This search utility is also a top editing tool, says Cliff Smith

fotostationPrice: £489 (£338 approx)

*TYPE: Software search utilty
*SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: Windows 2000 Professional or XP. (Mac version due later in 2005)

Most of the software products that can help organise your image library are aimed at amateurs with relatively small collections. FotoStation Pro is one of the few that can organise huge photo libraries across entire networks, and is used by many of the world?s leading stock image companies. I set it loose on my own collection of about 30,000 image files, and it found every picture on my hard drive in about a minute and a half, creating a backup archive in just over two hours, then automatically indexing them in another two hours. The indexing process is rather special. You can pick a photo of, say, a boat on a lake, and ask it to find all similar images, and it will find all images that share the same visual characteristics. It can also search by more conventional means, using EXIF data, creation date, file size etc, and allows you to add text tags and captions for your own search criteria. You can set image priorities, adding colour-coded labels to the thumbnail in the browser window for easy sorting. You can of course search for photos of a particular priority. FotoStation Pro also includes a very useful array of image editing tools, such as curves, levels hue/saturation/lightness and colour balance. The tools are extremely well implemented, with large clear palette windows. There are also several automatic options for quick correction of levels, contrast and sharpness which are extremely helpful. For professionals working as part of a company or creative group, FotoStation Pro can be implemented as a network service, allowing anyone on the network to access the image archive using the same search tools. FotoStation Pro 5.0 is only available for Windows PCs at the moment; a Mac version will be launched later in 2005. In summary, there are other programs on the market that are this good, but not very many. If you have a large collection of photos that is getting out of hand, it may be just what you need.

PROS: Well written, reasonably easy to use, powerful, very useful features
CONS: No Mac version yet

Features 19
Ease of use 17
Performance 18
Design 19
Value 18