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Web gallery apps compared

By Chris Williams. Published: 10th Jan 2006, 04:08:08 | Permalink | Printable

We review five applications to help you decide

Now that digital cameras are undeniably ubiquitous and there's a good chance RISC OS computers can interface with modern equipment, it makes sense for users to want to share their photograph captured escapades with friends and family, and what better way to do it than over the Internet. Putting together a few JPEGs with some simple HTML to throw online via FTP is pretty easy to do, but this minor exercise quickly escalates into a migraine when you have 20 or more pictures per outing and they need thumbnailing, indexing, labelling, and so on. So step forward five non-commercial applications that promise to turn your rag tag collection of images into well groomed galleries. Each of these applications more or less takes a directory of images and automatically produces a set of web pages that link to the supplied photos using thumbnails alongside captions and other information; all ready for uploading to your website.

What follows isn't intended to be an exhuastive review of each program, rather it's a guide as to what's available if you're looking for software to package up your growing pile of photos.



EXIFinfo
Developers: Chris Terran and Lee Montgomerie, website

Digital cameras tend to store extra but useful information in their saved images, particularly data concerning how, when and possible where each photo was taken. Known as EXIF metadata, software such as web gallery creators can pull this information out of files and put them alongside the images - revealing details such as the camera model, the exposure time, aperture, flash and focus settings, and more. EXIFinfo does just this, taking a directory of EXIF JPEGs images and producing a gallery in various formats.

Full list of EXIFinfo's output formatsWith the details filled in
Click on a screenshot thumbnail for the full version


EXIFinfo is lightening fast as it scans through JPEGs, picking out EXIF data and thumbnails embedded by the camera hardware. It does no scaling and image processing itself, which is why it's so much more faster than its peers, relying instead on data implanted by the camera equipment. Its user interface is neat and compact: you simply drag on a directory of images, pick a layout style, choose where to save the work and click on 'Go'. It also has an impressive assortment of output types, from columned HTML to CSV to DDF, and these designs can be edited and tweaked by the user.

3 column wide viewFull EXIF info view
Click on a thumbnail to see the web page output


Producing <table> based yet cleanly written web pages, EXIFinfo is well worth a download if you are handling EXIF JPEGs.



Pic_Index
Developer: John Williams, website

This application is pretty straight forward in operation: play with the user interface, selecting the appropriate colour scheme, the number of columns, the thumbnail widths, navigation icons, the position of captions and images and other details; drag on a directory of images; cross fingers and click on 'OK'. Pic_Index then runs through the pictures, producing thumbnails, scaling down large images as required and generating the HTML to link them all together. The range of style and layout options, coupled with the opportunity to tweak an album's CSS file, will appeal to those who desire a particular look'n'feel to their gallery. An interesting imagemap powered feature provides the ability to navigate through a collection of images by clicking on either side of a full sized image to see the 'adjacent' picture: clicking on the left hand side goes back to the previous picture, whereas clicking on the right moves onto the next - this functionality is configurable.

You can move that banner, thankfullyTweaking the layout and design of the gallery
Click on a screenshot thumbnail for the full version


An index pageA full view of an image
Click on a thumbnail to see the web page output


Commonly used gallery settings can be saved and recalled using a profile system, and a gallery's webpages can be tweaked and rebuilt without having to start from scratch. Comments, notes, and keywords can be added manually to individual images, allowing them to be searched for, and pictures can be rotated as appropriate.

Make sure you read the manual before using Pic_Index, especially when creating new galleries. Another point to bear in mind is that if the pathname to a gallery is too long, the software will crash when it tries to work its image thumbnailing magic. Author John Williams explained, "This is because you are processing an album too far down the directory structure and consequently generating command lines too long for BASIC to handle. The solution is to move your album nearer to the root for processing. The path length problem can be affected by all sorts of things such as the name of your current scrap directory, where ChangeFSI is and so on."

Pic_Index is shareware, and registering a copy will open up new features and also prevent a movable banner window from remaining open whilst the software is running.



ThumbCat
Developer: Malcolm Ripley, website

Another medium sized application, this program doubles up as both a HTML gallery creator and a desktop based image scrapbook. Slightly more complex than its contemporaries, images must first be dragged onto the application to create a catalogue and from this a website can be exported. The software is geared towards producing an on-screen representation of a digital photo album, complete with a choice of binding and textured covers, whereas the HTML output is more of a side-dish in terms of features. However it still supports thumbnailing, captioning, and other processes possessed by other web gallery applications. It can also obtain and use EXIF metadata information found in digital camera files and supports a good range of data types. The user can select how much EXIF data is used in the gallery.

Create a new catalogueConfiguring ThumbCatExporting a gallery in HTMLInteractive digital photo album
Click on a screenshot thumbnail for the full version


Catalogues can be searched and custom galleries known as 'views' can be created from images in a catalogue. The software also supports printing out galleries, with a number of different arrangements available. Pictures can be viewed in a simple slideshow fashion and can have comments and other information attached to them, which can be later exported.

