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DVD Profiler review

August 6, 2008

As I’ve mentioned before, I have a relatively large DVD collection.  Over 400 movies and over 100 seasons of TV shows.  This leads to a bit of a logistical problem whenever I’m at the store shopping for more DVDs.  Sometimes I forget what I have and I end up buying the same DVD twice.

So I started looking for a DVD cataloging application.  Something that would allow me to store information about my collection.  Now, I wanted to be able to access my DVD catalog from several different places.  When I’m at work, it’d be nice to have web access to my collection so I don’t accidentally order a movie that I already own from some online retailer.  I also wanted to be able to carry my collection around with me on my Windows Mobile phone, so whatever app I got needed to have some way of syncing with my phone.

At first, I found Collectorz.com Movie Collector.  It sounded perfect.  Large, robust application that allowed me to catalog my entire collection.  Bar code scanner support so I didn’t need to manually enter every item.  Export to HTML for web sites.  And it supported Windows Mobile phones, in a way (I’ll get to that later).

At the time, I had a MacBook laptop and a Windows XP desktop computer.  Movie Collector offers both a Mac and  PC version of their software.  So I bought a license for each version, thinking I could just store the movie database on a shared drive and access it with either application.  That’s when I hit my first road block.  The Mac version uses a different format for it’s database than the PC version and the two are not compatible.  The only way to sync the two databases was to add the movie to the PC version, export the whole collection to an XML file, and then import the XML file to the Mac version.  Oh, and it only worked one way.  You couldn’t add the movie to the Mac version and export to the PC version.  Those limitations were completely ridiculous to me.

Second of all, the “syncing” with the mobile phone was equally frustrating.  There is no native Windows Mobile application version of Movie Collector.  Collectorz.com simply made a template that would work with a third-party Windows Mobile app called List Pro.  So you had to buy List Pro and install it on your phone, then download this template file and import it to the phone.  Then you would have to manually export your movie collection from Movie Collector to a format that could be imported to List Pro.  None of this was automatic.

So, after spending the $80-$90 for the two versions of Movie Collector that weren’t compatible with each other, I started looking elsewhere.

What I came across was a multitude of applications that would only do a portion of what I wanted.  None of them offered a native Windows Mobile app.  Some were Mac only (Delicious Library).  Some wouldn’t export to HTML.  Some had horrible interfaces (actually, almost all of them have shitty interfaces).

I downloaded several Windows apps and a few Windows Mobile apps to test out.  All of the Windows Mobile apps were nothing more than scaled-down database forms, and they were all designed by color-blind idiots.  Finally, I found Invelos’ DVD Profiler.  While not perfect, by any means, it’s the closest I’ve ever come.

DVD Profiler is a Windows application.  It supports bar code scanning, export to the DVD Profiler native Windows Mobile app, and web upload.

First off, the Windows application:  it’s okay.  The default interface is cluttered and clumsy, but after a bit of tweaking, the interface can be cleaned up fairly well.  Also, the application supports different layouts so that you can really customize the look and feel of the app.

Entering DVD info is easy.  As I said, it supports bar code scanning, which is a big help if you still have all of your DVD clamshells laying around.  If you don’t have the clamshells, you can manually enter the DVD title or put the DVD in your computer DVD drive and have the application scan the disc and find the DVD information from that.

Once you have your DVDs in the application, you can browse them by title or by DVD cover graphics.  Clicking on a title brings up a larger DVD cover image as well as all the data associated with that disc.  You can loan DVDs out to friends and keep track of them.  If you have movies saved to your hard drive, you can launch the video file directly from Profiler with the use of a plugin.

Invelos offers free web space on their servers to store your collection data.  The web space is part of the overall purchase price of the application.  Uploading and downloading your collection data is extremely easy and is well integrated into the application.  Once you get all your DVDs in the application, you upload the data to your web site.  If you ever have to reinstall the app, you can sync the application again with your web site data and the application will download your collection again.  I wish the application could export to regular HTML pages in case you wanted to host your data elsewhere, but this is a good compromise.

As I said, Invelos also has a native Windows Mobile app that syncs with the Windows application.  This is good for carrying my data with me to the store.  Unfortunately, the Windows Mobile version has two big strikes against it.  First of all, it’s definitely not very touch friendly.  Using the application will require the use of the stylus.  It would be nice to have some larger finger-friendly icons to navigate around with.  Second of all, the application costs money.  Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if the Windows Mobile application was a full-featured DVD cataloging application.  The problem is that the WinMo app can’t work independently of the full Windows version, meaning you can’t enter new DVD data on the phone version.  You can only view DVD data on the phone.  So you have to buy two applications, but you only get one that you can actually enter data on.  Considering the WinMo version is so crippled, it’s pretty tough to justify charging money for what is, in essence, an add-on to the full Windows version.

However, even with the limitations and shortcomings, this is the best app I’ve found for cataloging my DVD collection and having access to it from pretty much any Internet-connected device with a web browser as well as from my cell phone.  I just hope they fix up the WinMo app to be a more full-featured and finger-friendly app.

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