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Extensis Portfolio 6

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In: Reviews > Product Reviews

By Jesse Nieminen

Published on October 8, 2003

Extensis Portfolio 6 Creative people are notoriously disorganized, which can be a problem when they need to run a streamlined business. Those same people suffer most when it comes to keeping track of media files, often scratching, harried, through piles of CDs and files with indecipherable names to find the right thing. There are many organizational products available that rely on conscientiousness to be used, and most of those fail.

Extensis Portfolio 6 is an elegant and powerful solution to this problem. It not only functions as a file browser but also as a dynamic cataloging system to help manage and distribute media files. According to Extensis, version 6 is not just an upgrade from 5, but a comprehensive rebuild that offers major improvements.

Perhaps the most advantageous aspect of Portfolio 6 is that it is unintrusive to your existing organizational system. What that means is that you don’t have to go in and reorganize your files and folders before cataloging them. Well-organized, searchable catalogs can be created manually or automatically with great ease. On top of that, it manages files well in environments where not all workers are using Portfolio. With the new Foldersync feature, Portfolio actually tracks what files are moved, added, copied, or renamed—keeping organization intact. All that’s required is a simple click of the Update button.

Integral to organization, extensive categorization information can be attached to each file. If you are adding a single file to a catalog, you will be prompted to add a description, keywords, and examine the types of field options the item will have. The Advanced tab provides even more precise control, such as how thumbnails will be displayed, how properties will be assigned, and other more arcane settings. You can even set Portfolio to automatically assign keywords based on the file path—very handy if you are descriptive when you save your files. On top of that, catalogs can be created instantly in one step, importing the entire contents of a folder at one time. If you need to edit multiple files at once, that is easily done with the Power Field Editor.

screenshot of Extensis Portfolio interface manager

Portfolio 6’s interface is very clean and intuitive. Although I seriously recommend reading the manual before you use it, most things are fairly self-explanatory. The Mac OS X interface is especially smooth. What I most appreciate about the interface is that it’s quite compact considering the numerous features. Everything is well-placed, and the improved contextual menus are quite handy. In addition to in-program contextual menus, there is now a system-wide contextual menu option for adding a file to a catalog without even opening Portfolio.

The Folder View menu shows how the files are organized on your disks, while the main window displays your files in thumbnail view. There are actually numerous ways to view your files in the main window, including the option to fully customize several parameters. If you are compiling catalogs for distribution to others, you will appreciate this level of control.

Clicking on a thumbnail brings up a full-size preview of the image, whether the original file is still on the same disk or not. If you are curious as to how it treats non-image files, it depends upon the type of media. HTML files will pull up the code, while MP3 files will give you an audio preview. Any files that Portfolio cannot display prompt you to choose whether or not to edit the original within its native application.

Of course, the whole purpose of organizing your files is to make them easy to use and distribute. Portfolio 6 automatically generates Web pages from your catalogs, with good options for customization. If you know your way around Web servers and scripting (Visual Basic or Applescript) you can actually create complex shopping carts with the program. Single-click options within the Portfolio interface allow you to instantly attach a file to a new email message and prepare a catalog to burn to disk. If you are distributing your catalogs to other users, the free Portfolio Browser is included for easy viewing.

screenshot of Extensis Express palette

The new Portfolio Express floating palette is perhaps the best feature when it comes to utility. Essentially a small window that sits on your desktop no matter what application you’re in, it displays a small-view version of the media files sitting in a selected catalog. This window is also searchable, should there be a large number of files to navigate through. Extensis gives the examples of Photoshop and Quark as applications that can make great use of this feature, for opening or importing documents. It’s much quicker to use than Photoshop 7’s file browser, which can update slowly through folders with lots of large images. Having a catalog at your fingertips is very convenient, especially one that doesn’t take up too much screen space.

Whether you need to organize your personal media files or manage a large number of digital assets for commercial purposes, Portfolio does an impressive job. In my limited use I feel like I have just scratched the surface of its power. It’s quite easy to learn, and, most importantly, does not require every user in the computing network/environment to use it for it to work.

A free demo is available for download at http://www.extensis.com

Extensis Portfolio 6
full version: $199.95
upgrade: $99.95

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