Extensis Portfolio has been updated to version 8 to address known bugs and improve its collaboration features. For those unfamiliar with the application, it's a file manager that sits on multiple clients and gives a work group a shared platform to see file locations and associated rights and properties.
It's ideally meant for media production staff, perhaps involving freelancers or overseas parties, and has the main task of grouping together files by metadata tags so that everyone can see what stage a project is at and how the files are progressing.
Metadata accompanies files from source - for example, the resolution of an image is a type of metadata. Portfolio can organise files into folders and groups with accompanying metadata, establishing myriad ways to perform future searches.
Its interface is friendly to navigate with thumbnails and colourful buttons. It generally offers a tactile playground. Memory and locations A key strength of Portfolio 8 is the way it records the location of files on memory residing offline as well as on. It will remember a file's location from within large network drives, down to laptop hard drives, and to the level of an individual CD-R.
However, unlike corporate networks, which are built for nofrills stability, Portfolio can get the wobbles. Known issues from Portfolio 7 not addressed here are listed in the installation release notes - for example, EPS files that are CMYK images tend to be recognised as RGB images, which could cause a printoutputting nightmare.
Another clanger is Portfolio's problem with cataloguing large files with large filenames. It can't.
When we dropped a folder of mixed media, including MP3 and PSD files, into Portfolio, the larger files just appeared as empty or broken links with a red dot next to them. It transpired after referencing the release notes that large files with long names are not recognised, so while files can be quickly added by dragging and dropping, you will also need to factor in some renaming time, too.
But perhaps the overriding problem with Portfolio is the assumption it makes about the team that will end up using it. It's rather like when your mother gave you a personal organiser in the hope that it would tidy up your chaotic teenage life.
Portfolio is equally hopeful. It assumes that diligent filing skills are already in place and that projects will play out as planned. For example, it runs well if the end purpose for files remains unchanged from creation to delivery, but this may not be the case. Sales people, for a start, are prone to dreaming up new markets and uses for work once they see the finished article.
Changes in production routes like this require alterations to be made to metadata, so that accurate searching for files can continue - everyone will need to know that files have been repurposed. Would instant re-filing actually happen in a busy office?
Besides, even if you could find the time to correct the file notes, some changes are prohibited. For instance, if your project files are collected together in a Portfolio gallery and arranged in a customised order, you cannot rearrange them later on. Portfolio can be inflexible to change.
In fairness, many problems from version 7 have been fixed. One crowd-pleaser is that an AppleScript no longer triggers a crash when used to open a password-protected catalogue. About a dozen further crashes have been written out too, but other problems remain.
Portfolio is an opportunity for groups to move away from ad hoc file handling, but only if a concerted effort is made to get everyone up to date with the tool. It's not a plug-and-play app - it requires a carefully planned integration. Treated respectfully though, it could prove useful. James Ellerbeck