Delicious Library 1.1, by Delicious Monster
Posted: 10-May-2005

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Delicious Monster Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Diane Love Class: MULTIMEDIA
     
$40   Download

Overview
Monstera Deliciosa starts out as a small plant you can buy in the supermarket for a couple of dollars: with the right care and attention it can grow into a sprawling jungle of giant perforated leaves and trailing roots and occasionally produce a delicious fruit.

Delicious Monster, then, was the name two Mac OS X designers chose when they decided to start their own small company. Uniquely perhaps, rather than rent office space, they work all day in a coffee shop with free wi-fi access.

Delicious Library, their first product, allows you to catalog your books, CDs, DVDs and computer games. You might think that this would involve a lot of tedious typing - not so, particularly if you have any kind of webcam or a Bluetooth scanner! It works in close collaboration with the Amazon database so that you can find similar items to those you already like. And like a real library, it provides a means of tracking items that you have loaned out.

Setup
The Delicious Library is available for Mac OS X only; it can be downloaded for free from
http://www.delicious-monster.com and will work with up to 25 items. To upgrade to the full version with unlimited items, you must buy a license code which goes for $40.

The license is good for a single user on *any* Mac used by that person. If somebody else also uses the Mac and wants to use Delicious Library, you are meant to buy another license. If you have a multi-user family machine, you are meant to buy a license for each user who wants to use the software. If, like me, you have a machine with 8 users, 3 of which are yourself (admin, work and home), then you would be allowed to use the license for your own accounts but you would be supposed to buy licenses for the other users. Even so, it would be tricky to use one library from multiple accounts as the application stores its data files inside each user's Library/Application Support folder. The developers point out that "Our software does not scan the network or anything else that might alarm you, we simply rely on the honesty of our customers to use it fairly."

As I consider it good practice to use my admin account for installing software which is then available to all accounts on my Mac, I would prefer the license to be per machine.

That apart, simply drag the icon to your application folder and you are done installing.

In Use
I was initially drawn to Delicious Library when I heard that it could use my iSight camera to read barcodes. Once I had downloaded and installed the software, I scooped up some CDs, DVDs and PS2 games from the living room and tried to scan them. This was somewhat unsuccessful until I read the instructions. A window shows you a black and white iSight with red horizontal lines. You must hold the item up to your iSight so that the red lines cross the bar code. When the bar code is close enough, the software captures the barcode, looks up the item on Amazon and instantly puts your item into the appropriate master shelf (book, CD, DVD or game) in your library.


Capturing a barcode with your iSight


I was delighted to see virtual wood shelves with illustrations of my collection's cover art as an alternative to the tabular view also offered.


Wooden bookshelves show off your cover art

At first I couldn't figure out how to arrange things on the shelves, and I was initially surprised that I couldn't drag and drop with the mouse to arrange things on the shelves manually. Then I realized that every way you could want to sort items is offered in a pulldown menu (see graphic sidebar on right). The edges of the shelves initially had tiny illegible lettering, but when you zoom in, this becomes readable, and changes with each sort order you select to show you the range of content on each shelf.


Using the iSight input method is fun to start with, but if your iSight is mounted at eye level, you will soon tire of holding everything up and edging back and forward until it gets captured. The authors illustrate the iSight on a table top and also suggest an arrangement of cocktail sticks and rubber bands to make a spacer that can be in contact with the item you are capturing to make it easier to find the right spot. You can also use a DV camcorder or a webcam other than an iSight for input.

It is, of course, possible to enter items by hand. For example, adding a new blank item displays a form where you can enter a partial title or author name and quickly get a list of all matches. Just drag those you own to your shelves and you are done.

Once you add something, just select it to see a list of similar items (according to Amazon). Of course, you could do this in Amazon as well, but who has the time to wander around Amazon researching what other people bought? In Delicious Library, it's right there in front of you, making it much more convenient than Amazon.

Like iTunes playlists and iPhoto albums, Delicious Library lets you create multiple virtual bookshelves without duplicating items. For example, I have a Bowie shelf containing both DVDs and CDs, each of which is also found in the DVD collection or the CD collection.

Although Delicious Library has access to cost information from Amazon, it doesn't seem to be able to sum up the total value of your collection. This would have been really useful during my move from the UK to the US, since all my possessions had to be inventoried and replacement costs calculated. It is possible to export your whole library as a delimited text file and import it into a spreadsheet. Then you'll discover the ghastly truth about how much it would cost to replace all your books, CDs, DVDs and games.

Extras
While Delicious Library utilizes Amazon's free search services to populate your library, it gives back to Amazon by providing you with links to purchase items that you discover. Delicious Library gains referral fees for each sale, which, according to their website, they donate to charities (such as Tsunami relief).

The authors are also investigating links to other online databases. The link to iMDB.com is already in place allowing you to look up the entry for the actors in your favorite movies and see what else they've starred in.

Using Delicious Library, you can very easily keep track of when you lend something to somebody. You simply add the person to your list of borrowers. When you do so, you are taken immediately to your OS X address book where you can pick your friend or enter their details if not already there. Delicious Library then automatically adds a Library Loans category to your OS X calendar and puts an entry a week in the future to remind you to get your item back. There is no preference setting to change the loan time interval; in my experience, both as a lender and borrower of items, a week is pretty optimistic.

A wireless scanner connected by Bluetooth is offered for people who have a lot of barcodes to read, and is offered for $174.95 when buying a Delicious Library license.

When your iPod is connected to your Mac, you can use the "sync to iPod" function to copy your whole database to a Notes file on your iPod . There are no preferences or functions to control this. The iPod appears like a bookshelf in the Delicious Library window. A minor omission here is that there is no eject control for the iPod so you have to eject it from the Finder or from iTunes. An issue for me is that my first generation iPod has no Notes capability. Having synced my iPod with Delicious Library, I can mount the iPod as a firewire drive, open it on my Mac's desktop and see the Delicious Library folder within; I just can't read it from from the iPod itself because there is no Notes option in its menu.

Summary
Delicious Library is a utility that aims to make it as easy as possible to capture every single book, DVD, CD and computer game you own in a single easy-to-manage database. Once your library has been captured, you can discover new titles similar to old favorites, and track items that you lend to friends. Delicious Library is a delight to own and use. It adds value to your collection by leading you to explore new authors, new music, new films and games that you might not otherwise discover, and includes the ability to scan items with your iSight. It's also a shining example of well thought out design. It does what it has to do without bugging you for inputs. I recommend Delicious Library for any Mac OS X user with a media collection that they want to manage, anyone interested in novel uses for their iSight camera and any connoisseur of fine user interface design.

Pros

  • Multiple easy ways to input large numbers of books, CDs, DVDs
  • Discover new titles similar to old favorites (using Amazon information)
  • Shelf view and sorting with cover art
  • Integrated with OS X Address Book
  • Amazon referral rewards are donated to charities


Cons

  • License is per user rather than per machine
  • No function to estimate total replacement costs for library contents
  • No iPod eject capability
  • Library not readable on first generation iPods


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice