MediaDex Primer: Organize, Annotate & Share Your Multimedia

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.

Only because I have eyes in the back of my head, I know that some of you have tackled MediaDex for your IPTC ambitions, or are in the midst of tackling, and you’d probably like to shoot me for even suggesting it. But if it’s not too late, I’m going to reveal some of the inner workings of this mysterious software.

If you haven’t yet, you can download a trial here.

You can also download the User Guide. (Right-click and Save Link As…) It’s as dry as rye crackers and the too-small graphics don’t help so I’ll try to simplify things a bit.

Assuming you have it installed and you’re looking at the main screen, first click on File/New Catalog and give your catalog-to-be a name. It doesn’t matter where you keep it, but somewhere that you’ll remember to back it up for safety.

The next thing you have to do is Prepare Catalog. Don’t ask me why, you just have to. It’s a ritual dance for entering the kingdom. If you don’t do it, you don’t get in.

Go to File/Administration/Prepare Catalog. There are 3 choices: For IPTC, For EXIF and For XMP. Do them all, one at a time. When you click ‘Next’ and then ‘Next’ again, each one will run a long list of ‘stuff’ and then at the bottom you have to click ‘Start’. That will run another long list of stuff and at the bottom it will say ‘Done’. That means you’re done. Do that for all three. The whole thing takes about a minute.


Now that you’ve got your catalog ready to go, you’ll want to import some files. It will not recreate your files here, it will just link to them. Click “Catalog Assets” or the third icon from the left with the + sign on it. Now browse over to a folder that you want and highlight just one file and click Open, or if there’s just folders in the main folder, open one and select a file and click Open. There’s a trick to this. You could import the entire contents of each folder separately, but that’s too slow for the modern world.

You should now have a short list under $Sources showing the folder you just imported from. Highlight the top folder (the one containing all the other folders that you want to bring in) and then go to Category on the main menu and click “Synchronize Now”.


For instance, I have a folder called Ancestors and it contains Beeken History and Baker History both of which contain dozens of other folders. I don’t want everything under Ancestors but I do want everything under Beeken History and Baker History, so when I ‘synchronize’ either of them I get everything contained, and a left menu showing the same folder structure under $Sources that I have in My Documents where I keep them.

What’s the point of that you ask? Well, you could also create a different folder structure using MediaDex’s proprietary $Categories and $Keywords, but I’ve rebuilt my catalogs so many times and lost that work, I realized there is no point. The point is that the folder structure you have from your import is sufficient and you can now add IPTC information to all of your files (thousands and thousands of them) and then search anything you want in a nano-second.

After a lot of pruning, my collection is down to around 10,000 files for a total of 230 MB of catalog space. Each catalog can be up to 4 GB in size. Not going over the limit in my lifetime I’m thinking. You can create a series of catalogs or maybe fit everything you have into one. If you have several, you can have them open at the same time.

If you want to see what’s in any folder just double-click on it in the left index and all the contents will appear.

On the toolbar you’ll see more icons.


The one to the right of the trash can shows the left index and thumbnails. The next one shows thumbnails. The next one is Details. The next one is the Information View, where you’ll be adding your IPTC info. The next one is a Preview window for images. And the next one gives you 3 different sizes for thumbnails. You can have one or several window layouts open at once. You’ll find that under View/Collection Window Layout.

There’s another thing you have to pay attention to over on the right. Those little down arrows lead to reams of different sorting and viewing options. I’ll leave you to discover for yourself. I’m generally working with IPTC so I have it set at Images (IPTC) and noodle with the options on the other side.


Where I spend a lot of my time is the Information View.


Which fields you fill in is entirely up to you. It’s more or less a lifetimes’ work. You can come back to it anytime and add and change things. When you’re adding keywords think about what you might want to search for in the future. You can’t really do it ‘wrong’ (no-one’s watching). You can keyword your pictures by color if you want to, and later be able to search all images of a certain size or type that contain the color blue. The sky’s the limit. I got into this because I want to be able to search all files for any person or family line that I or some-one else might be interested in. So, for genealogical purposes I keyword by names and places mostly. I generally add copyright notices on anything I’ve received from someone else or taken from the Internet as well as my own stuff. Some of it is so old I’m having to re-find it. On newspaper clippings I put in ‘Author’. If I have the Source URL there’s a field for that. There’s space here for any information you have.

The Information View may not be set up by default the way you want it. This can be changed under Edit/Preferences. Next to ‘Set’ make sure it says Images (IPTC) and then the other two highlighted choices. You can move the Field Names into the order you want them, so the unused ones are at the bottom and you don’t have to scroll there when you’re working.


There are so many options here for customizing your catalog you could spend a year. So far, I’ve tried to stay focused on what I specifically want to accomplish.

There are times when you probably want to batch-mode. If you highlight a string of thumbnails, then right-click and choose ‘IPTC Information’ it will bring you to this box.


Another thing I use a lot is ‘Missing Assets’. If you rename or move your files around outside of MediaDex, you will need to use this feature and ‘Synchronize Now’ to keep your catalog up to date. You find the missing assets (meaning not linked to the catalog) and delete the ‘Record Only’. If you delete the ‘Asset’ that means the actual file on your hard-drive. Don’t do that. ‘Record’ means the link to the catalog. Then you ‘Synchronize Now’ to update. You can also update files individually.


‘Search’ I described elsewhere, but basically you’ve got Quick Search on the toolbar and the extensive search options one click away. If you can’t find a file here, it’s not in your catalog.

You will do yourself a favor in choosing your keywords if you stay consistent. Do not interchangeably call William: Wm, Bill and Billy because you’ll have a harder time finding him later. You still can but it’ll just take more search parameters.

MediaDex can globally edit and delete anything. It’s called ‘Find and Replace Metadata’. All the metadata fields are listed and you simply pick the one you’re interested in and replace text.


It does a lot of other things such as Copy To, Move To, Batch Rename, Change Asset Reference, (which means File Path) Show Folder Location, Open With, Print With, Mail To, etc. I’m working on my bitch-list. It does not have a shortcut key for ‘rename’ which can get on your mouse-pushing nerves if you’re renaming files one at a time. If you send it off to index 5,000 files and then decide midstream to cancel out, it will probably choke to death. Some things happen at lightning speed, but if you have several windows open at once and 10,000 files on deck, some things can take a few seconds so don’t go pushing buttons frantically because you’ll just make it mad.

Best of all, it will organize any file-type you want to throw at it. I bought the Pro version so I can also index PDFs. This is not your run-of-the-mill interface dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. It’s a deadly serious cataloging system. Humorless. So far I’ve only scratched the surface but it’s doing what I need, so that’s enough for now.


People on dial-up are probably wondering if this page is ever going to show up. So that’s it. If you can get this far, you’re on your way.

MediaDex is available in both Standard and Professional versions for Windows and Mac. Download trials here.

Other MediaDex support options.

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