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Macs, Modularity and More

Delicious Library media organising software

2005 Review

I came across Delicious Monster's Declicious LIbrary after an announcement on TidBITS recently, and it has to be one of the best pieces of shareware for Mac OS X yet. Frankly, Apple should be considering purchasing the software and making it part of the iLife suite of apps.

It's an application that catalogues your DVDs, books, games, and pretty much any other kind of media you care to throw at it. Obviously, if you've not got a great deal of media, you won't be so interested; but it's great for me, since f I'm shopping and I want to know whether I've got a DVD or not, I can surf to my on-line DVD library from my phone, and figure out if I've got that item.

The key advantage (as far as I'm concerned) is that the application can be used in one of four ways:

  1. You can enter details manually for each media item you own
  2. You can find the item in Amazon, using the internal search bar, or by finding it on Amazon's website and then dragging and dropping the URL onto the application
  3. You can use an iSight (or other QuickTime-capable camera, though USB web-cams aren't often of high enough quality) to scan the barcode in, whereupon it looks it up from Amazon
  4. You can buy a bluetooth hand-held barcode reader to scan your media in

I downloaded the software (the web-page isn't up to much, but this link will take you directly to it) and started putting items in by hand. You can put in (I think) 25 items with an unlicensed copy; I got to about 5 items before I decided to purchase it. And at 40 dollars, with the exchange rate the way it is at present, that's not really much cash. You can play around to see what it's like; for me, the fact that it downloads all the details from Amazon (including pictures, where available) means that you really don't have to do much work to get your collection in.

The ability to scan it in with an iSight is a great way of building your collection, if you happen to have one. There's a small glitch in the software at present, whereby scanning items with an iSight results in them always looking up in Amazon US, so occasionally it doesn't find the right details. But there are options to download stuff from Amazon UK, as well as Amazon JP and Amazon DE. In any case, once Delicious Library has resolved the title to an Amazon ID, it can load the details afterwards from any other Amazon by configuring it in the preferences.

If you are going to use an iSight (or any other web-cam), I suggest using plenty of light. Don't have the light directly behind you, since most DVD/CD cases have a plastic which will reflect the light and interfere with the scanning process. It's also a good idea to do it in sight of your computer, because you can see on the computer where the barcode is. (The iSight will show a reversed left-to-right view; that's so that when you're using it for iChat AV, when you move left the image also moves left; if it didn't flip the image horizontally, when you moved left the image would move right.)

But the main item is that you can use a hand-held Bluetooth scanner (the one they currently sell is the Flic Bluetooth Cordless Laser Bar Code Scanner. Although it looks clunky, and the button depresses to engage some mechanical mechanism (as opposed to an electrical contact switch), it's actually really great. You can point it at your media, and depress the button with your thumb, and you get a laser line across the barcode. The scanner beeps when it's read a barcode, so you can move onto the next item, and then uploads the data wirelessly to the Delicious Library software, whereupon it automatically looks up the item from the barcode.

But that's not all -- if you use the scanner off-line, it's got an internal 500 memory for remembering barcodes, and it stores them off-line until you need them next. So you can scan your books in one room, then afterwards turn your computer on and upload all of them in one go. You can even take it shopping with you, and scan the items as you put them in your basket ...

It's also got a USB connection in case you don't have Bluetooth, but since it's only a few extra quid to get a bluetooth dongle, it's worth getting one just for the ease-of-use.

I ordered a registration code on the 24th December, and ordered the scanner at the same time. (Delicious Monster don't sell it after the fact; if you don't get it with the software, you'll have to buy one elsewhere.) It turned up on the 30th Dec, which considering there was Christmas in the way (and it was shipped from America to the UK) was bloody good service. I had to pay VAT import duties, which was an extra 30 quid on the transaction (somewhat annoying; they could ship it with 'Gift' on the side to avoid it) but has to be said, it was a great investment. If you've got over 100 items, I'd strongly recommend buying a laser scanner; and hey, you might be able to sell it afterwards to a friend!

I can't rate this software highly enough. In part, it's because I've been toying with writing just such an app myself, but to be honest, I'd have never made it this good. Obviously, it's only going to appeal to those of you with large media/book collections, but if you have one, you need this software. It's practically worth buying a Mac just to use it (or, if Apple launch the much-touted headless Mac in January's MacWorld in San Francisco -- where, incidentally, you can try out Delicious Monster).

Despite the website being a bit JavaScript oriented, and the fact that the website still doesn't claim UK compatibility (though the software can connect to Amazon UK fine), it's still a great piece of software. There's a few items on wishlists; for example, whilst you can add CDs to the library, it doesn't (yet) integrate with iTunes list of albums; and since I've got a lot of CDs that have been ripped (as opposed to downloading MP3s directly), it would have been nice to copy a selection of iTunes albums into Delicious Monster directly. But to be honest, it's just a minor nice-to-have on top of a great piece of software.