Monthly Archives: January 2009

What would do you do with 50,000 digital images?

We have a problem that is probably common at similar institutions. Now that we’ve begun to produce digital media, what the heck do we do with it? For example, the University photographer at IWU has thousands of digital images that need to be distributed around campus for various purposes.

These images need to be placed in the hands of our corps of web contributors. There are a few individuals in every department that work on the web to varying degrees. It isn’t practical for the photographer to e-mail relevant images to each department, or even to produce proof sheets. New digital images come in faster than they can be sorted.

To solve this problem, we began to use a product called iView Media Pro. This software was designed to catalog media files. It can store and categorize sound, video, still images, and other digital stuff. Catalogs include thumbnail images, keywords, categories, and a connection to the full-sized image.

The Pro version of the software was purchased and installed for the photographer, and others around campus got the free Reader application that can open and browse these catalogs. The images live on a Mac OS X server where all the end users get read-only access.

This worked great until the Mac server crashed and was replaced with another newer Mac server. Now the catalogs that are made on a Mac and stored on a Mac can’t be correctly viewed from Windows. The images haven’t moved. The thumbnails and metadata are there, but the Windows computers looking for them can’t find the full sized image.

Did I mention that somewhere along the line Microsoft bought iView and changed the name? Now it is called Expression Media. They have issued two versions and a service pack update under the new branding. We’ve tried the new versions to see if the Windows bug is fixed, but tech support indicates it is under investigation.

I can’t shake the feeling that there should be a better way to do this. At home I use Flickr to catalog and share images and couldn’t be happier. Another web-based tool is SmugMug, which is powered by the Amazon.com cloud computing platform. Unfortunately there is no way to directly import the iView images into these services without losing the valuable metadata – keywords, categories, and other tags would be separated from their images. I can’t imagine how many hours it would take to redo this work.

For now, I’ll wait for the Microsoft techs to fix this bug. Anyone have other ideas on storing, cataloging, and sharing large amounts of images?

Checkout: A handy LCMS feature

Most documents in LCMS (Luminis Content Management System) at IWU are web page documents. These documents are stored in a format that can be edited directly. When you click “edit” for a web page, the Edit-On Pro window loads up, which gives you all the tools you need to manipulate text, make links, and insert pictures.

But what happens when you need to edit or replace a picture, Word document or PDF? One way you might do this is:

  1. Save a copy of the old file to your hard drive
  2. Make your changes to the new file.
  3. Import and submit the new file with a new name
  4. Change all the referring pages to point to the new file
  5. Submit all those same referring pages
  6. Delete the old file

This is a totally functional way to go but leaves a few loopholes open. What if another web page links to your picture or PDF? Those links will be broken since you have changed to a file with a different name. What if you forget a couple of the 17 different places on your own site that refer to your form or document?

Even worse, what if you find a mistake in the new file and have to do it all over again? What if the picture needs to be cropped a little more? This method can be very tedious.

Instead, you might try using the “Checkout” feature. If you do this for a normal web page nothing will happen. If you check out a picture or some other file that Edit-On Pro can’t handle, something much cooler occurs.

LCMS will send a copy of the file in question to the hard drive of whatever computer you are using. It will be saved in the “C:/Documentum/Checkout” folder. (Vista users, you may have to “trust” iwu.edu servers to convince your computer to allow this. Call us if you need a hand working this out.)

Once the file is on your hard drive, you can edit it with whatever program you prefer. I like to use Photoshop Elements for images, and I have Adobe Acrobat Professional for working on PDFs. Once the file has been edited, save it in the same place you found it with the same name.

When you go back to LCMS, click “Checkin” which will automatically pull the new version from your hard drive. You can then add a comment to describe the changes you made. The new updated version will need to be submitted, but none of the pages that link to it need to be touched at all!

Another nifty trick is to check out a file, then replace it with another one. As long as the new file goes into the Documentum Checkout folder and has the same name as the file you checked out, LCMS doesn’t care. The new file will appear in the same place as the old, with the same name, keeping all links and image insertions intact. If for some reason you have specified a height and width value for an image in LCMS (something I don’t recommend) you will need to make your new image match those dimensions.

A brief history of PDF

I have found in my travels that PDF is not very well understood on campus. I’ll try to clear up some of this confusion.

PDF is a file format that is essentially a virtual printout. It looks the same on each computer on which it is opened. Pagination, margins, fonts, and layout are all very consistent from place to place when you save a document as PDF. This means that a form or brochure that has been professionally done is best distributed as PDF.

Another reason to save files as PDF is that anyone can download a free PDF reader application. That means that you don’t have to worry about whether someone outside campus has Microsoft Word 2003 software.

Adobe sells software to create and modify PDF documents. This software allows you to make fillable forms that can be distributed and submitted electronically. Adobe provides a very nice comment markup system that can even work when people have the lowly free Reader application.

In most departments there is no need to pay for the Adobe software. We can use a free solution called PDF Creator that acts as a virtual printer. Any document or application that has a “print” option can then be turned into a PDF. This is a better option than scanning to PDF on a copy machine. This is because a copy machine takes a photographic image of your text. The resulting PDF is really just a picture, so you can’t cut or copy the text from it. This problem is resolved by using PDF Creator.