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Tools for Batch Processing Your Photos (6/2001)
by Douglas Dixon
ACDSee / ACD Systems
-- CompuPic / Photodex Corp.
Image Robot / Jasc Software
-- ThumbsPlus / Cerious Software
(See also Image Organizers and
(See also DeBabelizer)
As you work with your digital images, do you find yourself
repeating the same tasks over and over again? Perhaps you have a set of vacation
photos that you want to send to you family, but need to shrink and compress them
all down before sending them by e-mail. Maybe you need to touch up a collection
of dark interior shots by brightening and sharpening them.
Now you can stop having to perform these kinds of repetitive
tasks manually on each image: Photo and image editing tools are adding
"batch" capabilities to automate the process of applying these kinds
of common operations to a list of files.
In this article I'll describe four different image tools that
provide a range of support for batch operations: ACDSee from ACD Systems, CompuPic from Photodex Corporation,
Paint Shop Pro with Image
Robot from Jasc Software, and ThumbsPlus from Cerious Software.
Each of these tools has developed strong customer support
through years of development and enhancement. Each provides a wide range of
general capabilities, including image browsing, viewing, and editing. They are
also relatively inexpensive (under $100), and have evaluation versions available
for download. Two are Windows-only applications, and the other two are
cross-platform, available for the Macintosh, and one also for Unix.
Photo and Image Tools
These days, photo and image editing tools have grown to
provide a comprehensive set of image-handling capabilities, from input capture
to image processing to output. These four tools each span almost the full range
of capabilities, including:
- Image Capture: Input from scanners and digital cameras
- Image Files: View a wide variety of image file formats
- Multimedia Files: Play multimedia (video and audio) file formats
- File Browsing: Explore the hierarchy of folders on disk; View each directory's
contents as thumbnail images
- File Management: Organize files while viewing image thumbnails; Rename, copy,
- Image Viewing: Quick viewing of individual images; Zoom, scroll, side-by-side,
- Image Editing: Manual paining operations; Brush, overlay, tweak pixels, text,
- Image Manipulations: Resize, rotate, adjust color, filters, arithmetic
- Photo Adjustments: Automated photo clean-ups; Red-eye reduction, scratch
removal, color balance
- Photo Effects: Fun effects; Artistic look, distortions, textures, picture
- Print: Print individual and multiple images, contact sheets, thumbnail
- Convert and Export: Save in a wide variety of image file formats
- Generate Web Pages: Export photo album as Web pages with image thumbnails and
- Share: Send via e-mail or upload to a photo-sharing Web site
In this article, I'll highlight the strengths and market focus
of each tool, and then concentrate on the batch-processing functions. I'll leave
it up to you to decide which kind of tool is most appropriate for the way you
work with image and other media files.
ACDSee, from ACD Systems (www.acdsystems.com),
is an image viewer for digital image management and enhancement, with a focus on
fast image viewing. ACDSee has been under development since 1993, and has an
estimated 15 million users worldwide. With over 15,000 corporate customers,
ACDSee has been particularly popular for professional applications, and recently
received a 2000 Front Line Award from Game Developer magazine.
The current version, ACDSee 3.1 Service Release 1, was
released in December 2000 for Windows. This release included faster image
display, batch file functions, redeye reduction, and support for exporting to
thumbnail contact sheets and Web pages.
The ACDSee browser provides fast access to images in both
directories and ZIP archives. Image files are displayed as thumbnails or in
details list, and the browser also has a Preview window to immediately view the
selected image. The browser also has a Tag window to annotate images with
descriptive information for later searching. ACDSee has a simple Viewer window
for fast image viewing, and a separate Photo Enhancer window for more
sophisticated effects, filters, and color adjustments.
ACDSee provides batch operations through individual commands
that can operate on a selected group of one or more files. The Rename Series
command renames a selected collection of files according to a numbered series
(i.e., file-01, file-02, etc.). The Convert command saves one or more files in a
desired output image file format. The JPEG Transform command rotates one or more
files. The Adjust Level command adjusts image brightness, contrast, whitepoint /
blackpoint, and gamma settings.
ACDSee 3.1 for Windows is available as a $49.95 download. A
Macintosh viewer and browser, ACDSee for Mac 1.5, is available for $39.95. ACD
Systems also sells a suite of individual tools for image viewing, image
management, slide shows and screen savers, photo editing, Web servers, and
CompuPic from Photodex Corp. (www.photodex.com)
is a digital content manager application for finding, viewing, editing, and
sharing image files. Photodex has been developing photo browsers since 1991, and
estimates that the CompuPic product line has 10 million users worldwide.
CompuPic is available for a wide variety of platforms, from Windows to Macintosh
to various Linux and Unix systems.
Photodex released CompuPic version 5.1 in June 2000, and then
CompuPic 5.2 and CompuPic Pro 5.2 for Windows in November 2000. The 5.2 version
added lossless JPEG image rotation, unlimited undo and redo, and a new interface
with customizable toolbars. The new CompuPic Pro 5.2 version also includes web
page generation, website scanning and download, HTML page management, Picture CD
creation, and advanced batch operations.
CompuPic includes a Batch Conversions utility to quickly
change the file format of a group of files. You first select the files to
convert into a File List, and then choose the Direct Conversions command.
CompuPic then displays a dialog to specify the output folder for the converted
files, the color depth, and output file format.
The Advanced Batch Conversions (ABC) utility in the CompuPic
Pro product provides the ability to select from a set of available operations to
perform on a collection of images. These include: resize, crop and border, image
adjustments (brightness, contract, color, white / back point, gamma), rename and
output path, text and image overlay, and rotate, mirror and flip. You can also
save a configuration for later use.
