Delicious Library

You know how it is with software. Sometimes you download a trial of something that sounds really cool, interesting, or at least useful, and you have a quick look, but somehow it doesn’t really come together for you. Maybe you have another look later, and after a while you get the point, and maybe you decide it actually is worth buying and if you get round to it, you pay up and keep it. Or you just forget about it, and it joins other unused trials lingering in your Applications folder, or in your Trash[1] if you’re a bit more ruthless, or at least organised.

But then there are the applications which you download, start using and find yourself waving a credit card and shouting “GIMME!!! GIMME!!!”. Delicious Library turns out to be just one of those applications, for me, anyway. I have a lot of books, a lot of CDs and a moderately large pile of DVDs too. In a vague, good intentioned way, I’ve always meant to catalogue them, partly so I can keep track of what I have, and also for insurance purposes. But as the collection of stuff grew the task ahead of me became bigger and bigger, and really reached the point where no amount of tuits would make me get on with it. Now there are lots of well-written, sensibly planned packages on both Windows and Mac that are designed for keeping track of such collections, but they all fail for me on the quite important detail that I’d have to do an awful lot of typing. While lots of them will look details up on line, some of these only know about US sites, and they’d rely on me having to enter enough details to find the damn things in the catalogue. And let’s face it, that is just not going to happen.

Delicious Library

Delicious Library

Enter Delicious Library. Let’s see now. It can look up product details from Amazon in the US, the UK, Canada, Japan, France and Germany, which should cover my requirements, and those of many other people. Great, so all you’ve got to do is get the title in and it’ll enter the rest? Err, no. It can do a lot better than that.

It uses your Mac’s iSight, or other webcam[2] to read the product barcode. I’ll say that again, because it’s one of the most insanely sensible, useful and quite brilliant things I’ve seen any piece of software do in a long time:

It uses your webcam to read the product barcode

Scanning

Scanning

It then looks up the product on Amazon, and populates the database with the details. Scanning is pretty easy – you see a preview window with red scan lines running across it. Show the book or CD or DVD case to the camera, and with maybe just a little jiggling (but not juggling) it’ll read the code and find the product. Nice. Apparently they use some Very Clever Stuff to improve the accuracy of reading the codes. I did have one misread this morning, but that might have been because I was waving the camera around rather than leaving it in place and presenting the book to it – it certainly had no trouble reading the code correctly when I used it properly!

Another nice feature is a helpful “related products” list which appears when you select something you’ve added to your library. These have affiliate links to Amazon (and they donate the proceeds to charity, which is very good of them), so you can buy things that are missing from your collection. But if you already have the item in question, you can just drag it into the library without even having to run the actual product past your webcam. Now that’s very nice indeed, and saved me some time with my Doctor Who DVDs.

It’s got a Spotlight-style search – just start typing a title and the display will just show items matching what you’ve entered so far. This sort of thing works nicely for me, and I’m starting to expect applications to work that way. It automagically groups things as books, movies and music, but you can add your own “shelves” for particular groups of items. They’ll still be in the main list, but it makes it easy to track down particular items. It can synchronise your library to your iPod (I haven’t tried that, but I can see it could be useful if you’re out shopping and you can’t remember if you’ve already got a DVD on one of your piles of stuff to watch sometime…), and do other stuff that I haven’t begun to get into yet, but what it does do was more than enough to persuade me to buy it.

You can download a free trial, which has a few features disabled, and is limited to importing 25 items into the library – just enough to give you a feel for what it can do, I suppose. Personally, I’m more used to fully functional time-limited demos, but in this case it wasn’t really an issue. The functions I could use were just what I wanted, so after a very short time, I paid up. Registration is done from within the application, and is immediately effective.

The cost is $40 US, which at the current exchange rate is not a lot, really. And as they seem to be nice people, as a bonus if you buy now, you’ll get a free upgrade to the forthcoming version 2, which will apparently have some major new features. AppleInsider have a good preview of the new version, which will do clever stuff like automagically add your iTunes music to the library. It also adds nice output features to put your collection on a webpage (excellent for an off-site record, which is just the kind of thing for insurance records…)

I’m suitably impressed with this package, and I’d recommend any Mac-using readers with stuff to catalogue to have a play with it.

[1] Hey, I seem to have Macified my vocabulary. I’ll have to watch that, it could cause confusion at work!
[2] My Microsoft Live Vision Camera works just fine for this