Hopefully this will help someone who’s not necessarily adept at creating photo web-sites using FrontPage for example. Since moving to Seattle nearly a month ago now, I’ve been meaning to find a decent way of building a flexible web-site for sharing photos taken here with friends and family.
As much as I’m an advocate of Microsoft Software, I have to say that both FrontPage and Publisher somewhat badly let me down this time. Sorry if any of the product group are reading, but I have to be honest.
The ideal situation was to have a reasonably good looking website which takes photo images held on my central server, automatically scales them for web-viewing and auto-generates the web-site directly.
Other really important features that I wanted were:
- When adding photos to the server, publishing them is a 2 minute job (no template/file copying and manual editing)
- Ability to easily choose which folders/photos are published
- No un-necessary copying of the original images. ie Fine, make a scaled down copy, but no need to copy 1.2MB for each photo.
- Easy to change thumbnail sizes/scaled image sizes
- Easy to “re-skin” the look at feel
- Easy to customise skins
- Ability to add watermarks to images
- Easy to change thumbnail layout eg 4 rows, 2 columns one day, 5×3 the next etc depending how I feel
- Annotation of folders and files
- Virtual Folder support. In other words, some web-pages appears to be sourced from a single folder, but in reality it’s pulling in the view from multiple folders
- Limit public access to only those people I want
While the last one on this list is unlikely to be directly out of the box functionality, I’ve pretty much got that covered by a combination of ISA Server as my front-end firewall and hosting the web-site on an locked-down IIS server as part of my home domain, running on a Windows Server 2003 Virtual Machine under Virtual Server. As an aside, once a bit of fat is trimmed off, a simple web-server under a VM on a pretty lowly spec host responds to HTTP requests astonishly fast with only 100MB of memory allocated to it and 10% max CPU limit of available host resource – next weekends mission is to trim that to 64MB or less and still get similar performance.
With a bit of Internet Searching, I stumbled across one of the best bits of free software I think I have ever found, JAlbum (currently version 6.4). There’s loads of skins available, simple to use and customise (assuming you understand the basics of editing HTT’s) and does everything on my list apart from the last one.
The only thing I couldn’t get JAlbum to do was to pick up meta-tags directly in the original JPEG files – I had to perform manual annotation. Maybe there’s a way and I just haven’t found it yet.
Obviously your mileage may vary and maybe I’ll come across an even better product somewhere else, but I’m exceptionally impressed. IMHO, this is one great piece of totally free, extensible and mature software. Dare I say I’m “Super-Excited” to have found it now I’m in America? Nah, maybe not quite yet 🙂