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.
- Mac OS X 10.3.9 or
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
- Simple, intuitive
- 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
- 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
4 1/2 out of 5 Mice