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Downloader Pro is a great little utility from Breeze Systems that allows one to configure automatic downloading of images from card readers, CD ROMs, etc. Not only does it search through whatever directory hierarchy exists on the media (eg. the H:\HCIM\106CANON\ subdirectories), it is able to perform a number of wide range of intelligent actions on the files. Most importantly, it will copy the images, rename them into an extremely flexible custom pattern and move them into to a directory structure of your choice.
The following images are from version 1.6.2 of DownloaderPro.
I have assigned Downloader Pro to be automatically loaded upon the insertion of any media containing digital images. This is done with the Events->Register for AutoPlay events menu item. Once this has been set, placing a memory card into a card reader will cause the Windows XP Removable Disk dialog to come up with a choice of available programs to launch. It defaults to Downloader Pro, and I simply click OK. It is also possible to click the checkbox Always do the selected action but I don't recommend doing this. There are definitely times when you will want to simply insert a CD-ROM (that happens to contain a few JPGs) without wanting Downloader Pro to instantly boot up. It is also not obvious how to undo this option, so I don't recommend setting it. (If you need to undo this, please see the always do the selected option page.)
Similarly, there is an option within Downloader Pro that will allow you to start the transfer of files from the card automatically, without user intervention. I do not set this option as I like to see what the program is about to do before it performs the renaming and deleting. This is especially the case if the files have already been renamed in some way.
EXIF Orientation and Downloader Pro
Most newer digital cameras contain a sensor that detects whether the camera is held in portrait or landscape mode. By default, all programs assume that a photo's orientation is landscape. An EXIF field, Orientation will be set by these cameras if the physical sensor detects that it is being held in a vertical orientation. Note that the cameras simply set this bit rather than actually trying to rotate the image data in the camera itself (which would hinder performance). So a flag is set in the file which tells any viewing program to rotate the photo before displaying it. Note that the intent is to rotate a copy of the photo before display, not the original. Although this EXIF field is almost always carried with the photo (along with exposure, camera settings, etc.), it is not always honored by the viewer software (or operating system). For instance, Windows Explorer (the default folder view in Windows) doesn't use the EXIF orientation flag before it displays the images. Worse yet, some people end up using Windows Explorer (or other programs) to rotate the image so that it looks right. Most of these programs do not perform lossless rotation. Instead, the JPEG image (which is compressed already) is rotated and then recompressed. The net effect of this rotation is often a loss of image quality. Better software can help you perform rotation in a lossless manner (typically requiring the pixel dimensions to be a multiple of the block size, also known as the Minimum Coded Unit in JPEG terms). Please see my articles on JPEG Compression and JPEG Lossless Rotation.
In Downloader Pro, one can automatically perform the EXIF-instructed rotation with the option: Auto-rotate JPEGs after downloading (lossless rotation) (selected in the preferences). Because the rotation is "lossless", this is well worth enabling, and it is a definite timesaver. In effect, the software will load the image, rotate it, clear the orientation bit, rewrite the photo with the updated EXIF data. This rotation seems to preserve the EXIF "maker notes", so it appears to be safe to use.
Downloader Pro has a large number of options for handling the import mechanism. By far the most important is the configuration of the renaming methodology.
In summary, with the options shown above, Downloader Pro will create a directory for the year, followed by a directory for the year-month-day, and then will generate a filename that includes both the date and a 4-digit serial number.
Note in addition to the image renaming, the directory hierarchy is automatically generated. I strongly recommend using a good directory hierarchy, as it simplifies browsing in many applications. Unless you are shooting professionally with a job-based scheme, dated subfolders is nicely organized and very scalable.
If I had to find any room for future improvement, I would like to see an enhanced search & replace method added (or extensions to the %r option), which would allow renaming from different filename schemes. For example, the %r option currently matches the first occurence of a digit sequence. A match to the last digit sequence would have been preferable. As an example, let's say you originally imported your photos via the Microsoft Scanner & Camera Wizard. After import, the files might be named, "March 2005-easter 001.jpg" through to "March 2005-easter 076.jpg". Using the %r option will extract the "2005" and not the "001" through "076" (leading to name collisions). Similarly, it would be nice if you could configure some degree of zero-padding (eg. convert between 3-digit to 4-digit). Although renaming files that have already been imported is not the primary intent of Downloader Pro, this capability of the product is a nice timesaver in tidying up ones file hierarchy.
That being said, the built-in token options have satisfied nearly all of my typical import needs perfectly.
Mapping multiple cameras into naming scheme
One of the nicest added features in the renaming process is the ability to specify custom tokens on the basis of information extracted from the digital photo metadata.
When combined with the rename settings shown above, one can autoamtically have the imported photos renamed differently, dependent upon which camera took the photo.
The benefits of naming the files differently on a per-camera basis are:
- Prevent filename collisions (eg. if two cameras were used in one day and the sequence numbers happened to overlap -- this has happened to me a couple of times!)
