It can take a while to find a post-production workflow that suits your editing style and needs. You want something that provides the correction and retouching tools that you like along with selection and library management tools. These days you also might want geotagging, any number of different kinds of export features and the ability to integrate smoothly with other applications. But with the high volume that digital shooting allows, one of the most critical workflow features might be speed. And for that reason, OnOne Software’s Perfect Browse may be a must-have complement to your current workflow.
For years my workflow was serviced entirely by Adobe Bridge, Photoshop, Camera Raw and iView MediaPro (which eventually became Microsoft Expression and then something else which I’ve since forgotten the name of). With the release of Lightroom, Adobe moved Bridge to the back burner and ultimately announced that it was in maintenance mode, meaning no new features. Because it was slow to search, increasingly crash-prone and an ultimate dead-end I finally switched to Lightroom at version 4. My workflow now moves between Lightroom and Photoshop/Camera Raw. However, there are times when I still turn to Bridge.
I like Lightroom a lot but there are times when I don’t want to have to engage with the full Lightroom workflow. Sometimes I simply need to get an image off of a card and process it quickly to make a fast print or to email to someone. At other times I want to take a pass through a card before I import it into Lightroom because I know there are a lot of images that are duds. Or maybe I want to look at someone else’s images, and so don’t want to import those into my normal library. Simply put, there are a lot of times when a photo browser is the best tool for the job.
There’s much to like about Bridge and it’s so familiar that I can work very quickly in it. However, I find that it’s often unstable, especially when working directly off of a media card. That’s where Perfect Browser comes in.
What It Is
Simply thinking of Perfect Browser as a Bridge replacement will give you a good idea of how it might fit into your workflow. If you’re not a Bridge user or have never used any kind of browser software then you may not realize how handy it can be to have an application that lets you quickly see thumbnails of all the images in a folder.
A tap of the spacebar gives you a nice big preview, while a metadata readout makes it easy to see an image’s EXIF data. Navigation tools allow you to easily move about your system’s directory structure, and it’s a simple click to create virtual albums to group images together.
Perfect Browse lets you assign star ratings, color labels and accept or reject flags and all of these are Adobe XMP compatible meaning they can be read by Lightroom and Photoshop. A simple filter panel lets you easily filter images based on any of these rating and flagging tools.
The IPTC Metadata panel offers all of the standard IPTC fields, with the Author, Description, and Keywords fields pulled out to the top of the panel for easy access. It’s a no-frills metadata interface – there are no metadata buttons or lists of frequently-used keywords, but it’s all you need for the type of metadata work you want on a first pass through your images. Adding your ownership information and a simple set of keywords is quick and easy.
That’s pretty much it, feature-wise, however feature set is not why I have chosen to add Perfect Browse to my workflow toolkit.
The latest versions of Bridge can be speedy when building thumbnails off of a media card but PerfectBrowse is even faster and *dramatically* faster than Lightroom. I handed an SD card full of images to Perfect Browse and it displayed a screenful of the first sixty thumbnails in less than a second. By comparison, the Import panel in Lightroom took 29 seconds to display the same collection of thumbnails.
Perfect Browse achieves its speed by quickly grabbing the JPEG preview from the image file – the same preview that’s displayed by your camera when you review the image on your camera. This preview may not look exactly the same as the converted file that your raw converter will create. Bridge does the same thing, but afterwards goes back and updates the thumbnails with raw processed versions. Perfect Browse doesn’t do this but I didn’t miss that functionality. For sorting, deleting, rating and adding keywords the JPEG previews are fine.
Bear in mind that I’m talking about reading images off of an SD card. Reading off of a hard drive or SSD is, of course, much faster. With Perfect Browse’s speed you can very quickly browse your entire file system, viewing rapidly-displayed thumbnails.
Perfect Browse is not a Lightroom replacement, which means you might need to give some thought to how to shoehorn it into your existing workflow. Fortunately it includes two commands that make this easy.
“Send To Adobe Photoshop” opens the selected images in Photoshop. If the images are raw files then they open in Camera Raw within Photoshop. “Send to Adobe Photoshop Lightroom” launches the selected images into the Lightroom Import dialog box, making it simple to pull them directly into your catalog. This feature is where Perfect Browse scores over Bridge. While Bridge offers very good speed and a wide range of features, there’s no way to send images from Bridge directly into Lightroom.
With Send to Lightroom you can quickly take a first pass through a batch of images in Perfect Browse, add some ratings and keywords, and get those into Lightroom without having to wait for Lightroom’s slow import dialog box to process a bunch of images that you might not even want.
Despite its name, Perfect Browse is not quite perfect. Unlike Bridge it can’t launch images into Photoshop’s panoramic stitching, HDR merging, or Image Processor features; it can’t host Camera Raw on its own and it doesn’t let you move and copy files. It also only lets you view one folder at a time – you can’t see the contents of subfolders within a directory.
However, unlike Bridge, OnOne is actively developing the application so there’s no reason not to expect these and other improvements. In the meantime, Perfect Browse is a valuable tool that can speed your workflow.
You can download a fully functional demo version here.