When you first open up ThumbsPlus 7 you may be a little confused as to where to start. The menus have a lot of options and most of those options have further options below them. It’s a little bit daunting. However, the more you use it, the more you realise that it’s that way because of the abundance of features. I honestly think the user interface(UI) would be better if a good UI expert pared down some of the clutter. It’s pretty obvious that ThumbsPlus 7 has evolved and grown over many years but once you get used to where things are, and how they work, its not bad.
Obviously an expert tool (every command has keyboard shortcuts), the setting dialog is amongst the densest you will ever see. It allows a user to configure the application in excruciating detail. That is not something I personally like but I can see why it’s important to the target audience here. I really can’t recommend this for someone who just wants a quick catalog of their holiday photos.
The best power comes when you look across all of your images and need to generate web galleries or hard copies. That is something that the operating system image browsers do not even try to handle. Also, with clever features like searching based on similarity, it looks like ThumbsPlus 7 is staying ahead of the OS upgrades.
Installation & Setup (4 out of 5)
The ThumbsPlus 7 installation and setup was totally straightforward. There was the usual kinds of choices with no complex configurations.
It would be nice in this day and age to have the installer signed so that Vista doesn’t display the “Publisher could not be verified” dialog box.
Some of the default paths are a little odd. The database gets created inside the program files directory which is no longer a recommended location for data files, especially if a computer is being used by multiple people. Contact sheets and web pages by default head for c:\temp. Again, writing to the root of c:\ is no longer a recommended place.
User Interface (4 out of 5)
The ThumbsPlus 7 user interface covers everything that you could possibly ever need to do. The UI is extremely configurable. For example, you can show and hide every menu item, add and remove toolbar buttons, and the options dialog is one of the most complex of any applications. I don’t think there is a single part of the UI that isn’t configurable. However, after spending some time in the ThumbsPlus newsgroup I can see that this configurability is exaclty what their target audience loves and wants.
With flexibility comes crowding. Most right click menus have ten or more items in them and many of those items have sub items. I was continually discovering new features. The menu system is equally deep. ThumbsPlus 7 is truly not an application for a beginner.
Performance (4 out of 5)
In general, everything was adequate for the job and progress bars are displayed where they are necessary.
Running batch jobs was very fast, as was generating contact sheets, web pages, and printing.
With ThumbsPlus 7, thumbnailing folders seemed to take a lot longer than other applications. Even compared to windows explorer. Its not a huge deal because you tend not to have to re-thumbnail entire drives very often but its noticeable when you have a folder with hundreds of pictures.
Help & Support (2 out of 5)
ThumbsPlus 7 support coverage is good. There is an official support form, online FAQs, a newsgroup, and online tutorials. They even list a phone number on the website although it doesn’t actually say if you can use it for support.
Sadly, even with all that support, the responses are not so good. I had terrible trouble getting ThumbsPlus 7 to scan entire hard drives. It would get to a file and just stop. No errors appeared but the background task would just do nothing. The files were fine and you could restart the application and scan just that folder and it would work fine. However, given that cataloging collections is a primary function, you would expect this to work.
The FAQ had no mention of a problem and posting in the community newsgroup provided responses that either ignored my detailed report or defended the product as ‘all great.’ They suggested the issue must be external. The workarounds suggested dismissed this scanning as a primary feature without which, in my opinion, the product loses much of its value. It seems that there are no employees in these forums so the value of the responses is worth what you paid for them.
I sent a formal support request in and other than a confirmation email, I have had no response nor any indication of how long responses take.
Product Features (5 out of 5)
It’s very obvious that ThumbsPlus 7 has been around for a long time. Over the years it has picked up just about every feature that you could possibly want or need in an image cataloging system.
- Scanning entire hard drives and folder trees.
- Cataloging and searching through the images. The data is actually stored in a relational database so there are many useful searches that can be done.
- Searching for images by similarity which is great for finding duplicates, even if they are in slightly different file formats.
- Batch processing. If you need to resize, rescale, balance the color, or access 20,000 pictures it’s just a few mouse clicks away.
- Generating contact sheets. If you need hard copies of all of your thumbnails then a simple wizard (with many options of course) will walk you through the process.
- Categorizing. If you can spend the time, there is a simple way to add keywords to your images for later searching. You can also build galleries which are virtual folders of certain images. I’m not sure that these keywords are compatible with any other cataloging system such as the Windows Vista gallery.
I was never able to scan an entire hard drive and I’m still hopeful this is something that can be fixed.
The templates for the web output really need to be updated. They look like they were created sometime before the last internet boom. ThumbPlus 7 needs a makeover here.
Seems to be able to browse network locations according to the help and the UI but I was never able to get it to find my network shares even though all other applications do. There is no way to type in a full network share path e.g. \\myserver\share.
Price to Value (5 out of 5)
If the single batch type feature of ThumbsPlus 7 saves you a couple of hours of manual labour then the $50 price tag is worth every penny. If you need a quick gallery created or hard copies of your thumbnails then its also a bargain price.
Several of the features in ThumbsPlus 7 are already available for free with your operating system. When ThumbsPlus 7 was first created this wasn’t true. Therefore, be very specific about your needs. If you just need thumbnails, keywords, and simple searching you may already have what you need.
- Better web templates in the box because the supplied ones really date the product.
- Better integration with Windows image browser, especially Vista. Both Vista and ThumbsPlus 7 allow keywords or tags added, for example. Nobody wants to do it twice.
ThumbsPlus 7 is a master of all trades image cataloging system that does pretty much everything you need. If you are the sort of user who loves fine grain control over how an application works, you will love this.
I don’t recommend ThumbsPlus 7 to folks who look for simple wizard based UIs and those who don’t know what their right mouse button is for.
SlideShow Pro, Photoshop Elements 5