The software also multitasks while it's processing images files, preventing the desktop from completely locking up.

An index pageA full view of an image
Click on a thumbnail to see the web page output




TinyThumb
Developer: Precedence Technologies, website

TinyThumb is the epitome of KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. It aims to do one thing and do that well: namely, rinsing JPEGs through ChangeFSI to generate thumbnails and then writing out a simple HTML file to bring them together. It's very no frills, and also, no fuss; the user interface couldn't be simpler. It makes no attempt to provide captions, customisable HTML layout, or EXIF parsing, so if you need features like this, TinyThumb will leave you short changed. However, if you're after a quick and easy solution, you need look no further.

TinyThumb's user interface


3 column wide view
Click on a thumbnail to see the web page output




WebGen2
Developer: Dave Stratford, website

A half way house between Pic_Index and TinyThumb, WebGen2 employs ChangeFSI to convert directories of images into a set of thumbnails and HTML in a straight forward manner - however its gallery configuration section is particularly verbose. HTML meta tags can be set, CSS can be enabled, large images scaled down, captions can be submitted, a colour scheme can be defined and many other aspects of the output can be controlled and tweaked.

WebGen2 can also use javascript to control the display of images and thumbnails, and do rollovers. Gallery settings can be preserved to disc to be reused again so that multiple galleries are consistent in design.

Overall web gallery layout controlDescription of the galleryThumbnailing settingsSetting the size of the main images
Configuring the look and feelExtra information about the galleryEstimating the time remaining for the current job to complete
Click on a screenshot thumbnail for the full version


An index pageAn individual page
Click on a thumbnail to see the web page output


Futher resources
To inspect the HTML output of the applications, see the respective files for EXIFinfo, Pic_Index, ThumbCat, TinyThumb, and WebGen2. The above screenshots were taken mostly using the default settings of each application. Feel free to experiment with each application until you find one you're most happy with.

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Discussion

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[link] let your webserver do the work.

 is a RISC OS Usersimo on 10/1/06 8:03AM
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My personal favourite is WebGen2. It has a vast array of options, but generally only a couple of things need to be set up for it to work, and it then goes off and processes the images to produce both thumbnails and and scaled main images of a more web friendly size than the original camera pictures - which would take forever if I tried to uploaded them straight to a website.

 is a RISC OS Userdruck on 10/1/06 9:03AM
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Does anyone know the current status of !WebThumbs at one time distributed with HTMLEdit but no longer listed as a component of the WDToolkit?

 is a RISC OS Userrmac on 10/1/06 9:11AM
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Thanks Druck. I'm still in the process of developing it, and I'm hoping a new version will be out towards the end of this month with additional features as requested by various users.

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 10/1/06 9:29AM
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simo: The problem with Galery is:

a) It's not a RISC OS program, so is technically off topic

b) From past experience, it's a pain in the rear end to alter the template to match the template of the site I want to put it on

c) Not everyone has a webserver with PHP enabled to install it

:)

 is a RISC OS Userandypoole on 10/1/06 10:17AM
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!WebThumbs is part of WDToolkit 2+ and also part of EasyClip2. It exists in both 26bit and 32bit varients. I believe the version in EC2 is the most "luxurious" release but functionally they are both identical. We don't push it hard because of all the other apps (I remember getting "taken aside" by the author of one at a show!) but it is included in our suites of software as a good tool for the armoury.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 10/1/06 10:27AM
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Having read druck's comment I downloaded WebGen2 and took it for a spin. It seems to be a very competent application that works with no fuss, but my goodness aspects of the user interface are a blast from the past!

The savebox has a 2D menu-type cream 'OK' button and a 'close' window tool rather than a 'Cancel' button. Dragging the directory icon uses a rotating dash-box (although I have solid icon drags enabled). In the main window, pressing ENTER moves the caret to the next writable field (should activate the default button). Pop-up menus do not appear aligned with the r.h.s. of the button that spawned them.

Am I one of only a small minority of people bothered by this kind of thing? I wonder whether it would help if the Style Guide were available online.

(DS1 - please don't take my criticisms personally - they aren't intended as such.)

 is a RISC OS Userthesnark on 10/1/06 10:31AM
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WebGen2 gets my vote, although it is a bit daunting at first because of the number of options. I have used it on my website - [link] (click on the gallery)

Webgen2 does produce rather a lot of files if you use the simple options - approx 5 per photo. The Java script options produce fewer but I have avoided these because they don't work with NetSurf.

It is fairly easy to produce a stand-alone set of pages containing a good looking set of thumbnails and corresponding pictures including simple navigation controls. There is some provision for integrating these pages into an existing site, but I find this needs some tweaking.

