This year at CES, Microsoft CEO Bill Gates was calling this
the digital decade. And it's not difficult to see why. If you go shopping for a
movie, the chances are that your local store will have a much wider selection
of DVDs than video tapes. Cassette tapes have essentially been replaced by CDs
and even these are coming under threat from the ever increasing music download
and MP3 player market.
So with all this digital content entering your home, it can
sometimes be difficult to keep track of everything. Especially if you loan your
discs out to friends. Rental services such as Blockbuster obviously use a
computer system to keep track of the DVDs that they have in stock and out on
loan, and some home users have even setup their own databases to achieve a
similar result. But this can be complicated to setup and maintain, and also a
very time consuming process. MediaMan is a digital content archive/organiser
that hopes to make management of your DVDs, CDs, games and books as easy as
possible, therefore more attractive to the casual consumer.
The tagline for MediaMan is "Organise with fun!" and in this
review we are going to look at whether the software is actually fun and easy
enough to use. We'll also be looking to see if it's enough to interest people
that normally wouldn't consider making such a database.
Click the comments link to read our review
View: MediaMan Website
Ease Of Use
The user interface (UI) of MediaMan is very intuitive, it
isn't overloaded with functions that you'll likely never use and is very
responsive. One of the nicest features of the program is the Virtual Shelf.
This is a graphic representation of all your music, games and films in a shelf
like layout (see screenshot). The colour of the shelf can be altered to suit
your preference and the type of media casing can be selected (for example, Xbox
games will be rectangular and green while CD cases will be square and black).
When adding an item into MediaMan, you have several options
at your disposal. One of the easiest is to simply type in the name into the
input dialog and the program will search the Amazon website of your choice and
display a list of results. You can then pick from these which is the one you
Alternatively, you can type in the EAN barcode number. This
will ensure that you get an exact match. Unfortunately, this doesn't work 100%
of the time with international versions of Amazon.
UPC code and should have more luck.
Finally, one of the nicest features is the webcam barcode
scanner. This makes adding items as simple as waving it in front of the webcam.
As this method uses the EAN and UPC codes,
more luck. The quality of your webcam should be reasonably high for MediaMan to
distinguish between the black bars. Most webcams these days should cope with
this. For review purposes, we tested it with a Panasonic DV camera, which
managed to determine every barcode we threw at it.
We would love to see better support for international
versions of Amazon, but according to the author, the limitation is due to the
international sites having a slightly different database.
Once the items are in your collection file, you can browse
through your professional looking virtual shelf and read Amazon reviews with
user comments for each item. You can also add your own rating to individual
items to make finding your favourite movies, games and music simple. You can also view graphs and statistics on your collection, such as the studio, director and actors. The virtual shelf can also be rendered as a PNG, an example of which you can see here.
Overall Thoughts and Conclusions
MediaMan is an excellent product and does exactly what it
sets out to do. It certainly makes cataloguing much easier than previous
applications did. Although easy, the process is still going to be time
consuming, especially if you have a large collection. The improvements that
MediaMan has over rival applications, such as the virtual shelf, will help push
cataloguing slightly more towards the mainstream market. With digital content
everywhere coming together onto home theatre PCs, mobile phones, games console
etc, the need for a database such as the one MediaMan provides will become far
greater. But for now, MediaMan will appeal to those already interested in
keeping track of their content and may help warm a few users to the idea, but
it certainly isn't going to get everyone creating databases overnight.
- Easy input of data
- Functional and intuitive user interface (UI)
- Virtual shelf and item status help keep track for those that
- Lack of full support for international versions of Amazon
- Fairly expensive at $39.95