The base CompuPic application is available for Windows, Mac,
and Linux/Unix for $39.95, and CompuPic Pro 5.2 is available for $99.95. A
manual set and CD also is available for $9.95. The CD contains copies of the
application for all platforms that you can unlock with a registration key.
The next 5.3 version of the CompuPic tools are due to be
released at the end of January 2001. CompuPic 5.3 should allow you to browse all
file types on your system, and launch an associated external application if
needed to view the file. It should also include a batch rename function.
CompuPic Pro 5.3 should have full database support with the ability to attach
any kind of information or metadata to any file. Photodex is targeting it to
enable power users to better manage large collections of photos.
Paint Shop Pro from Jasc Software (www.jasc.com)
is a popular Windows image editing application that has grown from its shareware
roots into a very capable tool for photo browsing and editing. Jasc reports that
Paint Shop Pro is the second best selling retail photo editing application
(after Adobe Photoshop), and estimates that it now has 20 million users. While
Paint Shop Pro has a built-in batch capability for converting between different
image file formats, Jasc also sells a companion program, Image Robot, for
automating graphics operations.
The core of Paint Shop Pro is a full-fledged image editor with
graphics drawing and painting functions, plus image filtering, manipulations,
and conversions. It has also added basic image browsing capabilities, and Web
support for GIF animations by including the Jasc Animation Shop tool.
Paint Shop Pro 7, released in September 2000, added photo
clean-up tools like red-eye removal and automated color adjustment, more special
effects, Web image tools, and productivity enhancements including the ability to
save and restore a project in progress as a workspace.
Image Robot essentially packages up many of the Paint
Shop Pro image adjustment, manipulation, and filtering capabilities so they can
be saved as a script and applied as a batch operation to a group of files. Image
Robot can be used standalone and as a complement to Paint Shop Pro.
Image Robot 2.1 from fall 1999 enhanced the ability to manage
list of images to be processed, and added support for new file formats including
Encapsulated Postscript. Image Robot 2.12 from fall 2000 added support for the
Paint Shop Pro 7 file format.
To use Image Robot, you first build a script with a list of
commands. This process is completely graphical; you scroll through a list of
available commands in the main Image Robot window, add each command to the
script, and set the command options in a dialog box. As you build the script,
you can add, delete, re-order, and edit the commands in the list. Image Robot
also has a small Preview area where you can load a sample image to visually
check the results of running individual commands and even the entire script on
that image. You can also check the commands by scrolling through the list and
reading a text display of the command options.
When you have finished building a script, you can then start
it running. Image Robot will prompt for the input files that it is to be applied
to, and the output directory and file format for the processed files. But you
can automate the process even further, by building an Image List of files to be
processed, and by defining the output directory and format as part of the
script. Since you can save and load both scripts and image lists, this gives
lots of flexibility for processing the same group of files in several different
ways. For the ultimate in automation, you can also run scripts from the command
Image Robot 1.2 is available for $89 for download. Paint Shop
Pro is available for $99 for the download version, or $109 for the boxed retail
product. Jasc also sells Media Center Plus, a digital media file organizer, and
Quick View Plus, for previewing the contents of almost any kind of file.
ThumbsPlus from Cerious Software (www.cerious.com)
for Windows combines a powerful media file database with image viewing, editing,
and conversion tools, plus a powerful batch processing capability. The core of
ThumbsPlus is a full-fledged database of digital media files that you access by
exploring your disk directory structure and viewing image thumbnails. You can
then use ThumbsPlus to manage your files and even search for images by content,
i.e., for images that look similar to another in color or shapes.
In recent releases, Cerious has been adding stronger support
for Web page and contact sheet output, and other digital media types (audio and
video). ThumbsPlus 4.10 from June 2000 added movie thumbnail and viewing options
and now uses DirectShow for all movie and sound files.
ThumbsPlus has a simple Image / Convert command for converting
multiple files to common types, plus a full-fledged Batch Process command
similar to Image Robot. ThumbsPlus presents the batch process as a multiple-step
series of dialog boxes: first open an existing batch set or define a new one,
then select the files to process, then build the list of commands, including
transforms, adjustments, file information, and processing, then select the
output format, directory, and names, and finally run the batch set.
The ThumbsPlus batch sets can get quite sophisticated,
including calling a batch set from within another one, operating on vector
metafiles, and renaming the output files with a numeric sequence. ThumbsPlus is
available for Windows for $74.95 for download, or for $79.95 shipped with CD-ROM
With these tools in hand, you no longer need to be manually
repeating the same image operations over and over again. Whatever kind of image
tool you like to work with, on whatever platform, from a viewer to a browser to
an image editor, you can find batch file processing capabilities to fit your
ACDSee for Windows and Macintosh is a fast image
browser and viewer that has extended several of its basic commands to also
operate on a group of files.
CompuPic is a similar digital content manager and fast
viewer for Windows, Macintosh, and Unix. CompuPic Pro adds the ability to define
and execute sets of operations on a group of images, as well as other features
such as Web page import and export.
Image Robot is a Windows batch processing tool for
creating and running arbitrary lists of commands command on lists of images. It
is based on the commands supported in PaintShop Pro, but is a separate,
ThumbsPlus is a database-driven Windows image browser,
manager, and manipulation tool with a fully-integrated batch processing
capability for defining and running lists of commands.
All of these tools are available for download as evaluation
versions, and all cost under $100. So give them a try, and get automated as you
manage media files on your desktop, clean up scanned photos, and manipulate your
ACD Systems - ACDSee
Cerious Software - ThumbsPlus
Jasc Software - Paint Shop Pro, Image Robot
Photodex Corporation - CompuPic