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Camera Bits releases public beta of Photo Mechanic 4.5  
Monday, March 19, 2007 | by Rob Galbraith
 
The next version of the pro photo browser introduces a smorgasbord of user-requested changes big and small, including such welcome features as five-star ratings, drag-and-drop thumbnail sorting, the ability to automatically display in slide show fashion new pictures arriving in a folder (including from a wirelessly-connected camera), beefed up web page generation (with support for AutoViewer, SimpleViewer and PostcardViewer galleries), user-customizable hierarchical keywording, Unicode IPTC support, snazzier-looking contact sheets and more.
 
pm45_screenshot.jpg
Better Browser: Photo Mechanic 4.5 (Photos in screenshot by Rob Galbraith/Litle Guy Media)
 
In addition, the Mac version adds contact sheet tabs, a feature already present in Photo Mechanic for Windows. An excerpt from the ReadMe accompanying the v4.5 public beta further describes the changes:
 

Version 4.5
• Added full support for Unicode (UTF-8) IPTC editing.  Also added the ability to specify  the IPTC character encoding (e.g. Mac Roman, Microsoft Latin1 + Euro) when Unicode is not used.
• Added a new Structured Keywords panel for applying terms from a hierarchical keyword database such as the Controlled Vocabulary Keyword Catalog (CVKC) (sold separately at www.controlledvocabulary.com).  The keyword database is customizable and ships with a sample database of animals and world regions from the CVKC.
• Added a separate Keyword pane (floating window).
• The HTML Exporter now uses templates that are written in Ruby, a powerful scripting language.  You can create your own templates or use third party templates that are compatible with Photo Mechanic.
• The IPTC dialogs are now resizable and include the additional IPTC and XMP fields for Location, Scene, Subject Code, Intellectual Genre, Rights Usage, and Contact Info fields.
• Photos can now be arranged in an arbitrary order with the Arrangement sort type.  A multi-folder arrangement can also be saved as a favorite.
• Added a five star rating system, compatible with other applications such as Adobe Bridge, in addition to the existing color class labels (XMP must be enabled for other applications to read the star rating).  The star rating also transfers to PhotoShelter when uploading photos.  Also added a Remap command to convert color class labels to star ratings or vice-versa.
• Added a new Live Slide Show feature that watches a folder for incoming photos (e.g. from wireless transmission) and displays these in a slide show.
• Added optional sharpening of thumbnails and previews within Photo Mechanic and for JPEGs exported with HTML.
• (Mac) Added a new Show Map command to plot a photo with embedded GPS coordinates in a window using Google maps.
• (Mac) The contact sheet windows now use tabs so that a single window can contain multiple contact sheets.  The tabs can be re-arranged and moved between windows.
• Added the ability to recursively open subfolders from the Navigator and Favorites.
• Thumbnail labels in the contact sheet can now be customized with multiple lines of information using variables.
• Added variable substring extraction by using index and length qualifiers inside of variables.  For example, {filenamebase:0:5} returns the first 5 characters of the filename, and {filenamebase:-5,5} extracts the last five characters of the filename (ignoring the extension).
• IPTC Snapshots taken are now added to a “stack” of snapshots.  This stack can be accessed when pasting an IPTC Snapshot via the contextual menu.
• The Ingest Progress window now combines the progress from multiple ingest processes into a single window.
• The thumbnail gallery in the Preview window now scrolls horizontally instead of vertically.
• File types that aren’t recognized as photos by Photo Mechanic can be viewed as a proxy in the contact sheet so they can be renamed, copied, deleted, etc.
• (Win) Added preliminary support for Microsoft Windows Vista.

 
Photo Mechanic 4.5 is to be a free update for users who purchased a license on or after March 1, 2006 (or March 1, 2005 for educational licenses). Upgrades to v4.5 from older 4.x licenses are US$90. A new license for Photo Mechanic is US$150. For those who purchase v4.5 now, prior to its official release, Camera Bits will extend the free-year-of-updates period to end in June 2008 (June 2009 for educational licenses). The public beta period of 4.5 is expected to be short, though Camera Bits hasn't set a firm date for the software's release in its final, non-beta form.
 
More information is in the press release below.
 

Press Release

Camera Bits Announces 4.5 Update to its Flagship Photo Mechanic™ Software

PORTLAND, OR, March 19, 2007 – Camera Bits, Inc., a pioneer in the development of software for professional digital photographers, today announced a significant update to its popular Photo Mechanic™ photo browser and workflow tool. Version 4.5 of Photo Mechanic, which is expected to ship before the end of March, is loaded with new features aimed to please demanding photographers who work with large numbers of digital photos.

Since its original release in February 1998, Photo Mechanic has been a mainstay of professional photojournalists in need of software to help them efficiently browse, caption, and manage digital photos. Photo Mechanic is by far the most popular photo-editing tool used by newspapers and press photographers in the USA, and some agencies such as The Associated Press have standardized their workflow around Photo Mechanic. When it comes to IPTC/XMP metadata editing, two of the new features in version 4.5, full support for Unicode IPTC and Structured Keywords, will likely solidify Photo Mechanic’s position as the tool of choice for the demanding field of photojournalism. *

Rock Solid Metadata Editing

“Photo Mechanic is one of the few applications available that can be trusted to flexibly, properly, and safely handle IPTC and XMP metadata editing for photos, especially RAW photos,” claims Dennis Walker, President and Founder of Camera Bits. One example of Photo Mechanic’s flexibility is the ability to control how IPTC and/or XMP metadata is read and written for different formats such as JPEG or RAW. Now with Version 4.5 of Photo Mechanic, a user can choose to encode IPTC characters as either Unicode (UTF-8), or with a specific character encoding (e.g. Mac Cyrillic) depending on their preferences or their international locale. This enhanced flexibility allows IPTC metadata to be entered in practically any language.

