WBZ Helper 1.3, by Holocore
Posted: 20-Feb-2007

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Holocore Type: FREEWARE

Reviewer: Mike Lloyd Class: UTILITY
     
    Download

Overview
Most people, especially PC users, are familiar with the Webshots website and screen saver application. The website provides a huge gallery of very nice desktop pictures available for download, and the screen saver provides some nice options on how to present those pictures as a PC screen saver. Unfortunately, Webshots made a small attempt at creating a screen saver application for Mac OS X, but in beta form it was pretty useless, and the project was then abandoned. Mac OS X users can download the pictures, but they download as WBZ files, which are not recognized by anything that comes with Mac OS X. Holocore's WBZ Helper is a program that provides an simplified interface to these Webshots images, allowing you to convert them to JPEG and use them as desktop pictures and/or screen savers. In fact, the Webshot website now shows WBZ Helper as a Mac OS X solution for handling Webshot downloads.

Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.3.9 or higher


Evaluation Configuration
The evaluation configuration consisted of a 17" G4 iMac with 768 Mbytes of memory, an internal 80 Gbyte hard drive, a 200 Gbyte drive connected using Firewire 1394a, a 300 Gbyte drive connected using Firewire 1394a and running Mac OS x 10.4.

Installation
After downloading the ZIP file, extract the application from the zip file download, and drag it to the Applications folder of choice. That's all there is to it.

In Use
The application provides four basic functions: desktop and screen saver options, download pictures, view downloads, and share pictures.


WBZ Helper Interface

Clicking on the Desktop & Screen Saver icon allows the user to choose the actions that are to be performed when a picture is downloaded.


Desktop & Screen Saver Options

For Screen Saver, you can either enable or disable having the picture automatically added to your Mac OS X screen saver. For Desktop Picture, you can have the downloaded picture automatically replace your existing desktop picture ("change"), continue to use the existing picture, or ask the user. The user can also specify whether the picture should be placed into the iPhoto library under a Webshots album. If the iPhoto option is not selected, then the images are placed in the "<home>/Pictures/Webshots/Downloads" directory. This location cannot be changed. Lastly, you can have the utility quit after processing (but if you are going to download multiple pictures, it's better to keep the utility up so that it does not have to keep restarting).

The "Download Pictures" button, denoted by the Safari icon, launches the default web browser and opens the Webshots web site. By default, it takes you to the "Community" Webshots, which are the member pictures, but the best pictures for desktop pictures are found at the "Pro"
Webshots site. The user can then browse the Webshots site to search for pictures to download. WBZ Helper is launched when the image is downloaded. If the automatic helper launch option in your browser is not active, the .wbz download file is placed in your "Downloads" folder instead. Double clicking the downloaded file then opens WBZ Helper. Once WBZ Helper is activated, it converts the file and places it in the iPhoto library or in the Webshots Downloads folder. After the conversion, WBZ Helper puts the .wbz file into the trash.

The third option, "View Downloads", allows the user to view the downloaded Webshots pictures. If the iPhoto option is active, then the icon is the iPhoto icon, and clicking on it opens iPhoto displaying the "Webshots" album. If the iPhoto option is not checked, then the icon changes to a folder, and clicking on it opens the "Webshots Downloads" folder. In this mode, the JPEG image is displayed with the image icon, thus providing a good substitution for the iPhoto interface (plus it is much faster than opening iPhoto).


Webshots Downloads Folder

The fourth option, "Share Pictures", activates another program, "PictureSync", which allows the user to upload images to be shared on the Webshots environment. This option only works if you have downloaded the PictureSync utility (also free). If you do not have the PictureSync utility, you get a "Choose Application" prompt asking you to look for it. If you cancel, you get another prompt asking if you would like to download it. Basically, the "Share Pictures" option is unusable if you do not have PictureSync (not sure why the two apps aren't just bundled since they are both by Holocore, as that would make it a lot easier on the user).

The WBZ Helper interface is very intuitive and Mac savvy. However, I did experience a few problems. The iPhoto interface did not work reliably. It would consistently either leave a copy of the image in a "Temporary" folder rather than move the image to the Webshots album. If the interface did not fail with an error, it would be one picture behind. For this reason, I cannot recommend the iPhoto interface. Second, the latest version of WBZ Helper does not appear to be in sync with the latest version of OS 10.4.8. When I enabled the Screen Saver, I received an error. It appears that WBZ Helper may be looking in the wrong place for the screen saver preferences. Oddly, after opening up System Preferences, the Screen Saver option had been changed from "Flurry" to "Webshots", and it only displayed the pictures in the iPhoto webshots album (not the Webshots Downloads folder).


AppleScript Error generated when enabling Screen Saver

Finally, the instructions describing the download process appears to reference an older Webshot's interface. It should be noted that the release notes on the web site indicate that WBZ Helper can now translate Webshots collections, which I was unable to test since the free Webshots does not support downloading collections.

In general, WBZ Helper is intuitive and works as advertised. It provides a suitable interface to the Webshots web site, which can be a great source of material to personalize your Mac OS X environment. The Webshots site can also be used to share images with your friends and other members of the Webshot community. If WBZ Helper did not exist, Mac users would not be able to use the Webshots site, as .wbz files are unreadable by Preview, Photoshop, or anything else.

Summary
Holocore WBZ Helper provides a nice interface for converting and managing images downloaded from Webshots, providing excellent integration between Webshots and the Mac OS X environment. This tool is provided free of charge, and was developed to allow Mac users to use Webshots images as desktop pictures or screen savers (or anything else one might want to do with a JPEG image). Before there was WBZ Helper, Mac users would be stuck with .wbz files downloaded from Webshots that could not be viewed or converted by anything that comes with Mac OS X. This tool fulfills an otherwise unmet need for the Mac community. If you like to personalize your Mac with a variety of images from Webshots, WBZ Helper is your solution.

Pros

  • Simple, intuitive user interface
  • Translates Webshots image files for use in the Mac OS X environment
  • Converts .wbz Webshot files as well as .wbp Webshot collections
  • It's free

Cons

  • iPhoto integration can be unstable
  • Problems with enabling screen saver update
  • Share Pictures options requires download of PictureSync (should just bundle the two)
  • Documentation does not keep pace with Webshots changes


Overall Rating

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice