PicaJet FX - PicaJet
PicaJet FX is a basic digital asset management software with emphasis on speed and simplicity. PicaJet organizes images using a dynamic category hierarchy and indexes standard image metadata, including EXIF, IPTC and XMP, for efficient searches.
This software supports over 60 formats of images and certain video formats, letting it manage more than just images. It fully supports off-line media and provides additional digital workflow functionality like backups, batch conversion, image processing, and printing.
PicaJet FX is available for Windows only for $60 USD. There is also a free version, called PicaJet, which supports a subset of the functionality. Notably, the free version does not support: multiple albums, backup/restore, password protection, sorting, metadata editing, advanced search features among other things.
PicaJet FX shows a clean and rather sparse user-interface. The UI is based on side-panels surrounding a central area for display of images and thumbnails. Eye-candy is provided by a choice of skins and icons, similar to Windows themes.
After reviewing many digital asset management software, the interface shown by Picajet seems mostly empty. In fact, it is. PicaJet has less asset management power than most of its competitors. The advantage here is that PicaJet is easier to use and can be a great tool if it meets your DAM needs.
The elegant user interface is customizable in terms of panel positions which can be docked or not. Most sections can be resized and - when docked - ensure virtually not overlap of UI components. Nice distinct icons are used all around the UI and even categories can be represented using custom icons.
There is a single unified panel section to create and assign categories. The hierarchical view allows the creation and the deletion of categories. Once a category is created, assigning it to images requires taking some action to make the images appear and then either dragging a paperclip icon on images or dragging images onto the category. Either way works but the quirk is that one must make images appear first. There are two built-in categories which help do that: the All files and the Unassigned category. The reason this happens is due to the combined interface. When a category is selected, icons are shown for all matching images. However, when a new category is created there cannot by any images matching it yet, so the display area shows up as empty. It would truly be an easy fix to show All Files when a new category has focus.
The category view is the easiest way to search for images. Simply selecting a category shows all matching images. The result set at this point can be sorted and grouped in different ways, in order to find specific files in large result sets. There is a grouping for folders but since it is only a grouping and not filtering, selecting images from an entire folder is a slow process since at least the first and last images mush be selected. In order to get around this problem, one can have the import process create categories from folder names.
The category view is organized as a tree-view to show the hierarchical relation between categories. Selecting any one category shows images that match it or sub categories. It is also possible to select multiple categories and, depending on an option, PicaJet FX will either show images that match all categories or ones that match any. There are a few preset categories but these do not include any metadata. This is too bad because this interface is fantastic for searching without knowing the exact metadata being looked for. PicaJet gives a hint to the number of matching images in each category but the number is most often wrong as it tends to count multiple times images that match related categories.
The search feature allows to search for information within a 27 supported fields. This includes EXIF data such as ISO, F-stop, focal-length (native only) and shutter-speed. Notably missing are orientation and aspect ratio. For numeric fields it is possible to compare above or below a threshold, which is rather useful since PicaJet FX does not enumerate possible values for anything but Exposure Mode and Color-Depth.
The most significant anachronism in PicaJet FX is that it still used destructive editing and tries to modify source images. It always prompts with an option not to ask again though, so those annoying dialogs quickly go away. There are features that do require writing to images but the the purpose of DAM these can safely be ignored. Obviously, if you manipulate an image with PicaJet, the results have to go somewhere. This is obviously what the Save As option is for.
What everyone else calls Importing PicaJet simply calls Add Images. What everyone else calls Databases, PicaJet calls Albums. For consistency with the rest of the DAM software review articles, we use the terms Import and Database here.
Importing comes in 4 PicaJet flavors: From Camera, From Folders, From Optical Disk or From TWAIN. From Folders does the typical import, keeping images in place and adding their metadata to the PicaJet database. From Camera also copies or move images at the same time. When copying it can do so according to a fixed or date-based structure. The From Optical Disk option can copy but not move files. In all cases, PicaJet FX can add importing images to a specific category. The default category is the magical Unassigned category which automatically finds images which have no category assigned to them.
PicaJet FX can also use a TWAIN device such as a scanner and web-cam to capture an image and automatically import it. It can also which folders for changes which are imported automatically and synchronized with the database. Due to the way file-monitoring works, this may be resource intensive.
PicaJet imports go into the database which it calls Album. All these are independent entities, so importing into two albums duplicates the metadata twice and could duplicate images, if a copy option is selected during import. The expected setup would be for most users to use a single database for all their images as there is no way to move or copy data between any databases. Multiple databases would probably be used by professionals who tend to separate shoots for clients. The key to using multiple databases is to be able to predict what goes where before import and have those separated prior.
Databases are thankfully modifiable in PicaJet. Folders and images can be removed from the database or hidden from view. Those can be password protected. When removing an image, PicaJet makes the distinction between database and file-system removal. Categories can be removed too. Those images who no longer have a category assigned then go to the Unassigned category.
PicaJet proclaims blazing speeds as one of its headline features. Indeed, since starting the reviews of all these DAM software, PicaJet is the only one to get close to the speed of Bibble 5 Pro. Importing 18000 images took 2h45m, only a tad slower than Bibble but significantly faster than everyone else. Searching for images based on almost any piece of data is very fast, taking 1 or 2 seconds for most operations. On occasions large queries returned in up to 7 seconds but those are far in between.
The whole digital asset management interface is just a little sluggish, showing a perceptible delay in responding to most actions such as selecting an image. This is certainly better than most tested software. The slowest part of the software seems to be the scrollbars which make it very hard to move smoothly while visually searching. They are way too jumpy to be comfortable to use.
PicaJet FX also takes a different approach to loading image files. Most current DAM software are quick at loading a low resolution preview and then take a second synchronous hit when the image is enlarged. Instead PicaJet seems to load the full-resolution image immediately. This makes it appear slow, easily taking 5 or more seconds to open an image. On the other hand, once this is done PicaJet is awesomely fast, zooming and panning extremely fast.
PicaJet is not typical of digital asset management software and does it takes a while to get accustomed to it. The main shocker is its intent on altering images which goes away after a while but one must be very careful not to accidentally taint an image. The feature set is simple but what it does it seems to do rather well and - with a few exceptions - quite fast.
Those who create broad categories which get annoyed at the slowness of scroll-bars but the software generally responds faster than most. While it seems designed for asynchronous operation, importing causes most of the interface to become unresponsive or prompt for cancellation.
With the above warnings aside, PicaJet is actually quite nice to use. An evaluation version is available to determine if the feature-set is suitable, as searching and organizing tools are limited compared to others. For a simple feature set and one of the fastest performance of any DAM software, PicaJet FX is certainly worth considering.
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