Cumulus 5, by Canto Software
Posted: 21-May-2001

3 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Canto Software Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: PRODUCTIVITY

Cumulus 5 is an archiving system for multimedia data, referred to as "assets" within the confines of this program. Cumulus is a high-end application for managing and publishing all types of these media assets such as images, layouts, presentations, video, audio and text. The program offers search capabilities, customizing options, and Internet access (such as HTML export and e-mail). When cataloging these assets, Cumulus automatically reads the contained metadata, and creates a thumbnail and reference to the original data, including file format, resolution, dimension, file size, creation and modification dates, and the original's location. The Cumulus product line consists of three Editions: Single User, Workgroup, and Enterprise. The version reviewed was the Single User edition.

Requirements: PowerMac, Mac OS 7.1.2+, 10MB of hard disk, CDROM.
System Reviewed On: G3/333, 256 RAM, Mac OS 9.0.4.

One of the most powerful features of Cumulus is the ability to have hundreds of files, whether text, video, images, etc., automatically cataloged simply by dragging folders onto the Cumulus "records" window. The main Cumulus window is divided into two parts, the left side being the list of categories, and the right side being the records in a selected category. The records are represented by thumb nail images. In one of several tests, I dropped three folders filled with a total of 590 images, onto a new category window. While Cumulus processes the images, a processing window is displayed, and in a matter of 5 minutes, all the images were cataloged. By default, Cumulus creates the categories based on the directory paths and folder names. I was only interested in the three folder names that I dropped on the window, and these were nested within several levels of root directories. I was able to drag the nested categories outside the scope of the root directories, and three root categories were created by their names, and all asset records (aka, images) were associated correctly. I then deleted the empty root folders.

There is an option to turn off creating categories based upon full directory paths, but it's an all or nothing deal. If you turn it off, then dragging the folders simply adds the images to the selected category (and if there are no categories, they show up in the records window without a category). I would have liked to just dropped the three folders onto Cumulus and have just those three categories created.

Cumulus can catalog any asset you can access from removable media, your hard drive, or a network server. I attempted to try this with the network server option, but I was not able to connect to the server. I tried several different ports, until Cumulus froze, and I had to do a force quit.

While the cataloging features are very powerful alone, the most useful aspect of Cumulus is the ability to search these catalogs, making asset management much more enjoyable. You can search based on a lot of different criteria, specifying values for different fields of a record, using boolean operators, and much more. The feature set does not stop there, however, as there is also HTML exporting, e-mail, and a plethoria of other features which I did not have time to explore. The HTML export feature worked quite nicely. In a couple of mouse clicks, Cumulus created an HTML file which displayed the catalog thumbs, and includes an option to have the thumbs linked to the original images.

In terms of all the features, however, it was a bit overwhelming how complex this application really is. It incorporates a wide range of menus, and several options under each menu. The customizing features alone boggled my mind, as there are catalog options, catalog properties, view customize, and preferences. What is noticeably missing from any of the menus is easy access to a help system. There is a PDF users manual in the Cumulus folder which contains a lot of helpful information. The one problem with the PDF manual, however, is that it's in two column format. That is okay for printing, but when viewing online, it's annoying to read down the left column, and then have to scroll back up to read down the right column.

For all the impressive features that Cumulus has to offer, there are also quite a few non-intuitive quarks and software bugs to degrade the experience.


Dragging a record from one category into another makes a copy of that record in the second category, and is easy enough to do. However, if I were to delete one of those records from one of the categories, it deletes the record from both categories. This caught me by surprise, and I did not find it intuitive at all. Then I went to copy the record back into the one category I wanted it in, and lo and behold, it now exists in both categories. Once I got into this predicament, I could not figure out a way to make the record only show up in one category.

To add to my delete frenzy, I also found that when I deleted records from a category, and then dragged the original asset back onto the records window (in this case, the image files), it would not load the records back in regardless of which category I tried to add them to. When I dragged over some images that had not been previously loaded (and therefore not deleted), records did get created for them. In one instance, however, the records were appended initially in the current records list of one of the categories, even though the drag had created a new category where the records should have been. I switched to the new category, and sure enough, that's where they were. I went back to the previous category, and they were no longer there.

One bug that bit me pretty hard occurred when I was trying the search capabilities. I performed a search on asset name, and after choosing FIND ALL, a program error displayed, "A parameter error occurred in memory function". It provided a DETAILS button, and the details listed Module CANTOLIB, with Native Error Code "uPack.cpp (1769)". The nasty part of this bug is that it went into an infinity loop. After I pressed OK, it kept coming back up. I finally had to do a force quit, but when I went back into the program, the same error dialog came up immediately. I tried rebooting, but still the problem persisted. I finally had to delete the Cumulus preferences file to rid myself of this error, and I did not see it again in any of my subsequent sessions.

Overall,
Cumulus 5 is a powerful cataloging engine. It handles several types of images (110+, including TIFF, EPS, PDF, and JPEG), video, audio, text, and more. It provides a professional looking list of records, represented by thumb nails, and it knows how to handle each media type when a record is opened (i.e., open a video record, and it actually plays the video). For design, Cumulus allows you to drag and drop images from Cumulus catalogs to layouts in Adobe InDesign, QuarkXPress, Creator2, etc., as well as exporting to HTML. You can organize and manage the assets with great ease and flexibility, including a dynamic search engine. The lack of integrated help and the complexity of the menus and customization features can lead to a rather steep learning curve for those wanting to utilize all of the features. There were enough instances of non-intuitive behavior, including program bugs, that prevent me from recommending this product for everyone. For those who work with a lot of multimedia files on a day-to-day basis, however, Cumulus can be a real time saver for managing your assets, despite its rough edges.

Pros

  • Powerful & flexible cataloging engine
  • Drag & Drop automatic cataloging feature
  • Supports over 100 image types
  • Highly customizable
  • Great search capability
  • HTML export and e-mail support

Cons

  • No integrated help (and two column format of PDF doc annoying)
  • Riddled with non-intuitive behaviors
  • Steep learning curve for using all features and customizations
  • Bugs in software


Rating

3 out of 5 Mice