Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

MovieCollector templates

I have a knack for collecting. Whether it is music, videos of particular type (like Steve Jobs keynotes), paper gadget ads…or DVDs. I used to have huge DivX movie collection, but essentially give/threw it away due to really bad image quality. This coincided with start of my DVD collection, which has now grown to over 200 movies. And which naturally leads to cataloging software, which is this post’s topic.

There are many of these. Delicious Library gets a lot of praise and good word of mouth, mostly due to its iSight barcode scanning and lovely interface. Equivalent software in the Windows world is MediaMan, although it’s far from finished, if I may say. Although they are nice, they seriously lack one crucial thing once you go past the interface: sources.

They both work with just Amazon, and pardon me - but Amazon just does not cut it. It does not have too many data about the movies, often lacks non-US movies and/or non-US DVD editions. Those apps can be beautiful as Eye Nebula - they don’t have the substance.

Movie Collector imaginary boxCollectorz.com’s MovieCollector does. A lot of it.

It has truck-load of features, of which multiple data sources are the most important one:

  • Collectorz.com Movie Database

  • IMD``` objective-c

  • Amazon US

  • Amazon UK

  • Amazon CA

  • Amazon DE

  • Amazon FR

  • Amazon JP

Adding movies is dead-easy: you run the wizard, type-in any number of movie names (even part of it), check the sources you want to search and click the button. It will look for all possible data about the movie through all the sources and present you with the result list of candidates. You then need to pick the correct items and MovieCollector will merge all found data.

Really easy to use, works really well.

There is one problem though: interface is…well, ugly. The toolbar icons are so horrible that I turn all toolbars off (I use menu items). It has list item view for browsing the collection and (from recently) thumbnail view. List view has ugly checkmark icon which I can’t remove, otherwise it’s just plain old list control.

Thumbnail view

The thumbnail view is…brrr! Each thumbnail has this deep-shadowy look, so web'95-like. There is some sort of gradient as well. The thumbnails are blur-fiesta, forced into predefined-size, regardless of original image’s aspect ratio.

Default detailed view (see larger)

The default view for details is not much better, plain and unimaginative. But, there is hope, sparks right here.

Templates

Detailed view is actually a XSL template, which means: HTML + CSS. After few hours of work, I managed to replicate iTunes store layout for the movies:

iTunes store-like detailed view (see larger)

Much better, isn’t it? :) This is available for download in my Deliver section (there will be more).

Did I say HTML+CSS? If you thought that you can whip up your web-standardy skillz - think again. MovieCollector seems to use some internal renderer - I expected it to use IE/win control, but it is not. It supports some CSS properties, but many in rather weird ways. margin and padding can use only one or two value forms, float and clear acts totally crazy etc.

Much of those few hours was spent in trial and error, while I was tweaking properties to achieve what I wanted. In the end, I simply gave up and used layout tables. They should embed some browser control in there - current state of Mozilla would be nice, or installed IE if Mozilla is complicated to use. I’m not sure how things stand in Mac world. Another thing that is needed is some sort of image processing, so I could specify that image is cropped, or resized and sharpened, or something similar.

I really hope collectorz guys will realize how huge this feature is and thus give us the ability to create custom templates for the list/browse views as well. As it stands, those are parts of the interface which I use because I must.

In general, I’m pretty happy about the whole application and it has a Mac version as well, which will be crucial for me, around summer. ;) Most of my favourite Windows apps do not exists on Mac - this one is one of the few that does.

Update (May 14, 2010): Richard Hemby sent me a link to his ultimate guide of cataloging software. Check that out, as this article of mine is rather old.