Making changes to the generated html is possible but it is usually easier to regenerate the pages and re-integrate.

If I could request one change it would be for the default files to be htm not html:-)

 is a RISC OS UserJohnR on 10/1/06 10:44AM
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This is a really useful article; thanks :) I'd not tried EXIFInfo or TinyThumb and will have to give them a go now.

Personally I've been using ThumbCat for a while now to organise photos. Although there are one or two glitches with it, I find it's an excellent tool as an image database and gets better all the time.

The thing is, whilst I suspect on other platforms it would be expected that you'd use an external application to organise your photos, it's not really the RISC OS way to use anything other than the filer ;)

One downside to ThumbCat is that you don't get a great deal of control over the HTML output, which I think is where Pic_Index and WebGen2 excel.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 10/1/06 12:09PM
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JohnR - per image 1 thumbnail, 1 'full size', 1 html page.

If you click the htm/jpg button on the opening page, you'll get the, technically incorrect, dos format names for your files, with .htm and .jpg extensions. If you then select on Save Defaults, next time you load the program, click on Get defaults and it'll set it for you.

thesnark - that's all partly because I started building it using an incredibly old application called wimped. (Joe Taylor?). Pressing enter to activate the default button (Build Site) could cause problems, and would be really rather irritating if you've not finished setting up your parameters. Hence this at least isn't going to change. As for the rest, who knows, I'm still developing!

Oh, and any and all requests for changes and additions gratefully received.

Dave

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 10/1/06 12:45PM
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In reply to JohnR:

Pic_Index gets my vote. It is very flexible and easy to use, where I find all the options of WebGen2 confusing. However that may come because I find no reason to explore it as Pic_Index does such a fine job.

In fact I now used it to present my business in a slideshow in my site. It took just a tiny little editing to nest the directories.

Take a look at [link] It is in Dutch but it will give an impression.

It was done with an Artworks-template and although Artworks kan export jpegs directly I used OHP to export because size and compression can easily be set there and it does it in one go.

BTW nice article!

Ike

 is a RISC OS UserIke on 10/1/06 12:55PM
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I started using Webgen2 recently and it works well. Problems I had as a new user was 1. Not sure where to find the manual. I understand it is interactive help, so I'll run that next time I use it. Despite guessing what the options did, I seem to have been able to make it do what I wanted with a bit of trial and error (time consuming with any significant number of imagers, even on an Iyonix). 2. Webgen2 is an HTML converter, not a cataloguer. So if you need a cataloguer, you need something else as well. I have been using !Thump for this. I found out that pointing Webgen2 at a !Thump captions file does not work very well. Presumably the correct format for a captions file is described somewhere. 3. DS1, I'm glad you are sticking with enter > Next Field. I have never liked Enter > Activate, it is a spawn of the devil and one of the things that makes using Windows a pain.

 is a RISC OS Usermrtd on 10/1/06 1:10PM
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mrtd - thanks. I guess.

There is both interactive help and a !help file supplied with the app. There is a more extensive !help manual as a separate download from the webgen2 download page. Just drop this skeleton application on top of the mail webgen2 to merge the two. The help is then a much more extensive html page - though it is a little out of date now I'm afraid, and that's one of the (many) things I've got on my ToDo list ([link])

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 10/1/06 1:25PM
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mrtd: Actually 'Enter > Activate' is the spawn of the RISC OS 3 Style Guide, published more than a decade ago. I quote from page 69: "Return - Begin a new line of text in an editor window. In a dialogue box, perform the default action." Also page 49: "The default action should be performed if the user presses Return." To rail against the standard now is pointless.

 is a RISC OS Userthesnark on 10/1/06 1:36PM
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thesnark:

I always thought for most applications on RISC OS, <Enter> takes you to the next field, except the very last field, when it performs the default action. There's even the validation string "Ktar" which I thought was for this ( [link] ).

Is this what you're talking about? If so, I'm surprised this isn't how it is in the style guide!

Curiously, one of the difficulties I have with ThumbCat is that you can't move between writable icons in this way. It's a really minor thing, but it looks like I was wrong to think it ought to do this anyway!

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 10/1/06 1:53PM
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Personally I would prefer TAB=next field; RETURN=press icon with yellow surround.

 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 10/1/06 2:00PM
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flypig - actually I thought it was that as well, but I'm 150 miles from my manuals so I can't check.

My personal opinion is that this is the best way generally, but that specific instances might preclude that. For Webgen2 specifically it would be irritating for the user if I allowed return to ever activate the build site button.

Dave

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 10/1/06 2:03PM
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Using Return to move between fields, then activating the window on the last one was the RISC OS 2 style guide recommendation. When the shiny new RO3 style guide arrived it recommended using Tab to move between fields and Return to activate the window wherever the cursor was.

