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Review: Extensis Portfolio 7



Can a relatively inexpensive digital asset-management
program give you what you
need for handling thousands of files and
images? At a street price of approximately
$185 ($199 list), Extensis Portfolio
7 certainly gives you more bang for
your buck than any previous version. I
found the product to be well thought out
and powerful enough to be a real contender
for most applications.

Portfolio is designed to allow you to
view, find, and track all of your digital
assets, and the current version has added
capabilities of archiving and distributing
those assets. This is no easy task, and
can be a taxing challenge for any program.
The Portfolio interface, however, is
clean, fairly simple, and intuitive.

Tracking changes

Extensis has built into the program a lot
of capabilities that are extremely useful
to many production environments. For
instance, you can track assets on remote
volumes and even automate that process
by setting up watched folders. The program
will automatically alert you to
changes in those folders so they can be
continuously updated. You can track just
which changes have been made”?and by
utilizing the program's User ID capabilities,
you can also see who made those
changes and when they were made.

Portfolio can read most image files,
including most digital camera RAW files,
and can track the metadata embedded in
those files and allow you to add metadata
of your own. If you're unfamiliar with the
term, metadata can contain information
such as keywords, dates, digital camera
settings, and much more. You can set up
each Portfolio folder to add keywords and
descriptions to all of the assets in that
folder as they're read; this data is embedded
so metadata-savvy programs can
also read them.

Using Portfolio to move, rename, and
edit assets offers a distinct advantage.
Graphic-arts professionals often find
themselves in the position of contending
with files that have been moved and
edited and seem to “disappear” because
the workflow does not track these
changes. If these changes are done in
Portfolio, however, the program can be
set up to track and update the locations of
all effected files. And moving files in Portfolio
is simple enough that you can insist
that your operators only move files from
within the program.


From within Portfolio, you have many
ways of accessing, updating, sharing,
and managing your assets: You can
launch the programs that created the file
(if available) to edit it. You can view the
assets by thumbnail or open the original
directly in Portfolio, and even zoom
around any viewable file. And you can add
metadata, move files, and scan and
update new or existing volumes. Portfolio
also allows you to view many audio and
video files directly within the program.

Beyond the basics

Web file-sharing capabilities receive a big
boost in Portfolio 7. You can generate Web
pages from asset “galleries” and customize
your pages using included templates.
You can even make your Web
pages automatically update. All of the
HTML coding is already done for you; this
feature, called NetPublish, is included in
the Portfolio Suite.

You can also generate slideshows
and burn CDs and DVDs from Portfolio.
This was a serious oversight in previous
versions of the program, especially considering
the fact that Mac users have
been able to do this in the free iPhoto
program for a couple of years. Portfolio
also adds iPhoto's capability of e-mailing
low-resolution or full-resolution files by
dropping them into your e-mail program.
It also offers batch resize and convert
options. Plus, Portfolio allows you to
include a freestanding program for
browsing the images on a CD or DVD that
you create. While these additions are
fairly basic, they certainly make things
more convenient.

In addition, there are some Portfolio
capabilities that free programs such as
iPhoto can't touch, such as batchprocessing
conversions in color space or
file type on the fly (yes, iPhoto can batch
convert from RGB to grayscale, but it cannot
convert RGB to CMYK or convert files
to TIFF or JPEG formats like Portfolio can).
And a huge help for graphics professionals
is the ability to not only archive files to
CD or DVD, but to track the files on each
disk”?Portfolio remembers where you
put things. Another helpful feature is the
ability to create custom contact sheets of
gallery images.

A few issues


Few programs are perfect, and there are
indeed a couple of issues with Portfolio 7
I should mention:

  • Portfolio can only rotate JPEG preview
    images; other formats must be
    rotated in image-editing software. If you
    have an EPS file, for example, you'll need
    to rotate it in the original application, or
    deal with the fact that the thumbnail will
    appear in the wrong orientation.
  • The International version of Portfolio
    7 has not yet been released, so it does not
    currently support high ASCI characters or
    Japanese text at this time. The International
    version is due out in early 2005.
  • TIFF files with JPEG or ZIP compression
    do not thumbnail; and neither these
    files nor spot-channel TIFFs will properly
    convert using the program's Batch Convert
  • You'll want to run this software on
    the fastest machine you can find. My
    400-Mhz Macintosh G4 ran many of the
    processes very slow, and even my 1.6-
    Ghz G5 seemed sluggish. I was able to run
    it on a 266-Mhz G3 laptop, but this is well
    below what Extensis recommends. The
    bottom line: If you think you can run your
    DAM program on an old Mac or PC you
    have sitting around, think again; it's probably
    a good idea to use that machine for
    some less-demanding task.
  • All in all, Portfolio 7 is a robust and
    very useful tool. I would recommend running
    it on your fastest machine and making
    sure your operators move and edit
    files from within the Portfolio client to get
    the best return on your investment.

    Pricing: $199 list, $185 street price.
    As indicated earlier, Portfolio 7 comes
    with NetPublish, but the basic version
    handles just one Web connection at a
    time; for $398, you receive up to five
    simultaneous connections, and for $999
    you receive unlimited simultaneous connections.
    An even more robust server version
    of Portfolio 7 is available for $1999. (Extensis:



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