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Paul and George Krummenacker and the 1964 Porsche 365cMaybe it’s a male thing, maybe it’s just a product of being American, maybe it’s a geek thing, I’m not sure but I love things to go faster, better and easier.

My view on software is similar. Personally I’d give up extra bells, whistles and features that I’d never use over speed and reliability. I’m not quite at a Bauhaus level of austerity, I do like the occasional decorative element or unnecessary bit of styling for the sake of style and I do have a belief that less is more. As the architect Louis Sullivan would say, “form follows function“, but also, function need not be ugly or sterile.  A good example is the Bayard-Condict Building in NoHo on Bleecker Street in New York City. Somewhat spare, but yet not a basic boring box.

Taking this view of efficiency and applying this to Extensis’ software, I want to talk about how you can pare down some of the unnecessary bulk and make things work faster. Plus there are a few extra optimizations you can do to pick up the pace, so to speak.

With Portfolio, the first thing you need to do is really look at how you plan to use your catalog. What are you going to be tracking, what sort of assets, what sort of data, what sort of workflow are you going to have? What is the function that it will serve? Crack out your notepad, or dry erase pens and start listing what you want to accomplish, what sort of data do you need to track, what is important, and what would be a ‘gee, I MIGHT use that some day’ sort of thing. Based on what you find, you can then create a catalog. Selecting from one of the premade templates that come in Portfolio 8.5 is a good starting point, but even there you’ll want to pare down or maybe add some custom fields.

Do you need ALL the IPTC fields? Do you need every EXIF setting cataloged? Realizing that this data will still exist in the original assets (digital camera files have the EXIF info embedded into them) so later on if you NEED this information, you can create a new custom field and extract this data out. Having less metadata in your catalog will help boost performance because it’s less data that has to be stored and searched.

Next step would be to look at your use of Galleries, both Static and Smart.  A gallery is a very useful tool and excellent for tracking projects and other organizational elements. But do you really need to have 85 galleries, 3/4 of which are for old projects you are no longer using?  It might be better to have a smaller number of galleries, but still be able to get the information for your old projects by using a custom field such as Job Number, Client, PO number or Part Number. You can have lots of saved searches, and if need be you can later take these saved searches and turn them back into a gallery so you are not losing anything, you’re just getting rid of the clutter.

What about your use of catalogs? Do you really need one massive catalog that has EVERYTHING you’ve ever done, or every photo you’ve ever taken? Maybe it’s better to have a catalog of Current Projects, and then a larger, less frequently used catalog of Archives.  When you finish a project, move it from Current Projects, into Archives. Depending on how you work, maybe you will have a catalog for each year, or a catalog for your major clients. With Portfolio Server, you can easily serve and unserve a catalog and only serve out the catalogs you need, rather than having everything available ‘just in case’.

In my next post, I’ll look at more ways to boost your efficiency and performance in Portfolio.

And in closing, while I have said that ‘less is more’ sometimes ‘more is more’. There are times when there is no substitute for something bigger or maybe a bit more entailed. This last weekend I purchased a 1982 Honda CB450T motorcycle, a ‘Hawk’ and while it’s only 450cc and 45hp, it is quite a major leap from my 150cc, 9hp scooter.  Now that I’ve tasted something that can actually go up a hill without causing a traffic jam, it’s going to be hard to go back.

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These are all the tools I found on my desk this morning.

I have a problem, I’ll admit it, right here, publicly before all of you… I am addicted to tools.  Tools you get at the hardware store, tools you make yourself, tools you download off the internet, I’m a tool guy. I’ve got everything from Safety Torx bits (in the T5 through T30 size), bolt cutters, 38 different screwdrivers, a high lift jack, 8 automotive jack stands, a spool of 16 gauge wire and even a 3 foot section of railroad track.  If for some reason I don’t have the tool, I will try and find an excuse to buy it or make it.

There is no task that I can look at and NOT think about which tool would be the right tool for the job. Everything from repairing a flat tire on my scooter to removing a stripped out screw or even pulling Category 5e cable through a 30 foot run of conduit, there has to be some device to make the job easier, faster or do the work better.