Back on topic - I use ThumbCat to generate HTML galleries for writing to CD. These CDs can then be displayed on any machine, not just RISC OS. It is a nuisance that you have to create a catalogue first (which I always delete afterwards!), then export it as HTML, but I liked the way it produces a three level web site: 1) Thumbnail gallery, clicking an image opens: 2) Medium sized picture, with EXIF info, etc, if required. I set this to be a suitable size for screen display (e.g. 1024x768). Then clicking on the image again opens: 3) Full size image, which with the resolution cameras now tends to reqiure lots of scrolling around to see!

Bryan.

 is a RISC OS Userhelpful on 10/1/06 2:41PM
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helpful: "I use ThumbCat to generate HTML galleries"

Would it be possible for you to include a quick demo of this in February's ROUGOL meeting?

dgs

 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 10/1/06 2:50PM
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flyingpig: Although the Wimp's 'K' command in icon validation strings allows the old-style action of Return, this is presumably deprecated since it goes against the OS 3 style guide. In WinEd (popular template editor) the default validation string for a writable icon is instead "Pptr_write;Kta". This is also mentioned under 'Hints & tips' in the manual. Similarly, the Toolbox's writablefield gadget doesn't allow the old action of Return.

 is a RISC OS Userthesnark on 10/1/06 4:55PM
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thesnark:

Thanks for the explanation; I hadn't realised that. As it happens I'm with DGS on this and think it's far nicer to only have the action on the last writable field.

Actually, in my opinion, it's really high time a new style guide was written up, especially now that the Acorn ones are both out of date and no longer available. Perhaps it could be done as a collaborative user effort? Although on second thought that may be a recipe for disaster!

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 10/1/06 5:48PM
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flypig: "Although on second thought that may be a recipe for disaster!"

Probably. I for one don't agree with you. I think the RO3 styleguide is right about this thing.

You can use both tab and the cursor keys to move between the icons, there is no need for another one. IMHO.

 is a RISC OS UserGrek1 on 10/1/06 6:31PM
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Another WebGen2 expert:

[link]

Wldly out of date now & at the time, as JohnR said, you have to fiddle with the HTML to integrate.

Nice work DS1 and nice article Chris!

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 10/1/06 7:18PM
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blast!

must remember to look at my fingers when typing :-(

Translation:

expert = export widly = wildly

sorry about that

 is a RISC OS UserROHC on 10/1/06 7:40PM
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flypig: Having investigated further it appears that the Style Guide *is* still available - but only in PDF format as part of the Acorn C/C++ development suite. That will be cold comfort to many, since Acorn C/C++ currently costs the princely sum of 199 pounds (I don't know how I ever afforded that - I must have caught it on special offer or something).

How about we petition to get Castle to republish the Style Guide on the web in HTML form? After all I can't imagine anyone sane would pay 199 pounds for one book, and it would show support for software developers.

 is a RISC OS Userthesnark on 10/1/06 8:00PM
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Paper copies of Style guide in stock at CJE Micro's :-)

 is a RISC OS Userchrisevans on 11/1/06 3:07PM
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Now why am I not surprised? :-)

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 11/1/06 3:28PM
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I too use WebGen2 and find it a good tool for quickly generating pages with just enough control to customise them. Dave's support is excellent - he turned around my last problem very quickly (which is not to suggest that there are lots of problems).

I agree with the comments about the user interface though; the application is easy to use but a little "individual".

 is a RISC OS UserTonyStill on 11/1/06 10:01PM
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I'm still busy totally revamping my house so my attention to RiscOS world has been very occasional. However:

Flypig : The reason why the enter key does not tab between fields is that I have not done it. I will add it to the list but will implement it using the recommended style.

Helpful : You can drag a folder of images to Thumbcat ("real time" mode) and generate an HTML catalogue from that.

A general point to note here. When a file or folder is dragged to Thumbcat a temporary catalogue is built in scrap. The procedures treate this catalogue like any other and so you can (or rather should, if not tell me !) do anything you would with a saved catalogue. This also includes exporting the EXIF data as a text file. Yes I have thought about importing the same type of data and building an EXIF file from any image format......but don't hold your breathe.

 is a RISC OS Usermripley on 12/1/06 8:19AM
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thesnark:

Getting Castle to publish the style guide on the web sounds like a really excellent idea! I'm sure it would be in their best interests to make it as widely available as possible.

However, I do at least now have my own copy (thanks CJE :) ).

mripley:

Moving between fields in ThumbCat is a very minor thing in such an excellent app: I would have contacted you about it directly otherwise. I do find the program very useful, so thanks for your work on it :)

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 12/1/06 12:52PM
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thesnark : I've made most of the style guide corrections you commented on. And version 2.27 is now up on line.

Dave

 is a RISC OS UserDS1 on 15/01/06 11:23PM
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