My notes on Blurb and their Booksmart software

More of my notes on Blurb, this time the spotlight’s on BookSmart, their mostly excellent book layout software…
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  • I don’t like how Booksmart creates a working copy of all of my photographs (it puts them in C:\Documents and Settings\[USERNAME]\My Documents\BookSmartData with every album and photograph having its own GUID… kind of hacky if you ask me). Booksmart doesn’t have it own tools for correcting the contrast/brightness/etc on photographs so once you layout your photographs, it’s a real pain to go back and make these corrections. Because Booksmart makes its own copy, making corrections involves using some third party software (in my case Picasa), adding the corrected photograph to the album and doing layout for that photograph again. Another problem with this “working copy” approach is that the “get pictures” operation in BookSmart, when I’m working with my camera’s original source images (3-4MB each) takes way too long because BookSmart is making it’s own copies of everything. To make BookSmart’s “get pictures” operation reasonable, I had to export downsampled versions of my images (getting them to around 1mb per image) and use those instead. I would much rather have used the original images since I’m trying to maximize the quality. I guess there’s a certain security that BookSmart and its developers get by making its own working copy, but I’d much prefer BookSmart not make copies of my images until it absolutely has to (ie not until it comes time to upload my book).
  • BookSmart should have its photo editing tools or it should be tightly integrated with software that has its own photo editing tools. Basically, I want this in BookSmart:
    Some of Google Picasa's photo correction tools
    Some of Google Picasa’s photo correction tools
  • Please don’t make AutoFlow the default option! It’s a neat idea, but the first time I used it the results were terrible (lots of cropped faces, feet, etc.) and I don’t think I’d touch it again unless I knew it had been significantly re-worked. As it stands, everytime I create a new album, I’m reminded of one of the few disappointing experiences I had with BookSmart
  • I’d like it if the panes at the left side that show layout template options and the working set of pictures could be expanded and contracted to any size of my choosing. When you are laying out a big book, small things like being able to view three or even four photographs per row can make a big difference. Maybe this is possible on a bigger screen — I’ve thus far only used the software on my 1024×768 laptop screen, but there’s no reason this shouldn’t be possible on a smaller screen
  • A slider to enlarge or shrink the size of thumbnails would be really nice a la Apple iPhoto (and now Picasa and Windows Vista). I occasionally use the ability to click on a thumbnail and see a larger version of the photograph, and that worked OK, but the slider bar that other programs have is a lot more natural.
  • Make it so that I can right click on a page of my album and choose a different layout from the right click menu instead of having to scroll up and down through the window of templates and choose one there. Again, putting together a big book, it was tedious to have to switch contexts to the left hand side of the screen everytime I wanted to change the layout of the page I was working on.
  • Preview modes and edit modes are pretty nearly identical, but preview mode serves an important purpose. It lets me clear other controls away and just flip the pages of my album. But whenever I used Preview mode, I found myself wanting to double click on a page and start editing it. Seems like this should be possible and I can’t speak for other people, but I repeatedly wanted to be able to do this.
  • A note for both preview mode and edit mode: it’s nice that I can scroll in and out at will using the slider, but I’d also like an option that maximizes the current page or pages to the size of the pane that has the actual album pages in it. It was annoying to always be fiddling with that slider when what I often wanted to do was just maximize the current page view.
  • I wish I could set enlargement sizes for a photograph using percentages in addition to being able to use the slider bar (which suffices in most cases). There are some cases where I want two photographs to be scaled up or down by the exact same amount and doing this with the slider bar is tedious and, ultimately, not possible.

Those are all of the thoughts that I can remember from the time that I spent with BookSmart this weekend. Of course, all the time I spent with Blurb this weekend may have been a waste since I received an e-mail from Blurb’s CEO over the weekend (which in itself was impressive…) letting me know that they’ll soon be rolling out the option of 11×13 books… which means I’m going to be waiting until the new format is available before doing anymore of my book work. đŸ™‚

Some covers of books that I’m working on:

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(this is the one that I threw together in 30 minutes to test the service out)

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