When anybody needs a tool, I’m usually the first person they call or email.  While I have a full spectrum of regular store bought tools I also have a certain mix of home brew tools.  I have a few things that what would be considered, to some people, as junk, but when used in the right way are better than any ‘Official Volkswagen Tool Number –  VAG1582 ver. 2′ .  My personal favorite improvised tool is an old ice pick, not a climbing type, but the old wooden handled type that people would use for chipping off chunks of ice from the big block in the bottom of an icebox, back before everybody had refrigerators.

Technical support of software can be very similar. There are a host of ‘tools’ that people can use to save the day and fix their problems. One such tool that we help customers use every day is Font Doctor. This handy little utility will fix broken fonts, organize fonts, clean font caches as well as give you detailed information on your fonts. This tool is by far the most helpful tool you can have for overcoming many of your everyday font problems.

Another group of useful tools that we use for helping customers are FTP utilities. There are times when you need to upload a file or files to have Technical Support look at the problem. While you CAN get to FTP from the command line, or via ‘Connect to Server’, an FTP utility makes the job infinitely easier.  You get the benefits of having a GUI to see what is going on, you can also save your connection information.  Later on if you need to send more files or retrieve a fixed file, you won’t have to search for that sticky note with the login information. We suggest Cyberduck to customers.

TinkerTool is yet another fantastic little application. It gives the Mac user access to additional preference settings that Apple has built into Mac OS X.  Using it can allow you to activate hidden features in the operating system and even features that are built into the applications that are delivered with Mac OS X.

Software has a wide spectrum of home brew tools. I would venture that almost all software has grown out of something that somebody made for themselves to try and fix their own personal problem. Something as basic as an Automator task, or as complex as a stored procedure or triggers in your database could be considered the ‘ultimate’ home brew tool. Don’t be afraid to dabble, give it a try, research it on the web, as a friend. Don’t overlook the Extensis Forums, we hope that fellow users are sharing information, tips and tricks .

So take the time to explore, talk to others and experiment. And, don’t throw that wire hanger out! Did you know, with that you can make a DIN tool to help remove a car stereo out the dash of your VW.

(Cue the music from Sanford and Son!)

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A shot of a standard Portfolio viewI am one of those people you know who has eleventy squillion (give or take a few) windows/applications open at any point, the resolution on the screen is jacked up as high as it will go, and the font size is as small as possible. I am all about maximizing my workspace, and since 30″ monitors don’t exactly grow on trees I do what I can with what I have. This also has the added benefit of keeping people from seeing what I’m working on since they are more than two feet away and from there even this blog post looks like little squiggles on my screen.

Just over there I have a screenshot of the catalog I use. That’s probably what most Portfolio catalogs look like, since I haven’t really done a lot of customizing to my catalog. (In Tech Support to help people effectively we tend to “run stock” so our tweaks aren’t hiding something or behaving differently than the customer setup.) But what if the thumbnail isn’t as big a deal to you? What if you really need the directory instead? Easy-peasy, as they say. You even have a few ways to go about it! You can either go to the ‘View’ menu and click “List”, hold down Apple or Control and press L, or you can click that middle button in the toolbar above where it says ‘View’. Whatever you do this is the result:

Portfolio using the List View

You have yet another option as well, and that is the Item view. Also found in the ‘View’ menu, the key command is Apple or Control R, and it is the far right button in the ‘View’ section of the toolbar. This gives you more in-depth info on each individual record in your catalog, like so:

Portfolio catalog set to Item View

But wait, you might be saying. What if I don’t care about the description or the path? What if I need to see the photographer’s name, or the custom field in our catalog that we use for everything? Have no fear, Portfolio has it covered. You can customize each of these views by clicking on the ‘Customize’ button in the tool bar. When you do, it will drop down a sheet in front of your catalog with a list of options to choose from:

customize your Portfolio views

At the top make sure you are looking at the view you want to customize, and from there you can tweak all manner of options from what fields are shown to the background of the page. You can even choose a different border for the thumbnails if you like.

So if you are trying to get a bit more out of your Portfolio catalog (versions 7 and 8, standalone and server have this feature, not just 8.5) try customizing your views and see if you discover yet another level of usefulness in your digital asset manager. Also if you have a particular customization that has changed your life, please add it in the comments!

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Microsoft Office for Mac - Open XML converters

If you’re a Microsoft Office 2004 for Macintosh user like me, Microsoft has just shown us some love.

