MediaDex, Part 2: Organize, Annotate & Share Your Multimedia

2010 update: MediaDex has been defunct since 2008. It’s now called Canto Single User. I don’t recommend it. If you’re looking for good IPTC software, try Photo Mechanic or GeoSetter.

IPTC has pretty well taken over my life now. This is akin to a religious conversion.

I’ve spent more time organizing and re-organizing files on my computer than any other single thing, except perhaps photo-editing, so it’s way past time to do it once and for all and move on. IPTC can do this.

For anyone needing a refresher course, IPTC is a standard for embedding information in photographs and other documents.

When I first installed MediaDex, it looked simple enough. About 10 minutes later I realized I was in over my head and thought I might never get out. Now I’m thinking it’s really quite fine. The more I use it the more smitten I am.

MediaDex is the pared-down single-user version of Canto Cumulus, the business version 7.5. You can go over to Canto and watch a video tour. A lot of it is irrelevant to the use of MediaDex but it will let you see into the software. Delete from your mind anything to do with web servers and sharing between business offices and user-permissions and what’s left is MediaDex.

Basically, it’s software for creating a search-able database. It has many other options like printing, graphics editing, zip folders for emailing direct, labeling, slideshow creation, etc. It also has it’s own video and music player. But basically, for my purposes, it’s an IPTC-organizer.

Optimally, MediaDex would be purchased along with your first digital camera, or on the day you first decide to start your family history. But it’s not too late, ever. There’s just a lot of files to index when you already have  a lot of files. A side benefit to this is that I’m seeing files I haven’t seen in years and all my Windows folders are being cleaned up as I go. After getting past the initial … abstrusity (if that wasn’t a word, it is now) … of this software I find it’s do-able. It could be more user-friendly, but it’s OK. It has a ways to go to come down to earth from its business-world origins. The fun in functional is being able to search tens of thousands of files in seconds.

I am indexing all my audio, video, photo files and genealogy documents, including all digitized sources. For starters. It is now possible to bring up, for instance, all charts, sources and photographs for any chosen individual. Since I’m not finished indexing yet, this is still somewhat theoretical, but it’s already showing results.


The purpose of that, of course, is to have access to all assets in one place. If I want to do a project focused on a particular person or persons, I can bring everything I want from one place into one collection. Or if I want to send a particular collection of information, I don’t have to go all over my computer looking for it. MediaDex can search dozens of fields of information so that means virtually anything you can think of. The other day I was looking for photos of a particular size. In a split second, the 10 pictures I wanted out of 3,000 were on deck. That was from 4 catalogs and over 100 folders. The search function handles an unlimited number of ‘and/ors’ and many other details too numerous to mention. This software runs deep and wide and you’ve probably never seen a search engine like this before. If you can’t find it, it ain’t in there.

I have used linked systems before with varying results. It can be nerve-wracking renaming and moving files and wondering what’s going to happen. Linking to new locations can be done easily through this software. ‘Change asset reference’ will re-address the location of chosen folders, similar to how multi-media locations work in Legacy. And a ‘Synchronize Now’ button will bring any folder up to date. ‘Find Missing Assets’ will bring up a list of anything you’ve deleted off your hard-drive that needs to also be taken out of a catalog. ‘Update’ will update changes to any file, so all the bases are covered for keeping your hard-drive and your catalogs on the same page, so to speak.

If this was simply a linked system, though, I might not bother. The serious attraction here is in being able to embed information and import, view and search embedded information from other files. If the developer keeps working on this software with updates and upgrades I will probably stay with it for life. If not, nothing’s lost as any IPTC-embedded information stays with the files.

As far as I know, (so far) there is no such thing as IPTC fields in TXT and RTF In the main word-processor files, like WPD and DOC and in PDFs there’s an option called Document Properties. According to my experiments so far, (and I could be wrong) MediaDex cannot insert information into these fields itself. That has to be done with a word-processor (OpenOffice, MS Word or WordPerfect) or a PDF editor (Adobe Acrobat or PDF Gold, for instance.)

