educational

Gallery Creation With PX Gallery Wizard

Ayrora

A couple of weeks ago, Howell Development’s PX Gallery Wizard was the XBiz’ Download Of The Week, and since I wanted to make some new galleries for my latest site, I thought I would give this innovative new software a try. Here’s what I found:

A Little Background Info
Previously, I had used programs like Adobe Photoshop and “Thumbs+” to quickly batch-process thumbnail images and build gallery pages, as well as to prepare gallery images for use with a php script that Stephen had given me. That script was simple enough to use: it was an ‘index.php’ page, and all I did was drop it into a folder containing my images, and presto! Instant gallery pages.

While these solutions were easy enough and produced reasonable results, I wanted to have a new look for my members area; and after seeing some really slick content management systems used on another Website, there was no stopping me – I needed an upgrade! These awesome content systems were great for managing countless images and video files, but they were relatively costly, fairly server intensive (the requirements include mySQL and other components) , and lacked an ‘attractive’ user interface. Also, due to their design, they were not as customizable as I would like. After all, who wants galleries that look like everyone else’s?

While coding by hand is not new to me, it was not what I wanted to do; even if I had always reworked most of the HTML output by programs like Thumbs+ to suit my style, I didn’t feel the need to continue with this time consuming process. I needed an automated system that could take images from a folder, process them as I required (including resizing, watermarking, and thumbnail generation), and then build gallery pages from these images – quickly and easily.

A New Solution
I found all these needs (and more) to be satisfied by PX Gallery Wizard (PXGW). While I don’t tend to get too excited over software (that’s Stephen’s department!), I found this program to be really fun and easy to use – and it is also, well, “pretty” – in both its layout, and use. Animated effects and eye-catching graphics will lead you step-by-step through the gallery creation process, and while these effects might get to be a little too much for some users (especially users with older, less powerful computers), they are easily turned off.

The software impressed me right from the start; offering painless installation and an automatic service that alerts you to updates – and seamlessly installs them at your request. It seemed to me that almost every time I started PXGW there was another update available; from patches and bug fixes to enhanced feature sets, the program automatically takes care of keeping itself current – and the user informed about changes being made to it. I found the frequency of these updates to be a sign that the developers are serious about their product and committed to its ongoing support and improvement. This isn’t always the case, as lots of new software ends up being a developmental ‘dead end’ that leaves users without the help and upgrades they often need.

An Ambitious Project
PX Gallery Wizard is not a “simple” gallery maker, but rather a comprehensive end-to-end imaging system that will download pictures straight from a digital camera, allow you to manipulate them with ease, build galleries, and even upload them to your Website with its built in FTP client.

There are lots of cool and useful features that many users will appreciate – while others will doubtless ignore. For instance, while you can download camera images directly using this program (it is very careful about preserving ‘work’ copies), I like simply plugging my cameras into my computer and letting WinXP take care of dropping the pics into my hard drive. I then use Windows Explorer in ‘thumbnail view’ mode to pick and choose the images I want before worrying about processing them and gallery creation. I also really like my FTP client, and won’t use the included one. Still, other users, especially newbies and consumers without an FTP client will find this ‘one stop’ solution to be just the ticket.

I had a chance to spend a rainy weekend playing with PX Gallery Wizard, tweaking the settings and generally abusing it. The program proved stable, and extremely ‘fun’ to use. A wide variety of preset styles (called ‘themes’) make creating an attractive gallery quite simple, while power users will be able to easily modify any part of the finished gallery’s appearance through an easily accessible ‘advanced settings’ section, which even allows users to totally rewrite the underlying gallery template HTML – or to make use of php or shtml ‘includes’ as a way of integrating the program’s output with your site’s existing design. Additional theme sets are available from the developer, through their community-based Website, and one of these was downloaded and modified as the basis of my own custom theme.

I could go on and on about this product’s many great features, but based upon PX Gallery Wizard’s flexibility, high-quality output, user friendly design, and continuous development cycle, I can recommend it to anyone seeking an easy to use gallery production tool. Download a copy and try it today! ~ Ayrora

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