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.
- 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
- No integrated help (and two column format of PDF
- Riddled with non-intuitive behaviors
- Steep learning curve for using all features and
- Bugs in software
3 out of 5 Mice