Developers' Blog

Almost four years ago, I launched Stock Keeper with a vision of what digital asset management should be: a simple, yet powerful tool for finding and managing digital assets. Everyone who creates digital documents, from professors creating PowerPoint decks to creatives making print or digital designs, have digital assets that need managed. Over the year that followed, Stock Keeper grew in popularity and was awarded a Macworld Gem in July of 2012.

As I was working on an ambitious rewrite of MYStuff, I got an email from Insider Software asking if I was interested in co-developing a next-generation asset manager. I knew Insider and FontAgent Pro well, since I had been using their excellent font manager since 2000. Insider shared my passion for creating superior software and providing great customer service, and we forged a strategic partnership that played to our strengths. 

For the last 18 months, I’ve been working with passionate people committed to creating a world-class asset manager. We’ve been through grueling debate and refinement about features and UI followed by months and months of testing in a variety of Mac environments to make sure the product is ready for commercial deployment.

 
While our efforts were based on the core code and spirit of Stock Keeper, what we jointly developed is a whole new commercial-grade product. Stock Keeper was a great product for what it was, but it was only a starting point of something far greater. So while it’s time to say goodbye to Stock Keeper, I’m excited to introduce you to Expo.
 
I could ramble on about all the great new features, like the better UI, best-of-class tagging, font handling, and awesome documentation. I could talk about the benefits of having an established company like Insider supporting the product. But I think Expo’s awesomeness will speak for itself. So go take a look at the product page, download the 30-day demo, and import your Stock Keeper database. After taking it for a spin, I’m sure you won’t wait the full 30 days before buying a copy. All registered users of Stock Keeper qualify to purchase Expo for a drastically reduced price. (But don’t wait too long, since the discounted upgrade is available for only a limited time.)
 
Thank you all for your business over the years. I look forward to working with you and Insider to improve Expo and revolutionize the way we all manage our creative assets.
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I’m really happy to have Stock Keeper 1.1 “out of the nest” as it were. I’ve been wanting to do the new features I added in this release pretty much since 1.0 shipped. And since I use Stock Keeper in my daily work as a developer (I have a huge library of icons) the missing features were driving me nuts as I work on MYStuff 2.0. So I devoted about 25% of my time to Stock Keeper while pushing forward on MYStuff 2, and finally got it to a point where I felt it was bug-free and released it into the wild yesterday.

The first thing existing users will notice is that Stock Keeper uses much less memory than the 1.0 version. And when I say “much less memory” I mean “an order of magnitude lower.” Really. How was I able to accomplish this? It’s geeky programmer-speak, but for those of you who care about such things, I switched from automatic garbage collection to manual memory management. This consumed the bulk of my time in getting 1.1 out the door, as it is not a trivial task. Almost everything that was woking perfectly (albeit while consuming gobs of memory) was now broken and had to be tested, fixed, and tested again and again and again. I turned to the excellent beta testing program at MacDeveloper.net which I had used before, and about 50 people participated in testing the beta releases, helping me find at least a dozen memory bugs that I never would have found myself. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time staring at crash logs starting with “EXC_BAD_ACCESS”.

The next thing existing users will notice is a huge increase in speed and performance, especially with large images and large libraries. Before, Stock Keeper was generating images for the browser view on-the-fly, which really bogged down when you have boatloads of high-res images. So with this release, Stock Keeper is now generating 512-pixel thumbnails on import and using those for the browser view. Thanks to the improvements in memory management, this operation was able to be threaded with virtually no impact on import speed.

Sk menubar widget

Finally, the “hallmark feature” for Stock Keeper 1.1 is the menubar widget. I wanted to do this as part of 1.0, but simply didn’t have the time. The worst thing in the world is to have to stop work in your foreground application so you can go digging for a file in your media library. I don’t care if your library is in Stock Keeper, iPhoto, or you manually manage your library in the Finder… switching applications and mentally breaking the flow of work is a horrible drag on productivity. Think about it: you’re working along, and all of a sudden you go, “I need a picture.” (Or audio file, or movie clip, or whatever.) I don’t care if you’re a graphic designer needing a logo, a software developer needing an icon, or someone putting together a presentation on their new nanotechnology startup. After you spend 15 minutes looking for what you needed, you come back to Illustrator or Xcode or Keynote and you go, “Okay, now where was I? What was I going to do next?” Stock Keeper’s menubar widget fixes this problem. Now, you never have to leave your foreground application to get to what you need, quickly, all without breaking your mental flow.

Sure, Apple’s applications have the “Media Browser”, which is fine if 1) your media is in iTunes, iPhoto, or your Movies folder, and 2) you’re using an Apple application. Stock Keeper’s approach is to make your entire media library accessible to every application on your Mac. Period. If your application accepts files via drag-and-drop, you can use Stock Keeper with it.

Finally, a word about Stock Keeper’s library. Some people complain that Stock Keeper has its own library and that it doesn’t just scan a folder full of files. That is the point. Think about it: on your iPad, do you care where your files are located? Do you care what they’re named? When you take a photo with your iPhone, then a few hours later you want to send an MMS message with that photo, do you navigate a file hierarchy to find it? No. You don’t care about where the files are located, nor what they’re named. You want this photo in that application. That is all that matters. With Stock Keeper, the goal is the same: remove you, the user, from the pain and time-consuming hassle of organizing your media files, and just make it easy to find them and use them.

I know, it’s hard to embrace this way of thinking after years of maintaining meticulous file folder hierarchies. But manually organizing media libraries is nothing but a time-consuming chore that gets more painful and more time-consuming the larger the media library gets. With the power of today’s computers, using the computer to search is always faster than manually drilling down through a byzantine maze of file folders. So when you import files into Stock Keeper, just tag them with information that is fresh on your mind: project number, client name, “logo”, “product shot”, et cetera. Use tags that are the same as folders you might create to store the files. Then later, just search. That’s all you have to do, because that’s all you should have to do. Find your file, use it, get on with your life.

This line of thinking has led us to adopt a new tagline for Stock Keeper: Stop organizing. Get working.

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