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Notes on Photoshop Album
I was going to start this piece with "if you're having problems managing your digital pictures, then you should check out Adobe Photoshop Album." But instead, we'll try this on for size: if you just have a digital camera, or happen to be interested in seeing how well a consumer software application can handle multifaceted categorization and metadata management, then you must check Adobe Photoshop Album.
First, the basics. The UI is quick and responsive, even with thousands of photos. It has the obvious one-click adjustments to fix common issues with pictures (red-eye reduction, brightness and contrast adjustments, color balance, etc.). It enables easy sharing with Shutterfly, and enables archiving of old photos to CD, in case your 80gb drive is suffering from overload.
Where it shines, though, is its application and use of photo metadata. Adding categorization to photos is a drag-and-drop action, or a right-click action, or a menu-driven keyboard aware action -- on a single photo or multiple photos at once. Recognizing that facial recognition software hasn't quite migrated to the desktop, Adobe has made it dead simple for the user to add labels to their photographs. Not only that, the design of the UI encourages the use of those labels, making it easy to filter a contact sheet view of photos by one or more labels (categorized by "people," "places" and "events"); or by time, through a sliding timeline or a popup monthly calendar.
Album's not perfect, though -- I'd love to see some things added to it in future releases. In particular...
Support for more commercial photo services. Album supports Shutterfly currently, which is a shame, since the rest of my photos are living at Ofoto. In a perfect world, there'd be a web services standard for managing photos at online photo services.
Support for weblogging APIs. An extension of the above, but it would be nice to be able to right-click and post a particular image to a photolog.
Support for image manipulation plugins. One-click support for applying a Lomo effect or an Amelie effect would be nice; as would being able to save frequently performed actions (adjust contrast up, incresae color saturation, etc.). Since the image manipulation tools are likely built on the Photoshop codebase, supporting Photoshop actions as plug-ins (without exposing all of the underlying functionality of Photoshop in the UI) could be feasible. (And it could enable a micro-market of plug-in developers, where plug-ins are downloaded, trialed and purchased right inside the application.)
Photos are an obvious and useful application; it's a shame, though, that there aren't similar tools for file or message management. It's this kind of thought and attention to the UI that I'd love to see put into the Windows Explorer (for file management) or into third-party local search apps like the over-hyped and under-powered Scopeware Vision. Theoretically, Album could be adapted to this application, but I'm guessing that Adobe isn't quite ready to take on that market.
Other pieces about client-side software: