Eventually, I discovered what I think was the issue5. Do you see the tiny “cancel” and “apply” buttons on the bottom right of the image above? If you don’t hit “apply” here, the image does not get exported with the recipe applied, no matter that the recipe is saved in the sense that if you go away and come back, it’s still there. That was exceptionally annoying, but I think I’ve figured it now. Usability aside, it seems to be working.

Likewise, it seems that the exports for sending to Flickr, email, Facebook (boo hiss!), and other typical locations is there and usable.

Internal File Management

The big test! Can I move files and folders around without spending days upon days relocating files?

Not really.

You  can cut/paste folders within Photo Supreme to other locations on your computer. However, from my evaluation standpoint, I can only move folders to locations that have already been mapped by the Photo Supreme catalog. For example, I’m using a series of test folders shown in the image. I successfully moved the “Test Folder 3” from being a subdirectory of “New Folder” but there doesn’t seem to be a way for me to move the folder to a location such as the “My Picture” folder.

PhotoSupremeSS6

There does seem to be a function for scanning my computer for folders, but I’m afraid that might start importing all of my images, which isn’t something I’m ready to do.6 So, for now, I’ll have to mark this one as “not working”.

The particular reason why this is so important for me to be able to manage files from within the image database is because I’m currently operating on a laptop with a 400 GB drive. 400 GB is not enough to contain my entire image collection, so I keep most of them on an external (USB) hard drive. As I fill up the internal laptop hard drive, I will occasionally move a great number of files from the C:\ drive to the external hard drive.

From other discussions, it appears that there is functionality for relocating missing folders, which is what would happen from the perspective of the database if I were to move these folders from within Windows explorer, but that’s a problem because of the number of folders involved. Time for another screen shot.

PhotoSupremeSS7

The easy way to do this move would be to move the entire \2013\ folder shown in the computer and then relocate the folder with Photo Supreme, but that won’t work. Why? Two reasons:

  1. Because I want to have about the last 12 months worth of images actually on the laptop so that I can get at them. Moving the entire folder means on January 1, 2014, I’ve got no pictures.
  2. Because I can’t guarantee that I won’t run out of hard drive space sometime in July of 2013. Sure, I could move the entire folder then but what happens with the next six months? I suppose I could rename and have an \2013-2\ folder, but that’s a kludge and I don’t like it.

Item  number two is the easiest to do away with, but again, this would irritate me.7

Conclusion (For Now)

I have a baby coming and there’s a ton of work to do so I’m not yet ready to pull the trigger on a new software. Idimager V.5 is still operating fine for what I need and I’ll keep using it for a while longer. If nothing else, I need to do full backups and various other things before I try moving databases around. For another, I may be purchasing a new desktop computer in the next couple months which would be able to contain all of my images on the native hard drive, so that would eliminate the external hard drive transfer problem. For a third, I want to give Lightroom another try and poke around for additional options before I settle on something.

I’ve really like the way Idimager and now Photo Supreme have given me the power to customize the way I work with my images. If only it were more user friendly, had better documentation, and occasionally didn’t do the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to do, I’d be the software’s biggest fan and pusher. Unfortunately, from what I can see of Photo Supreme it may be more user friendly than Idimager, but that’s not a high bar to clear.

  1. If you click through to that post, you’ll see I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Idimager for a while. In fact, when asked for a recommendation for photo management software, I have replied “I use a good one, but I can’t recommend it to you.” Unless I knew that a particular person was insane and willing to deal with the exceptionally steep learning curve, I never recommended Idimager to them. []
  2. Idimager could be extremely intimidating to look at on the desktop with icons and buttons and just shit everywhere. This is a great improvement. []
  3. An example search here would be all images with “Chainsaws” and “Family”. I could have searched for “Chainsaws” and “Bill Ruhsam” but I also wanted to see the other chainsaw-related images associated with my close relatives. I don’t have to ever assign the keyword “Family” to individual people because it’s done automatically during the tagging, and I don’t have to search for “Bill Ruhsam”, “Mom”, “Dad”, “Uncle Bubba”, etc. because they’re all automatically filed under “Family”. []
  4. It’s harder to see what modifications (called Recipes) have been applied and turn them on/off. The keyboard shortcuts I’m used to don’t work and I can’t see if they’re new ones. Things like that []
  5. I make no warranties that this was the actual problem, but I think it might have been. []
  6. Once I’ve decided this works I’ll be importing my Idimager V.5 database, so I have no desire to do a fresh import of all my images. []
  7. From a database standpoint, it doesn’t matter where the files existing on the hard drive, they’ll always be located inside the database with its own pointers. However, if I want to go into the file system and find a particular folder, it’s great when those are relatively well organized. []
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