You may be using the older version of Microsoft Office for many reasons – corporate policy, budget for upgrades, etc. Yet, you have probably already received files created by the newer versions of Microsoft Office for Mac or Windows that don’t look anything like what you’ve seen before. Typically the extension for these new files ends in the letter ‘X’ that indicates that the files is an “Open XML” file.

This week Microsoft released a file converter that allows users of Office 2004 to convert, open and edit files saved in Open XML format. It’s a handy feature that will allow me to stay in the loop until I get the chance to fully upgrade to the latest and greatest version of Office.

Check it out over on Microsoft’s Mac site, Mactopia.

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Wallpaper from I Love TypographyIt isn’t like it’s a new site to me, but somehow in the last couple of weeks I’ve had three or four conversations that led me to I Love Typography, so I’ve ended up there through a number of factors and since I know it but don’t really hang out there, I hadn’t read everything on it. I checked out a couple of things listed in the Articles area and one that caught my eye was 15 Excellent Examples Of Web Typography. I read this and though it was interesting, but as a “but why?” sort of person, I was actually even more interested in Part Two, titled Under The Bonnet. This article discusses the site A List Apart, which IS a site I have spent a lot of time on reading about design and, ages ago, learning anything at all about putting things on the web. What I like about A List Apart the most is that they give me the why as well as the “this is good” part. Don’t just tell me something is pretty or useful, tell me how it got that way so I can build things better myself. (note: This is why my favorite cooking show is Good Eats-he tells me why!)

As a person full of the “why?” and the “what for?” (that’s how my grandfather used to describe me), I love reading things like this, and I wish everybody else did too so more sites (or newspapers or brochures) that look well put together and more like something I want to read, not like the person doing the designing was not a designer but the only person in the company who’d read an Illustrator book.

What’s your favorite how-to site?

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Yesterday I gave you the tip about saving your custom catalog templates for future use. Today’s tip is (if I had to pick just one) the one that will make you a Digital Asset Ninja. Welcome to the wonderful world of Smart Galleries! Here’s how it works:

First, instead of using the quickfind option, actually click ‘Find’ in the toolbar in Portfolio. Set up whatever find you’d like, using keywords or whatever other criteria you want (and that plus lets you stack them up, too!). I’m partial to the macro shot myself, and I have a few in this gallery, all of them with the keyword ‘macro’ applied. I set up my search for ‘Keyword’ ‘contains’ and typed in macro. Now I’m gonna save that find using the menu dropdown on ‘Saved Finds’:


Then I made a new gallery and called it Macro Shots. Right click that gallery and choose ‘Settings’. You should get this sheet:


You can see I checked the box for Smart Gallery, and applied my Macro saved find to it. (You can trick out those other options if you want to customize the view or the order the files show up in.) When I click OK and then look at my gallery, this is what I see:


Behold! Closeup shots of a cupcake, some concrete, some limes, my ring, and a piece of a bronze sculpture. If this were the personal catalog I have at home there would be pizza and driftwood and candy and toys in there too. I told you, I love the macro shot! You can use Smart Galleries for lots of other things too. Some of the ones I have in my home catalog are:

* Kelly’s Family
* G9 Photos
* In-Laws
* Geeky Events
* RAW Images
* Extensis Travel
* Disney

Most of those are based on Keywords, but I have the G9?????????????????? Gallery set up to read the field for the camera model, and the RAW gallery looks at the file extension to see if it’s RAW or not, and the Disney gallery reads a few different criteria (I have separate galleries for Disneyland and WDW as well). You can use this to keep one super huge catalog sorted into smaller pieces, or break down things that still need keywords applied. Another really common use is to have a custom field set up for say, approving things for production. That person goes to that gallery and approves the images, changes that field from ‘Awaiting approval’ to ‘Approved’. Then it drops out of the gallery and the person who looks through the smart gallery for ‘Approved’ will take those images and move forward.

If you are using Smart Galleries as part of your workflow, leave a comment and tell the world how Smart Galleries are helping you be more efficient. Especially with summer on the way, everybody is looking for ways to get out of the office a smidge sooner!

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If you’re using the latest version of Portfolio, there is a bit of magic in there that you might not know about. It is the Save Catalog Type feature, and here’s how and why this is awesome:

Suppose you have a catalog you’re using as part of your workflow. This catalog has some custom fields, a few things you’ve set up in a particular fashion that work well for you, and it all works just how you like. Now you can save that particular catalog’s setup as a custom catalog type and use that template to create new catalogs going forward. It’s super easy, too. Just set up your catalog how you want it-or if you have done this already, just make sure your version of Portfolio is 8.5.2-and with that catalog open, just hit file and behold the Save Catalog Type… option there in the middle:


And there you have it! Once you hit save you will have to choose a name for it, and from then on when you create a new catalog and go to select what type of catalog you are creating, your template will be one of the options available to you.

