PicaLoader v1.37

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, send e-mail
Published by: VowSoft Ltd., go to the web site
Requires: Windows 95, 98, ME, NT4, 2000 or XP; IE 5.0 or higher, connection to the Internet with TCP/IP Protocol, 64 MB RAM, 3 MB free disk space plus additional disk space for picture downloads
MSRP: US$49.95, EUR45.63

Where do I start . . . PicaLoader is quite simply a tool for grabbing images off virtually any Internet site. As a designer I saw PicaLoader as a potential gold mine for gathering visual references. I keep hundreds of thousands of images in the digital equivalent of a media scrapbook. Picaloader uses a project based approach to image collection (or collecting), in which you first define the parameters and default settings for your image gathering efforts.

The next step is to create tasks by copying the URLs of the subsections of the web site(s) from which you wish to gather images. You may chose at this point to allow PicaLoader to grab every image on the site but this could lead to hours of waiting and be quite disastrous if you don't limit it to the domain you selected - PicaLoader will also grab images off linked domains as well.

It helps if you know your way around the sites from which you want to collect your images (I prefer the word "collect" but you could also use "pillage"). Knowing your way around the site means you can effectively limit the scope of PicaLoader's search. This tool is very good at allowing you to define the parameters of any project. PicaLoader allows you to limit the depth of the search by directory and sub directories, site or domain. PicaLoader also has a handy online tutorial which covers most of what you'll need to know to start collecting pictures from the Internet.

I had several projects in mind for this utility. I read through PicaLoader's online tutorial and went about my task. I pointed the application at the web site I had chosen for testing and without placing any real limitations on PicaLoader, I set it to its task. The product functioned as advertised, grabbing every image off my own personal web site, but even though I had set it to work within the defined domain, it unfortunately started grabbing images from other domains when it had completed my site. I stopped the project and made a few changes to the project parameters, limiting the search to 2 levels which seemed to do the job. PicaLoader only displays each image inside the preview pane as it is downloaded when the picture browser tab and the task tree's root are selected.

Cons: I didn't like the way in which PicaLoader collects images into an alpha-numeric folder structure which bears no relation to the way in which the images are stored. It may make some sense to PicaLoader and its database, but it's frustrating that extra characters get attached to the images filename. Having to rename thousands of files is really time consuming. If PicaLoader had the facility to export the images to a file structure which echoes the way in which the images had been originally stored then all would be forgiven. Hopefully this is feature which can be implemented in a future version.

Pros: PicaLoader performs very well, it's easy to use and does exactly what it's supposed to do. Other nice features are its database capabilities, the product's capacity to ignore duplicates and control the search depth. If you're looking for a simple way to collect images for your image archive, screensavers or picture frames, then PicaLoader rather effectively fits the bill. With a broadband connection this software package is a joy and I highly recommend it.

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