MemoryMiner, by GroupSmarts
Posted: 6-Jun-2007

2 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: GroupSmarts Type: SHAREWARE

Reviewer: Lane Smith Class: MULTIMEDIA
     
$40   Download

Overview
MemoryMiner presents itself as a "digital storytelling application" that allows you to organize your photos by the relationships they share with other photos. MemoryMiner can automatically group and search through photos by date, place, and even the subjects in the photos. This makes it possible to rediscover family history though your photos or make a scrapbook of people and places you've visited. In addition to organizing your photos, you can also create websites with your grouped photos to share with friends and family over the Internet.

MemoryMiner is new to the Mac Software playground. MemoryMiner uses XML files to create and store information about your photos. XML files are small files that reference digital images and can store data about the photo. Apple's iPhoto uses XML files extensively to store information such as the '5 star rating' system and searching features.

Cost

$40


Requirements

  • G4 Mac or better
  • Mac OS X 10.4 or later


Installation
MemoryMiner is installed straight from the downloaded disk image. A quick drag-and-drop to any folder is all that is required to begin using MemoryMiner.

In Use
My usual method of learning new applications is to dive straight in, wander around for a bit, and then read through included manuals or quick-start guides. After clicking around in MemoryMiner, I was surprised to find there was no instructions and little documentation that came with the application. There is a quick-start video on the application's website that touches most aspects of MemoryMiner's workings. I found the video helpful to start using MemoryMiner, but it became inconveniant to have to reference the video after I had forgotten how to use certain features. Later, I discovered a PDF document on the website, but was disappointed with the material presented in the PDF. The PDF file was 30 pages long, but really only about 10 pages of useful material, and the instructions were not always clear. The documentation is helpful in introducing and explaining various features of the application, but there is definite room for improvement.

MemoryMiner offers a simplistic interface with few buttons that are clearly labeled. I had no problem with the basic functions of MemoryMiner, such as adding new photos and information. Visually, the interface is a little bit lackluster. MemoryMiner has the standard brushed metal interface. There are three tabs along the top of the application window that look blocky (not a very Aqua look and feel). Text and buttons seem small and sometimes out of place.


MemoryMiner Interface Window

The application is pretty straightforward, and anyone familiar with iPhoto or iMovie would quickly feel comfortable using MemoryMiner. After creating a new library, drag and drop photos from the Finder or iPhoto to add to MemoryMiner. Once added, you can add or edit information pertaining to the photo, such as date, place, and subjects. Dates are automatically added if the photo was taken by a modern digital camera, and dates to scanned pictures can be added in the bottom left corner of the window. In order to add info about a subject in the picture or the place the photo was taken, people and places must be included in MemoryMiner's list. People and places can be added under the 'People' and 'Places' tab, respectfully. I found this procedure required an incredible amount of time, and MemoryMiner doesn't make it easier. I would look at a photo, try to remember the names of all the subjects and places that were not already in my list, and then switch tabs to enter the details. There is no way to quickly reference the photo or make notes that could help make this task more bearable. To assign places to a photo, you simply drag a selection from the list of places onto a photo or a selection of photos. Assigning subjects in a photo is more manual: after creating your list of people, you must individually select each photo, draw a box around the subject, select their name from the list, and repeat for the rest of the subjects in the photos. This process would be much easier if it was possible to select multiple entries that have the same subjects and 'carry over' the box-selection, or a least be able to copy/paste selections.

Once photos have been assigned, MemoryMiner allows you to effectively search through your photos by date, place, or subject, or a combination of all three. Need all the photos of last year's Yellowstone trek? Drag the 'Yellowstone' location into the search bar at the bottom of the interface. Only want pictures of last year's trek that contain Uncle John? Adjust the Date slider below the search bar to the appropriate date, and add Uncle John from the People list to the search bar. MemoryMiner's strongest point is this ability to search photos based on criteria you assigned.


Updating Places in MemoryMiner

MemoryMiner sports a few superfluous features that are entertaining, but not completely useful. MemoryMiner can create slideshows of photos, but with limited features. You do this by selecting photos and clicking the play button in the center of the window. Unlike the slideshows that you can create in iPhoto or other Mac apps, MemoryMiner does not provide any customization with the slideshows. It randomly selects transitions and the time it fades in and out of photos. You cannot add music or even make the slideshow full screen. For some reason, there is a 7 or so second period of blackness between each photo, which I did not care for. The only good point to MemoryMiner's slideshow is that it automatically focuses on a person from your People list and zooms in or out from that subject. This is poorly executed, however, as the zooming causes the photo to be pixelated and rough.

MemoryMiner also allows you to add text and attachments to photos, such as video, audio, or documents. This feature is most useful to MemoryMiner's export feature. When exporting, MemoryMiner packages the selected photos, reformats them to a smaller size, placing them into a folder containing HTML files that you can upload to a webhost. This is a feature that could be very useful for those who wanted to share vacation photos or other events with friends and family. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the export feature. The website it created was clean and attractive, and it kept your People list to allow viewers to search through your photos by the subject in the photo. The website also has a 'Maps' section, that allows viewers to see your list of Places marked on Google Maps. There is a slideshow feature in the website that was very slick (blows away MemoryMiner's in-application slideshow). There are no optional layouts or methods to create your own website theme.

After using MemoryMiner, my impression is that it is a half-finished product. There is a lot of promise to the application, but it does not yet feel on par with an application that would cost $40. MemoryMiner has a number of bugs that make working with MemoryMiner sometimes difficult. Although the product is useable as-is, there are enough problems and missing features to frustrate the user. For example, each time you press a button for one entry under either the People or Places tab, the program creates two new entries. There's the bug that makes all your photos suddenly disappear when you add a new photo. In one session, the application froze after I had spent three hours entering people and places. I was unable to assign a birthdate beyond the year 1999. It also lacks support for copy/paste and contextual menus for right-mouse clicking.

Summary
MemoryMiner is an application that makes it possible to organize your personal photos by date, places, and subjects, and provides some nice export features that let you share your digital story with family and friends around the world. This application is intended for those who are interested in a "scrapbook" approach to your digital photos. The application is easy to use, and provides some nice export and web features. However, MemoryMiner can often be frustrating due to a myriad of bugs and absence of features you would expect in a Mac application. For a $40 shareware title, I expected better. I believe MemoryMiner is an innovative idea, and the application does provide functionality that lets you snaz up your digital photos for the web; however, with its bugs and missing features impeding the user experience, it does not yet feel like a finished product. Having these drawbacks fixed would certainly make the product more usable.

Pros

  • Simple interface
  • Effective photo searching
  • Nice export feature
  • Creates website pages for you

Cons

  • Pricey
  • No help files included with the program; poor documentation
  • Data entry is inefficient
  • Lackluster interface
  • Lack of user-configuration and options
  • A number of interface bugs and quirks


Overall Rating

2 1/2 out of 5 Mice