Part of why I’m writing about this is because a lot of people have no idea this is an option, and the old way to preserve a custom catalog was a huge bunch of steps that were sort of a hack, so anyone who was interested in it didn’t even try since it was not easy and ended up being a ton of work. My other reason is because we have lots of customers who upgraded from previous versions of Portfolio instead of starting fresh with 8.5, so instead of the option of what catalog type to build, they are usually seeing this:


Which is not a bad thing, but when you are converting instead of starting from scratch you don’t see some things that could be very useful to you.

Tomorrow I will be covering for Lucien and posting more about Portfolio. If there’s something you want to see, feel free to leave a comment so I can investigate it for tomorrow or for a post in the future.

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Apple LogoI admit, my Mac-fu is strong. As a result I have a fair number of people ask me things because they presume I will just know. OK, usually I do, but I had to learn it someplace. Here is a list of good places to check out for support tips or just for fun bits of info:

Do you have Leopard installed on your machine? Did you know if you scratch the surface just the teeniest bit you can find all kinds of other cool stuff? Macworld has a list of 25 features that are overlooked and underrated (I’m here to tell you the sidebar saved search tidbit is phenomenal!) and easy to check out. You might just find something there that makes you even more productive!

If you have an Apple Store near you there are some tips on dealing with the people there over at Consumerist. Not that it’s a chore to go to the Apple store, but there are tips in this list from an actual Apple Specialist might come in handy (there’s some useful stuff in the comments too).

When things go south (as they do, even on a Mac), you should have some good support tips handy. MacFixIt is a great place to start-whenever I have had an issue I didn’t know how to fix I always found it there. They are also good about reporting things that are sent in by readers, and when they find out there is a fix or an update that helps resolve it they are very speedy about getting it online as well.

If everything is working and you just want to up your efficiency factor, check out 43 Folders for some excellent ideas. Merlin Mann runs this site which is a productivity site but he uses a Mac so there are lots of handy things there for you like the article about Smart Folders in which I found immensely useful after years of using color labels for my mail.

Another good source for general tips is Apple proper. In their Support forums they have a forum titled User Tips Library which is also pretty handy and a nice way to get information straight from the source.

Now if you want to poke around a little deeper in your system, there’s a page called Secrets where you can find out how to tweak secret settings or files for your applications and unlock special features or extend current features to do new things. I have spent a lot of time here and I’m always fascinated with the stuff that pops up.

If you just want tidbits, you can get the real deal from The Apple Museum who keep a nice list of Apple facts handy. There are quizzes around the internet as well to test your own knowledge.

Should it be rumors you are in search of, Marshall Kirkpatrick created a customer search engine that crawls the usual Mac rumor sites and aggregates that information for you. Thanks Marshall! Hopefully this will SAVE me time looking for rumors on pending updates from Cupertino.

Do you have a favorite site for tech tips or rumors? I’d like to add it to my list if you have a good one. Fire away!

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EULA - End User License Agreement - or “ewe-la”You see them every time you install a new product, those long documents presented in dense legalese, yes, it’s the End User License Agreement (or EULA pronounced “ewe-la”). Most of us don’t typically read them, and in many cases don’t really know to what we are agreeing when we click “Accept.” Of course, most of the time, if you use the product in the manner in which it was intended, you’re probably not going to get yourself into trouble.

Though, when you license a typeface, the ways in which you are allowed to use that typeface may be restricted in ways that are not immediately apparent. When purchasing fonts for multiple users, fonts are typically licensed on a per-user basis. This means if you have ten people in your office, and four of them will have access to and need to use the font for their job, you will need a four-user license.

Older license models may licensed fonts on a CPU or printer basis. This is from a time when fonts were commonly installed into different hardware devices, and the end user was not of great concern.

So, most of us know that it’s as wrong to give your friend a copy of Adobe Photoshop, yet often that same individual would have no qualms about giving a copy of a font. While you don’t have to enter a serial number to use a font, it’s important to understand that fonts are also pieces of software, and should never be shared.

