Many software packages can catalog images on the hard drive, presenting thumbnail views of large photo collections. Most of them aim at general consumers. A package needs a little more to bring meaningful search capability into enterprise workgroups.
ImageAXS Pro bridges the gap. Desktop users can still compile thumbnail galleries, but the product's real strength lies in creating a database of images.
Certain tasks are easier when images can be handled as database objects. ImageAXS Pro deals not just with still images but also with multimedia content. Its database can handle just about any file format associated with a PC application.
The package supports multimedia in about 40 common file formats. The only really notable lack was for ".tif" files saved with Lempel-Ziv-Welch compression, a common format for Adobe Photoshop and other graphics packages.
Caere Corp., which bought publishing rights to the software from Digital Arts and Sciences Corp. of Berkeley, Calif., promises a forthcoming patch for LZW-compressed .tif files.
Although the documentation and the company's Web site said the package could handle Encapsulated PostScript files, in my tests it simply showed an icon for Photoshop, the application with which ".eps" files were associated on my test machine, rather than previewing the .eps images.
Except for these glitches, you can count on keeping track of pretty much any multimedia and graphics files on a PC or shared network drive. From the database back end, you define fields to hold information about the files, enter keywords, and provide detailed notes and descriptions.
All the information is searchable for quick access to relevant photos. Be aware, though, that setting up so much behind-the-scenes information is no easy task. A database is only as good as the information inside it, and a database of multimedia files has a great deal of information to keep straight.
Caere also sells ImageAXS, which is similar to ImageAXS Pro in the gallery and database features. What ImageAXS Pro offers in addition is what makes it useful for a workgroup. It can export hypertext markup language with modifiable templates--a simple way to post image galleries on the Web.
Users can keep multiple collections of files to control grouping of multimedia files. The same file can exist in more than one collection. Sharing a file is simply a matter of opening both collections and dragging and dropping the image.
What raises ImageAXS Pro above the pack of image gallery software is its customizable back-end database with as many as 100 fields per record. This makes it a true image resource management environment, not just a thumbnail gallery.
I found installation quick and straightforward under Microsoft Windows 98 and Windows NT Workstation 4.0. A version is available for the Apple Macintosh, too.
One surprising drawback was the package's inability to pull images directly from image sources, such as digital cameras and scanners.
In the current version you must use other software to save such images to disk and then start up ImageAXS Pro to bring them into a collection. It would be simpler to allow direct access to TWAIN-compliant devices, supply a directory path to save the source image on disk and at the same time add it to the database.
Despite the shortcomings, ImageAXS Pro is one of the finest image-management packages I've seen. Others have simple editing tools, but ImageAXS Pro's back-end database truly organizes the images. And that's the whole point.
Los Gatos, Calif.
Web address: www.caere.com/products/imageaxs
Product: Multimedia database for graphics
Cost: $200; downloadable from Caere's online store
+ Database for image management
+ Easy to use and customize
- Problems with some common file formats
- Would benefit from direct support of the TWAIN file-transfer standard.
Real-life requirements: Windows 95 or above, 166 megahertz or faster Pentium PC, 32 megabytes of RAM, 20 megabytes of free storage, Microsoft Access 97 or later version to customize database; Mac OS version available.