Document Properties

‘Document properties’ in PDF Gold

Document Properties

‘Properties’ window in OpenOffice Writer

If I write a document in an OpenOffice format and save it as a PDF, all document properties go into the properties field of the PDF automatically. I don’t use MS Word or WordPerfect but I’m sure such choices also exist there. These properties fields from either the word-processor documents or the PDFs can be imported into MediaDex, and viewed and searched as usual.

The video tells me that I can change some settings to make it capable of also searching the contents of documents, although I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work. I’ve found this with several things. Sometimes I’m doing something wrong and eventually it does work. Other times I just get side-tracked so I don’t know yet.

I have a lot of source documentation in PDFs, so I’m faced with a choice there. Either turn them all back into graphics and embed IPTC in those, or open the PDFs one at a time in my PDF editor and embed information that will import into MediaDex. I’m doing both depending what the file is. It’s not strictly necessary as MediaDex will accept and search any information you give it, but for the long-term I’d rather have information embedded wherever I can. There’s no point doing it twice. In other words, you can add all the information you want to text and PDFs in MediaDex but it won’t show up back in your word-processor or Adobe Reader. It’s a one-way street. (I think … so far.)

Embedded or non-embedded information becomes an issue when files leave your computer or leave MediaDex. If it’s embedded, it’s staying with the file forever, no matter where you go in the future. Any files that you might want to link into Legacy are better left, of course, as graphics where you can. If you use the digital component of the MRIN Filing System, it is very easy to link up graphics using the Source Clipboard as the files are in numbered order. I previously had all my census records in PDF but I’ve now decided that was a mistake, so I’m turning them all back into JPGs. Using the Source Clipboard to link the JPGs in is quite simple. Just copy and paste the File ID into the ‘Find’ field on the Load Picture screen and it will jump to that exact file in the list.

Source Clipboard, Legacy Family Tree

Legacy Family Tree

Embedded captions in JPGs and uncompressed TIFFs will import into the ‘description’ field of individual galleries. That also applies to Source Detail pictures. Probably also Master Source pictures, although I haven’t gotten that far yet. It does not work in the Picture Center, although I’m hoping Legacy will add this to their upgrade list, and standardize IPTC use throughout. In the meantime, why it puts the caption field in the description box instead of under ‘Caption’ I don’t know.

When it comes to searching, consistent file-naming can help. This is not specific to MediaDex but it accentuates the issue. If you have Charles Smith also listed as Chs Smith, C. Smith, etc you will have to search for all the variations to find him unless you’ve embedded a single keyword for that person in every single file of his. It’s better to choose a standard way of file-naming and be consistent across your hard-drive. (For documents; I do photos differently, embedding specific keywords for each person.) That way MediaDex will simply search the file name and no keywords are necessary. Of course, over years of collecting files I did not do this and it’s come back to bite me.

If I add keywords in MediaDex (and it does have a batch mode for that) they will import into the Adobe Organizer as tags and save the bother of doing it again there. Adobe has slideshow, scrapbook and other print options that could make it desirable to use at times. Also a nifty way of reading through PDFs one page at a time.

Picasa will show IPTC captions that have been entered elsewhere, such as in MediaDex or Adobe Elements, but on JPGs only. It will also import keywords on JPGs from MediaDex and allow you to search them. Keywords added in Picasa will show up in both Adobe and MediaDex. Ctrl+K will bring up the following box. Just search as usual with their search function to find all pictures with a specific keyword.


JPG-only could be a problem, depending what you have, so either you stay with a lesser program and its limitations, or use something like MediaDex that does it better than anything else I’ve seen and wait for the rest of the world to catch up.

I found MediaDex difficult to understand at first and I’m still learning new things everyday. I would suggest taking their trial version and see if you can see your way through. With 15,000-20,000 files to index this is not a one-day project but I’m finding it entirely worth the time.

Read more about MediaDex.

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