- Easy identification of the owner of a photo
In setting this up, I have elected to map my primary camera to an empty token (actually to "_", I'll explain later). All other cameras have been mapped to a two-character indicator surrounded by underscores (eg. "_s3_"). This way, the additional naming indicators are only included if the photos is from another person, or from one of my backup cameras.
In order to get this mode to work effectively with multiple cameras, the option to identify the camera based on serial number must be selected. As shown in the dialog box here, I have two Canon Digital Rebel cameras that Downloader Pro can distinguish on the basis of their serial numbers. Unfortunately, less advanced camera types (typically point and shoot) don't have a serial number that can be picked up, and so Downloader Pro does the mapping purely on model type (eg. Canon S30, SD300, etc.).
One of the great things about this remapping is that the Add camera... option (which is used to create a new mapping) is extremely easy to use. You simply locate a photo that was generated by a particular digital camera, and the software automatically detects the model type (and serial number), creating a new mapping for you in the process. You can then specify two mapping tokens %T8 and %T9. To keep things simple, I only use %T8, and set it in such a way that for my primary camera, this maps to the underscore character (which I use to separate the date from the sequence number in my naming scheme). For all other cameras, I add in the two-character identifier, surrounded by underscores.
You will notice that the Filename mapping option (shown in the Rename settings section above) uses the following string:
This creates a filename that concatenates the date (in the form YYYYMMDD) with the camera token described here (%T8), along with the original 4-digit sequence number created by the camera.
So, if I were to import a photo generated by my Canon 10d (primary camera), it would be renamed: 20050320_8648.jpg
If it were created by my backup point & shoot Canon S30, it would be renamed: 20050320_s3_8648.jpg
Note that there are options to do this mapping on the basis of serial numbers, but I found I did not need to do this.
Setting the read-only flag on import
Configuring DownloaderPro to automatically set the read-only flag (write-protect) is a great way to help prevent accidental modifications to original images in the database. Anytime that one wishes to modify an original, a copy must be made, and then the write-protection on the copy is toggled (easy to do in IMatch or other programs). Once the edits are complete, the write-protection is toggled back to read-only. This does add a little extra effort in the workflow (especially for images from cameras that don't have an orientation sensor), but I feel that the added safety is worth it.
Note that I am also instructing Downloader Pro to auto-rotate the JPEG images (based on the EXIF orientation flag). As mentioned earlier, I find this option to be a great timesaver.
As some digital cameras create filenames with uppercase characters, I have also elected to convert them to all lower-case so as to keep everything consistent in my workflow.
Using Downloader Pro with the Epson P2000 or other Personal Storage Devices
For the longest time I had been using Downloader Pro with the Use image capture time for file timestamp unchecked. I believe that the default is for it to be unchecked. In this mode, Downloader Pro uses the file creation time instead of the EXIF shoot date. When one is simply importing files from a memory card, this is not an issue (as the dates should be equivalent). However, part way through my recent Africa trip I discovered that my files were being renamed according to when I transfered the card to my Epson P2000, instead of when I took the photo. When using a portable storage device or PSD (such as the Epson P2000) it is important that you enable this option!
Other options in Downloader Pro
There are a wealth of other options available in Downloader Pro. It has obviously developed over time to meet the needs of many digital photographers and professionals.
In addition to the standard options, a mechanism exists to run a plugin module, thereby expanding Downloader Pro's functionality. One plugin that I am currently using with great success is: JPEG Resolution Plug-in. By default, some digital cameras (such as the Canon 10d) automatically set the EXIF resolution to 180 DPI. This was probably done for purely marketing reasons, and that value is not one I'd want to use in my workflow. So, I am changing it to 300 DPI, which is more in line with high-quality printing standards. Note that this does not change any of the image data itself, but only suggests to other software packages how large the photo could be printed.
I have now used DownloaderPro to import more than 30,000 photos. In that time I have been extremely happy with the way it has operated. I have experienced the occasional incident where DownloaderPro has crashed and suddenly exited during transfer. For this reason I suggest that one does not enable the Close Window when Finished checkbox. This way you will be able to tell if your import failed by whether or not the window is still visible. If it occurs, one should remove the last file transferred (as it will likely be corrupt) and rerun the import to start the import from where it left off.
Although many catalog programs available today attempt to incorporate some degree of importing functionality into their application, none of them come close to Downloader Pro in terms of its flexibility and intuitive interface. Not only does it solve the desire for unique filenames, but it automatically creates a very workable directory hierarchy that will interface with any other product in ones workflow. The ability to incorporate Job Codes or camera identification into the naming scheme shows that care has been taken to ensure that this product will work for professionals and consumers alike.
|BreezeSys Downloader Pro 1.9|
|Trial?||Yes. 30 day.|
|Prices as of October 2006|