Managing images with jAlbum

To keep this simple we will refer just to image files, but jAlbum can also handle video, PDF and other files. The following steps apply to all file types supported by jAlbum. You can see all supported file types by using an external tool, Show supported files and, for videos Preferences/Advances/Supported video formats

Did you know that jAlbum can be your image file manager as well as a presentation tool for images? jAlbum has an improved way of handling files that is both more intuitive and powerful. Here is how jAlbum interacts with the images and folders on your hard disk.

"The cake model"

The process of making an album is like baking a cake. jAlbum is your oven. The images are your ingredients. The album project and its control files is your recipe and the final album is your cake. An album can be remade at any time given that you have access to the images and the album project's control files (ingredients and recipe).

jAlbumModel.jpg

Keep this model in the back of your head when working with jAlbum and you will be better off.

The "Image directory" and "Output directory"

Moving on to jAlbum. There are two notions you benefit from understanding, the "Image directory" and "Output directory". The "Image directory" is where on your hard disk jAlbum looks for your images (the "ingredients"). It can contain real image files, folders or links. A link is a pointer to a file or folder somewhere else on your hard disk (like shortcuts on Windows and aliases on Mac). The "Output directory" is where jAlbum creates the web album files on your hard disk when you make the album (the "cake"). When you upload an album to a web server jAlbum simply copies the contents of the "Output directory" to the server.

Opening the album settings window will display the location for the "Image directory" and "Output directory" for your current album project.

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In this example the album is written to a folder called "album" under the "Image directory". This is the standard setting and recommended for most users.

Control files

To make an album jAlbum also needs to know how to present it. The settings you've chosen, like skin and style, are stored in a project file called "jalbum-settings.jap". It is usually stored in the "Image directory" too. Image- and folder specific settings like captions, titles and image ordering are however not stored within the project file, but in separate control files for the image directory and its subdirectories. These files are "meta.properties", "comments.properties", "albumfiles.txt" and the ".jalbum" folders. Together they make up the "recipe" for the album. If you decide on renaming or moving images between folders, Use jAlbum! The control files will then also be updated so you don't lose your captions.

Ways of adding files

jAlbum can relate to your images in three ways depending on your preference. Note that the default behavior has changed with jAlbum 9. You can change the default under jAlbum Preferences->Album:

Copies

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By default, files and folders added to jAlbum will be copied to an album project folder under the "My Albums" folder (usually located under the "My Documents" folder). jAlbum will also set its "Image directory" to this folder. Copying has the advantage that you don't need to keep these images available to jAlbum for future album updates. jAlbum already has local copies of the images you added, so adding images straight from a removable media, like your camera's memory card is no problem. The downside is disk space usage. This is the way that most image management software works.


Links

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jAlbum can also be instructed to only keep references - "links" to the files and folders you add. To get this behavior, hold down CTRL+SHIFT when dropping onto jAlbum (CMD+ALT on Mac) or set the default file add behavior to "Link" under Preferences->Album. An advantage with links is disk space usage, but you can also edit an image you have added this way in for instance Photoshop and have the edits show in the final album when you make the album again. The downside with links is that you cannot move, remove or rename the original file outside of jAlbum without breaking the link. jAlbum will indicate broken links with a special "X" icon on the relevant album object. Double click it and point jAlbum to the new target location in order to repair it.

You can tell that an album object is a link by the small arrow in the bottom left corner. Hover the mouse over the album object to see where the link points.

Use folder

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  • What if you already have an image folder structure on your hard disk that you are happy with and you wish to make a web album out of it?
  • What if you like to manage your existing image folder structure within jAlbum?
  • What if you always wish to keep a web album "in sync" with the existing images and folders you keep on your hard disk?

This is where jAlbum's third way of working comes to play.

Instead of copying or linking files and folders to jAlbum, you can have jAlbum work with the folder you drop onto it. If you now move images and folders around within jAlbum, so does the physical files in that folder too. If you delete blurry or bad images within jAlbum, the real originals are deleted from the hard disk too (put in the recycle bin). If you add, move or delete images outside of jAlbum, these changes are picked up by jAlbum (may require you to press F5 or F5+Alt/Opt/SHIFT though). You never get any broken links.

If you like this way of working, begin an album project by CTRL-dropping an image folder onto jAlbum (ALT-dropping on Mac).

jAlbum will immediately show the contents of the dropped folder in its window and also set its "Image directory" to the dropped folder. jAlbum won't ask for a project name as it simply uses the name of the dropped folder (for instance your "My Pictures" folder). Note: With this way of working, jAlbum will write its control files (see above) to the folder you drop. If you don't like this, use "Copies" or "Links" instead.

Finally

At any time, jAlbum's title bar will tell you how it is working. If it reads [My Albums\Portfolio], your "Portfolio" project is located under the "My Albums" folder and you're working with copies or links. If it reads [My Pictures\Portfolio], your "Portfolio" project is located under the "My Pictures" folder and you're working directly on your original files. Opening album settings will show you the full path to the "Image directory".

I hope reading this has helped you understand how jAlbum manages files. With this knowledge you can have jAlbum working the way you like instead of fighting you.