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If you have between $20,000 and $50,000 dollars to spend on
digital-asset-management (DAM) hardware and software, there
are some really fantastic solutions available to you. and for
some graphic-arts providers, such an investment can be readily
justified. For many shops, however, that kind of money just
isn”?t available, no matter how good the return on investment
might be.

But there are a few solutions out there that might be able to
do an adequate job for you. In fact, a few choices might even be
able to push the “adequate”?
label. In addition, there are
some modular solutions
that can expand from very
small, single-user capabilities
to very large enterprise
packages. and while
you may already be familiar
with the names of some
of the products I refer to
here”?and have dismissed
them as options for your
shop because of their simplicity
“?keep in mind that
many have released brand new versions with new features;
they may be better than you remember.

Basic options
On the lowest end of the spectrum, two products stand out”?
from ACDsee and MediaDex”?while another”?from Extensis”?
could be considered a step up.

ACDSee Photo Manager ( is a Windows-
only product that combines the ability to make catalogs
of images with image-editing capabilities. It”?s as inexpensive
as you can get: $49 for the single-user version and $129 for
the Pro version; the latter allows for the import of RaW-format
images and provides several extended editing capabilities and
image filters. The weakness is that it is really for photographic
images and won”?t read a lot of typical graphic-arts file formats
like Quark and InDesign (but it”?s not really designed for that).

Canto ( spun off its very low-end single-user
software in 2005, and this product is now licensed by Media-
Dex (, which sells it under the MediaDex
name. since MediaDex sells for $49 for the base version and
$79 for the pro version, it”?s not surprising that it is mainly good
for cataloging images on a single machine. You can extend the
capabilities to do things like catalog all the internal pages of a
Quark or PDF document”?but adding each of these two capa-
bilities, for example, will cost $995 for up to three clients. Both
MediaDex versions are available in Mac and Windows. Canto,
meanwhile, continues to offer server-based systems under the
Cumulus name”?it recently announced the release of version 7
“?at more typical enterprise pricing levels. Enterprise versions
run under a variety of operating systems.

Portfolio 8 from Extensis ( is the step up
here, and is a brand-new release of the company”?s best-seller.
It packs more power and features than the other low-end products
mentioned earlier, but it also carries a bit of a larger price
tag: $199. The new version can now read metadata in common
movie-file format, and it also allows users to take advantage
of the IPTC4XMP standard (IPTC Core), which is used by adobe
Creative suite 2 applications. This effectively extends Portfolio”?s
custom fields into the most popular creative applications,
allowing a two-way exchange of information. Portfolio 8 can
also read RaW image-format files. Extensis offers server and
enterprise versions of the product beginning at $6000.


A bit more punch
FileMaker Pro ( has long been the database
that Mac users have turned to, and developers have been
eager to use the program as a base to build software for many
different purposes. With the release of 8.0, there is a free addition
called Creative Pro starter Kit, which goes a long way to
helping users create their own DaM software. The kit includes
many preprogrammed functions including writing HTMl, PDF,
and Excel file formats natively. FileMaker Inc. offers several
versions of its FileMaker Pro 8, with the base version priced at
$299 and an advanced version at $499 (there”?s also a server
version for $2499). The caveat here, however, is that even
though 8.0 features new and very useful preprogrammed functions,
no specific DaM software is included; it”?s up to the user to
configure the software appropriately for DaM. FileMaker Pro 8
is available for Mac and Windows.

Stockview from Hindsight ltd. ( was
originally designed to track stock photo images, but it actually
does a lot more than that. like FileMaker Pro 8, for instance, it
can write the catalog page files out in HTMl for posting to the
Web. Because the product was really designed for agencies
and professional photographers, a lot of energy has been put
into labeling and caption capabilities, many of which are unique
to this product. stockview can also do things like generate bar
codes and user-defined serial numbering systems. Price: $395.

ThumbsUp from Graphic Detail ( is
available for a wide range of users and shop types. The image
and multimedia database solution comes in single-user Pro
($495) and Enterprise ($995) versions; the latter version has
a variety of capabilities not found in the Pro version, including
export functions, complex search functions, and auto-attach
capabilities for high-res images. Client-server versions also
are available. To ease the pain of migration to higher levels of
DAM capabilities, the data file is upgradeable at no cost from
single-user to client-server. The company also allows users to
upgrade during the first year from Professional single-user to
Enterprise single-user for $500 (no price penalty).

Web server power
Last, but certainly not least, is a relative newcomer to the DAM
game, SeeFile ( SeeFile”?s $695 base product
is essentially Web server software that is designed to run on
a Mac platform. SeeFile is packaged with a Mac Mini for $995,
and is ready to go at that price (MySQL is included). The price
structure is based on how many personalized sites you want to
generate and how many log-ins you need to be able to handle.

On the high end, the Corporate edition is priced at $3995
and allows 25 unique personalized sites and unlimited logins.
Knowing that many of its customers may not have 24/7
high-speed Internet capability, SeeFile has also teamed up
with MacMiniColo ( to offer colocation
services with redundant protection and high-speed services
starting at $29.95/month.

If the tool fits
Can you get a good DAM system on the cheap? Although none
of the systems mentioned here will match a Media Beacon,
WebNative, or other similarly full-featured system, they may
well give you all the power you need, for a lot less money. And
if the tool fits your shop”?s needs, you may not have to dig too
deeply into your budget for an asset-management solution.


Stephen Beals ([email protected]), in prepress production
for more than 30 years, is the digital prepress manager
with Finger Lakes Press in Auburn, NY.



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