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      23.11.2006 09:33
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      try it!

      I’m addicted to books – I already own more than 500 and my wish list still is long. Everybody who has the same weakness knows, that after a while, you’re quite likely to lose count of how many books you have, and even more important, of what books you have! Not only once I was close to buying a book that’s already waiting in my bookshelf to be read. As that happened again and again I decided that I had to do something about it – and that’s how I came across “MediaMan”.

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      What is MediaMan?
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      MediaMan is a software product that helps you organizing your own media. With this program you can create a media catalogue with groups for different types of media (books, CD’s, DVDs, software…) and add every single item you own. Sounds like a lot of work? Seriously, it isn’t. The programmers added a nice feature: You can import items from amazon (Great Britain, United States, Germany, Japan, Canada and France). The only thing you have to do is to put in is the ISBN, the barcode number or the title – the rest is automatically done by the software for you.

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      Where do I get MediaMan and what are the costs?
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      You can download MediaMan on the internet; the company’s website is http://www.imediaman.com/. The software is an evaluation free trial that can be used for 30 days; after that a full license can be purchased from the website for USD $39.95.
      Quite a bit of money – but there are good news. If you don’t insist on using the latest version (which is v 2.6.5) you can get MediaMan for free in the version 2.2.1. The developers don’t mention that on their website, but all over the internet you find websites where you can download it from – completely legally of course. One of them is http://www.freeware-guide.com - or just google and you’ll find many more. Some of you might be bewildered about that now, but there’s an easy explanation: In the early days MediaMan was Freeware; it only went commercial with the version 2.3.

      As I can’t see the point of spending so much money on a product I can get for free, I will refer to the freeware version in my review. A change log is available on the company’s website though, for those who are considering to buy the software.

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      Installation
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      The software can be run under Windows 98/ME/2000/XP and is very easy to install. Once you’ve downloaded the installation file (which is quickly done; the file only has a size of 5.12MB) you can start the installation with a double click. After having accepted the licence agreement you just need to choose the path and that’s it – the installation starts.

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      Using the software
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      Now you know what the software is all about, but is it really easy to handle or do you need a university degree before being able to use it? No, you certainly don’t.

      Once you’ve started MediaMan, you see the start screen. It’s separated into three parts and very clear and easy to understand. On the left there’s a list called “your collection”, providing separate folders for different media types – AudioCD, Books, DVD, Games, Software and VHS Tape.
      On the right you see task shotcuts, which come quite handy; you don’t need to look through the menu for hours to find something, but you can start immediately.

      Start – that’s my cue, let’s see what we can do with the software.
      If you want to have a catalogue with the given categories you don’t need to change anything, otherwise you can customize it. Simply delete the categories you don’t need (with one single click) and add new ones (with exactly two further clicks). I only want to catalogue books, so I created two categories – books and reference books.

      Now the most important question – how do I get the items into the catalogue? Well, there are basically two ways, one is short and the other one takes more time. We’ll have a look at the short and easy one first: Add the items with the Media Item Wizzard. One click onto the icon in the menu bar and the wizard opens. It tells you what is it for and with a click onto “ok” the procedure starts. The next window consists of four fields. The first one is an input field; here you simply add the ISBN, a barcode number or the title. The last three are lists where you choose the media type, the site (Amazon Great Britain, United States, Germany…) and the category you want to add the medium to.

      Below these fields there’s a button saying “Scan Barcode from Webcam…”. Behind this another feature of the software is hidden: if you have a webcam installed and plugged in you can try to scan the bar code, the software then recognizes the medium automatically. So far the theory, but does it really work? Well, I’ve tried it twice or so and it has never worked at all, so I’ve given up.

      With the next click of OK the software searches for matching items on the selected amazon website. These are then shown to you in a list; if you hold the mouse over one entry you see the details of the item. If everything is correct click again – and… that’s it, the item is now in your catalogue.

      Now the window you see consists of four parts, with one newly added one in the middle: The list of the items you’ve added to the selected category. On the right you see the cover of the book (providing you have added a book of course) and the details from amazon – e.g. media (paperback, hardback), the publisher, the publication date, the date the book has been added to your catalogue, the authors, the ISBN, the amazon description and customer reviews. Really everything you need to know. The same applies for all other media – if you’ve added a CD you see the studios, the label, the artist, the track list etc., if you’ve added a DVD the date it came into the cinemas, the actors, the directors, the audience rating, the aspect ratio etc.

      As the main work is done now we can have a look at the other features of the software. With the edit function you can edit every item you’ve added. You can add missing information (e.g. the amount of pages, the original title, the translators, the photo…) – or add new information that might be important to you. Among them are

      - the status (lent, borrowed, rented out, rented, just bought, sold out, on the way, favourite)
      - the description (you can add free text and even format it with HTML)
      - notes (more information in addition to the status, e.g. to whom the item is lent to, the time you should get it back, free notes)
      - the price

      Furthermore you can specify seven custom fields which allow you to really add everything you would like to. I find that extremely useful as I like to make a note on where the book is (in the attic, in my bookshelf, in Germany or England…) or what date I read it.

      If you add the items by dialogue you have to add everything manually by the way; I would only recommend doing that if you’ve got old or rare books that are not found on any amazon website.

      Another nice feature is the possibility of choosing between four different views. This affects the list of items – and I like it as it can make your catalogue easier to use. You can have your books listed as

      - icons
      - compact list (only the title of the medium is shown)
      - expanded list (apart from the title you also see the authors and the publisher)
      - and finally, the virtual shelf. This is a great view if you only remember the cover of a medium as it shows you all the covers, always four in a row.

      This list also can be sorted by the way; by authors, titles, publishers, by date added or status - or even by translators. Of course there is also a search function integrated which allows you to find an item even quicker.

      Now, once you’ve spent quite a bit of time with filling your personal catalogue you – of course – want to save it. This is done by a click of the disk in the menu bar; you just have to choose a name for your file. The next time you start MediaMan it is automatically loaded. The file is not too big either, I have got about 530 items in my catalogue and the file has a size of approx. 7 MB.
      You also have the possibility of exporting you collection to RTF or CSV (Microsoft Excel) files, which is great if you want to make a back-up or import the data into another program.

      Oh, I nearly forgot - If you want to shock yourself and see how many books, CDs, DVDs… you own, you can have a look at the statistics which show you the exact number of items in each category. You can export the data to a CSV file as well.

      Of course you can customize the software as well; there are several options you can set. You can automatically save the collection every x minutes, you can use automatic backup, resize images, change the interface mode (full frame/wide frame), select fields to display in the expanded view mode, choose the default Amazon store to retrieve information, change category items etc.

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      Conclusion
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      I am completely satisfied with this software product. It is easy to use and adding the single items goes as quick as somehow possible. The idea to make use of the amazon databases is brilliant and the fact, that the program in this is available for free makes it even better – I can’t think of anything that would be missing in this version and that you would really, really need. It’s a stable version without any bugs as well - or let’s just say without any bugs I would have noticed. I can only recommend it to everybody who has lost count of their books, CDs or DVDs – I certainly now always have a look into my catalogue first before I order a book and so that I’ll never be close to buying the same book twice anymore.

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