DISCLAIMER: This is not the usual mini-review, it started as a simple remark in General Software Discussion, but in the end it got so big I decided it should belong here. So that's why the usual sections are missing.
|App Version Reviewed||1.4.0|
|Test System Specs|
AthlonX2 5200+, 2 GB RAM, WinXP Pro SP2 & Sandboxie 3.26
|Supported OSes||FreeBSD, GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and Windows|
|Support Methods||Support forum|
|Upgrade Policy||It's a free application, so use your imagination :)|
|Trial Version Available?||Nope, free for all|
|Pricing Scheme||The price is LOW: $0|
|Author Donation Link||You can make a donation via PayPal|
|Reviewer Donation Link|| Donate to Lashiec, the author|
|Relationship btwn. Reviewer and Product|| Hey, it's free as in freedom of speech (not free as in beer, sheesh ;D), how can you think I was paid to do this? OK, seriously, I am just testing the program for my own use|
After looking at the mess created by all the items sitting in my shelves, drawers, and other unspecified places (room corners, for example), I decided that it was impossible to remember what I have and where it is, so it was time to put my ass to work and catalog these things to prevent future losses and be able to
accumulate more crap
have quick access to my precious belongings :D
So I searched around for the software to let me accomplish such thing. The main option was (and continue to be, despite this post) MediaMan, a very polished piece of software that lets you catalog music, films, books and other media pulling data from the Internet, but shareware. A quick search in DC also unearthed Libra, very much like MediaMan, not as good, but freeware, and Listal, a web service that looks like a nice option to have your data up in the cloud, while having a social component in it, it seems you can even backup that data locally.
Then I remembered that an OSS movie cataloging software called GCfilm stopped development a while ago to be fully rewritten and contain every kind of collectible thing created by humankind. So, I googled it, and came upon GCstar. GCstar is a cross platform app, that uses the GTK toolkit and several external libraries to do its job.
The first thing that impressed me was that it looked quite nice under Windows. Usually, I cringe every time I run a GTK app in Windows, but the developers did a nice job with the skin. Still, it maintains most identifying widgets of GTK, including its file browser. It's easy to get used to it, but still feels awkward despite packing some shiny eye candy:
GCstar - Personal collections manager
After getting familiar with the interface, I decided to create a new database. Contrary to other apps, GCstar does not let you have different types of things coexist in the same collection, so forget about having Krzysztof Kieslowski and Britney Spears sitting one next to the other (unless you were so crazy to bought that "movie" she made). GCstar brings along quite some plugins to extract information from various sources, instead of using the APIs sites like Amazon provide, GCstar queries and parses HTML code to find the relevant data. This has an advantage, being that it can interact with far more services than its competitors, but also it's quite slower, and not very flexible.
For example, I decided to build a game collection to test the program, and when I went to select the source of the data, I was thrilled to found MobyGames between the sources (those guys hold tons of high resolution videogame covers scans). Unfortunately, instead of importing the covers, the program imports the thumbnails, as the real covers are a few pages ahead. Not a letdown, as I can import them manually, but I prefer to do it automatically. Also, maybe it's because I'm running the program sandboxed, but it seems like those images imported by hand are not saved along the others, that means if you delete the source files, you lose the pictures in the program.
Apart from that, the most prominent bugs are three: First, sometimes the information fetching stage gets stalled, but I ignore if it's the program's fault, or the server being queried. In those cases, all you can do is restart the application, which despite this, stays fully responsive, so you can save the database before exiting without problems. Second, the commands calling external applications, specially browsers, sometimes hang up as well, a console window shows up but nothing happens until a minute or two later. Again, I don't know what causes this, though it's as easy to correct as to close the window and try again. And third, sorting the elements alphabetically when you add new items only works when you save the database, exit the program, and enter again :S
Other features include item searching, complete with the creation of virtual folders; data replacing; integration with the digital copies of the catalogued objects (game executables, music files, DVD rips...); a system to track borrowed items; tagging, and specific information for each collectible (secret codes for games, historic data for coins, etc.). A high point is the choice of objects to catalog, going from your typical movies and games to more exotic things, like coins, wine or board games, and with the option of creating custom collections (beer bottles, wife jewels, etc.). And no, no barcode scanning for the moment, but the developing team is toying with the idea.
Wrapping up, GCstar is a excellent piece of software, handicapped by its cross platform heritage (well, I'd say "handicapped by the choice of GTK"), but still very attractive and well designed, and quite capable to compete against the big names of this particular type of software. Being freeware and open source, I think the problems inherent in the program will be fixed while the program continues to evolve. It may not steal market share from the MediaMan users (of which a gorgeous new version is in development) or the worshipped Delicious Library in the Mac, but for those searching for a quality alternative without paying a cent, it looks like the best alternative...
... unless you don't run Windows, in that case Tellico
looks quite nice, and it has some advanced features GCstar lacks, like barcode scanning.