Photo Mechanic uses a unique technology called Caption Safe™ that lets users undo metadata changes it makes to RAW photo formats from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and other popular camera models when other software fails to properly parse modified RAW photos. “Our customers can rest assured that IPTC and XMP metadata edits made by Photo Mechanic are correct and flexible enough to work with applications and operating systems that have a limited awareness or fragility with regards to metadata formatting. Camera Bits has been working with metadata for a decade now, and companies with products both new and mature haven’t been able to figure this all out yet,” says Walker.

New in Version 4.5 of Photo Mechanic is the ability to efficiently apply keywords from a user-customizable hierarchical keyword database to groups of photos. With the new Structured Keywords window, users can apply keywords, and optionally synonyms and those keywords along their hierarchical path, to various IPTC fields such as Keywords and Caption. By using a consistent catalog of hierarchically organized terms to apply metadata, one can expect a larger variety of subsequent searches to match photos that contain a variety of relative terms. An additional feature of Structured Keywords interface is the ability to search through the keyword database to find relative terms or synonyms.

According to David Riecks, author of the Controlled Vocabulary Keyword Catalog (CVKC), “Photo Mechanic’s new Structured Keywords feature is the most elegant and efficient means of applying a hierarchically based set of keywords that I’ve seen so far. I am pleased to have worked with Camera Bits to make Version 3 of the CVKC compatible with this popular software.” Photo Mechanic 4.5 includes a sample hierarchical keyword database of animals and world regions provided by David Riecks, and the entire CVKC database can be purchased separately at www.controlledvocabulary.com.

Web Export As You Like

A groundbreaking new feature in Photo Mechanic 4.5 is the ability to create highly customized web galleries using dynamic plug-in templates that are written in Ruby, a powerful scripting language. An HTML exporter plug-in template for Photo Mechanic is actually a Ruby script that dynamically generates both an interface for gathering the parameters for the exporter within Photo Mechanic, and the resulting HTML and associated files. The export template is free to use the full power of Ruby (but only within its “sandbox” for security).

Photo Mechanic includes a number of sample HTML export templates in Ruby that generate an interesting variety of web galleries including the Flash-based slide show viewers SimpleViewer, PostcardViewer, and AutoViewer from Airtight Interactive (www.airtightinteractive.com). Users can customize their web deployment by creating new HTML export templates for Photo Mechanic, or by using templates from third party developers. One example of a third-party HTML export template, sold separately, is the Enhanced Ordering System (EOS) Template (www.eostemplate.com) for generating web galleries with a complete stand-alone shopping cart system.

Some of the other new features in Photo Mechanic 4.5 include:

  • New resizable IPTC/XMP dialogs that also include additional IPTC and XMP fields such as Location, Scene, Subject Code, Intellectual Genre, Rights Usage, and Contact Info fields.
  • Ability to arrange photos in an arbitrary order, including across multiple folders.
  • A five star rating system, compatible with other applications such as Adobe Bridge, in addition to the existing color class labels. Plus a Remap command to convert color class labels to star ratings or vice-versa.
  • A new Live Slide Show command to watch a folder for incoming photos and display these in a slide show.
  • Optional sharpening of thumbnails and previews within Photo Mechanic and for JPEGs exported with HTML.
  • A new Show Map command to plot a photo with embedded GPS coordinates in a window using Google maps. *
  • Customizable multi-line thumbnail labels.
  • Tabbed contact sheet windows with the ability to move tabs within a window or to other windows (Mac only; the Windows version already has a single tabbed window).
  • A new tool for converting IPTC metadata between various character encodings (e.g. from Mac Roman to Microsoft Latin1+Euro) or to Unicode (UTF-8).
  • A new Ingest Progress window that combines all active ingest processes.
  • Preliminary support for Microsoft Windows Vista.

Version 4.5 of Photo Mechanic is a free update for users who purchased licenses for Photo Mechanic on or after March 1, 2006 (or March 1, 2005 for educational licenses). Upgrades to Version 4.5 from older 4.x licenses purchased earlier than the above dates cost US$90. New licenses for Photo Mechanic cost US$150.

In order to help curb the expected inundation of upgrade orders once Version 4.5 is released, Camera Bits is offering an extra 3 months of free updates for orders placed prior to the release of Version 4.5 (e.g. an order placed today will get free updates through June 2008 or June 2009 for educational licenses). Please contact Camera Bits at 503-531-8430 or visit our website at www.camerabits.com for more info.

Photo Mechanic and Caption Safe are trademarks of Camera Bits, Inc. All other product and company names are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

* Structured Keywords and the Show Map command will initially only be available on the Mac OS X version of Photo Mechanic 4.5, with the Windows implementation to be available in an upcoming dot release.

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