So you ask, “Does this mean that you can transfer the fonts to my printer to complete a job?” Most likely not. Most font licenses do not provide the ability for you to transfer the font from one company to another. Typically, the printer is also responsible for purchasing a license for the font too.

If you’ve never tried your hand at font creation, it may be difficult to understand why there’s so much protection and consternation around something that “just displays letters.” Well, typically fonts are created by small teams, often one or two individuals, who work very hard for a considerable amount of time to create a typeface. To create a high-quality font, one that you would be happy to use in your projects, takes time (often many months for a single face). Good fonts will contain all of the appropriate hinting and glyphs so that the spacing between letters is always correct, the ligatures between letters connect well, and fits the intended purpose well.

Adobe Systems - AmbroseSTD - Letter AIn addition, some licenses prohibit the use of an isolated glyph in logos. So, for example using one large character of a specific font, say the letter “A” for an imaginary company “Aberfeldy, Inc.” could be prohibited. Especially if this letter is a very well known letterform design of that letter. This all depends upon what language is contained within the EULA, and varies from foundry to foundry.

While font foundries genuinely want you to be successful, and don’t want to unduly restrict your use, there are areas where they may have legitimate concerns. For example, say you purchase a license for a single user, but then you use that typeface to create a series of heat transfer lettering that you sell. Since you’ve just copied the uniqueness that is that font, I’m willing to bet that you’ve just violated your license. The same situation would apply if you created a set of rubber stamps each with a different character glyph. And heck, what about creating the little metal letters on the back of an automobile – Volvo, Corolla, Fiero, Festiva, etc. You can see that there are many cases where a creative project could violate your license.

I suppose that my main point here is that when in doubt, please contact the foundry. They are reasonable people and will help you understand what is permitted and what is not. And if your usage is outside of the normal range of use, many will do what they can help you be successful. For example, it may be cheaper to have a custom typeface created than to license a current font. And heck, who doesn’t want to have a font named after themselves or their company? I can see Kidwell Italic and Extensis Extra Bold in our future.

Now a final disclaimer. Please be aware that I’m not a lawyer, and don’t even play one on TV, so please do not take this as legal advice – contact your legal representation for that.

I’ll have more on font licensing in the coming weeks. The seed of these posts came from discussions surrounding John Collins’ (of presentation at The Businss of Type conference at Microsoft, spring 2008.

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Virtualization using a Mac ProExtensis Technical support is trying something new. We’re trying to take computers AWAY from our support technicians.

Taking a walk through your typical technical support department is usually akin to strolling through innards of a Jawa sandcrawler from Star Wars. Support technicians can have up to 3 computers at their desks, with 2 keyboards, 2 mice, one KVM and usually a rats nest of wires underneath.

Typically they’ll have a Windows XP system, an OS 10.4 system, another running OS 10.5. We have a little farm of computers that we call ‘One Back’ that run everything from OS 9.2, to Windows 2000, OSX 10.2 along with the older versions of Extensis software. While we do have supported versions of the software, often customers will call in trying to transition from old versions to the current versions, or any number of odd situations.

In an effort to try and minimize cost, clutter, hardware and energy, we’re trying a new project. We just got a new 8 core Mac Pro with 4gb of RAM. We are using one Mac Pro to do the work of 2. By using virtualization software we’re able to have essentially a Macintosh AND a PC running at the same time, with two separate monitors, two separate keyboards, two separate mice, two network interfaces but only ONE box. We also have the ability to do a ‘snapshot’ of a configuration and then make the changes we need to test a customer setup, and quickly roll back to where things were before the test. As another benefit, we can even have the virtual PC and Mac environments interact, running a copy of Suitcase Server on one, and Suitcase Client on the other.

Our goal is that we can remove some of our computers that are older, minimize clutter and give technicians the ability to work faster and smarter using virtualization and this ability to quickly change between system configurations. While virtualization isn’t NEW, it is quite the trend lately. Now that hardware is fast enough, RAM is cheap enough and storage is a fraction of what it used to be, all the parts seem to be in place. If it all works out, we’ll be able to take our older Mac Mini’s and turn those into our ‘One Back’ farm in the corner of the library cube, further minimizing our footprint of hardware and energy use. It also has the benefit of having to purchase less equipment, thus reducing our operating costs.

As the Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said, sometimes “less IS more.”

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